DEVELOPMENT OF THE DIGITAL COMPETENCE
prof. Oliver Buček, Primary school Breg, Ptuj - Slovenia
Incessantly development of the abilities, skills and knowledge of scholars has in the present,
competitory and changeable world a key importance. Recently the interest for key
competence is increasing. Key competences are urgently necessary for individuals to live
free, reasonable, responsible and successful life. There is a question, which are the
competences, which enable the accomplishment of this general goal. Inside the compulsory
education, in which all citizens get common foundations of knowledge and skills, only the
knowledge is not so important but also its use. Education for using ICT is becoming more and
more outstanding need in a modern life. One of the most important competences in the
twenty-first century is certainly the development of the digital literacy. Informational and
communicational technology (ICT) is present everywhere: in the business world, general
public service, education and at home. A competent digital literacy may be considered as the
ability of a scholar, who is capable of depending on his own experiences, values and
dispositions, which he can develop as an individual, through the educational practice and at
the simultaneous critical thinking about the validity and the reliability of the information. It is
therefore not enough if a scholar uses ICT technology and he is computer literate, because he
must also include the advantages of the technology in his work.
One of the objectives of the music education in school is inter alia the development of the
reasonable usage of advance technology. For this purpose I have created a web classroom
for music at the Mladinska knjiga, with the collaboration of Ministry of the Education and
Sport and with the European Social Fund. I want to assure with it the shift from standard
form of education and classical classroom to the creating the innovative and simulative
educational environment for obtaining of knowledge, mostly e-skills and e-competences.
Construction of digital competence is a process, which demands that the scholar is the entire
time actively included into the asking questions, researching and finding answers, and this
demands from the teacher a bigger commitment, more time and more knowledge. In my
opinion digital literacy is essential for the further education of scholars and in everyday life
or free time.
Keywords: ICT, digital competence, virtual learning, e-learning
Electronic media offer a variety of ways of presenting or structuring learning opportunities
which were not previously available on distance courses. They offer new ways to access and
combine information and the possibility to keep in touch on a more regular and continuous
basis, so that students need no longer to work in isolation, but belong to an electronic
"community of learners".
In our view of networked e-learning, the relationship between teachers and learners is based
on collaboration and co-construction of knowledge rather than on that of expert and acolyte.
Such a view of the relationship between learners and teachers is one that is supported by the
idea of the learning community. Networked e-learning can contribute to the establishment of
virtual learning communities and enhance existing face-to-face learning communities.
Psychologists and educational researchers, building on the work of Jean Piaget, have come to
understand that learning is not a simple matter of information transmission. No one, even the
best computer, can put information into the head of the learner. Rather, learning is an active
process in which learner construct new understanding trough different activities: exploring,
experimenting, discussing and reflecting. Shortly, learners do not get information, they have
to make it. Nearly the same is the true for computers. Of course, they are wonderful for
accessing and transmitting the information. But for the education they are, in the first place, a
new medium through which every learner can create and express their own ideas, experiment
on them and create out of them whatever results. Indeed, computers and all digital technology
connected with them are the best creating things ever invented: we can make music with
them; we can draw our imaginations and blog about everyday life. Using this technology, we
greatly expand what can be learned in a common learning process. Using digital technology
efficiently learners have to have competence on how to use it. Unfortunately, such digital
competence does not develop from books or when learners are shown how to look up for
information on the web, how to use a word processor or how to send an e-mail. Even when
they are active, they do not become competent and fluent in using digital technology.
(Wechtersbach R. , 2009)
What is e-learning
The increased use of informational and communicational technology (ICT) in education
brings important changes for students and teachers as well as educational institutions. ICT,
especially the development of Internet, is improving the approach to education, changing
processes of teaching/learning and processes of managing the educational institutions. (Sulčič
& Lesjak, 2007)
The positive effects of distance studies, especially in connection with used methods and forms
of teaching, are encouraging the introduction of these kinds of methods in traditional teaching.
Considering that learning can be performed through Internet or Intranet, we are not talking
here about distance learning but electronic learning or e-learning.
E-learning is a new concept that started appearing with the use of informational and
telecommunicational technology for educational purposes.
There are more definitions of e-learning. I will describe only some of them. I will also
mention and describe some related terms and ideas.
One of the definitions says that; e-learning is a way of education with help of new methods of
• with computer networks,
• with multi-presentational applications
• with portals including study, bibliographic and informational contents
• with »smart« search tools
• with digital libraries
• distance learning and
• virtual study rooms. (Sulčič & Lesjak, 2007)
Virtual learning can enhance classroom learning with chat rooms, blogs, video files,
PowerPoint presentations and email. These technologies can provide remediation or
supplemental teaching, combine classroom and off-site learning, or allow students to learn
entirely off-site. Virtual Learning Environments permit students more flexibility as they can
learn at their own pace and on their own schedules; however, teachers and administrators
must be proficient with the technology in order for it to be effective. (Bouchard, 2008)
The terms related to e-learning are open learning, distance learning, flexible learning, online
learning and virtual learning. Here are the explanations.
Constructivist philosophy accommodates a family of closely related pedagogies, which
optimize the potential of networked environments. The family includes collaborative learning
(McConnell, 2001), activity-based learning (Macdonald & Twining, in press), resource-based
learning (Macdonald, Heap & Mason, 2001) and problem-based learning (Ronteltap &
Eurelings, 2002). (Macdonald, 2002)
Open learning is a kind of un-traditional learning, that enables an individual a flexibility with
choosing of study material, study speed, place, time and what way to learn through the
internet. Its main characteristic is the open choice for the learner, who decides by himself
about the previously mentioned things. Open learning is being used with short courses,
workshops, seminars, conferences and certificate gaining programs. It is a way of learning
that allows joining the process without limitations or with minimal age, gender and most
importantly time requiremements. These characteristics are complemental to distance
learning, but not necessarily its part.
Distance learning is a method of learning where one does not need a physical presence of the
learner. Sending of the material like handbooks, CDs, videocassettes and audiocassettes was
originally done through mail. In the last years material is sent with the help of e-mails,
internet and video conferences. The only condition is usually that the learners appear at a
certain time and place for exam writing. Distance learning usually appears in all learning
stages, but most commonly in university studies.
Flexible learning is an approach which allows the use of larger number of learning sources in
different learning environments. This is a way to satisfy different study forms, interests and
needs of the learners in the learning process. Important with this learning is that the learners
can study individually or in groups, without tutor's presence.
Online learning is based on learning through internet or intranet, which is a closed network
that bases on using protocol TCP/IP. Networks enable communication and presentation of
study materials. The concept of online learning has expanded in the middle of the nineties in
the last century, mostly due to increased use of internet. Online learning is executed through
internet, where the learners access study materials, solve tests and ask questions. Online
learning is based on studying over the internet and represents only a part of technologically
E-studying means learning independently from time and place. There are several definitions
what e-studying is. Often it is equalized with e-learning. E-studying is strongly
technologically supported. It means that it includes a wide number of applications and
processes, including computer supported learning, online learning and virtual learning. E-
studying is interactive and multi-presentational.
Virtual learning is related to teaching in educational environment where teachers and
learners are separated by time or space. The teachers prepare the study materials with the help
of multimedia sources, internet and video conference. The learners get all the materials and
communicate with their teachers through telecommunicational technologies.
A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) refers to computer-based systems that deliver
learning materials on the Internet, a concept also known as Online Education. VLEs combine
web-based methods, such as chat rooms, blogs, video files, PowerPoint presentations and
email to enhance learning. Types of online teaching and learning include supplemental
teaching programs that offer remediation or expand on in-class lessons, hybrid courses that
take place both on and off-site, or classes that occur entirely online. (Bouchard, 2008)
Common VLE products include Moodle, Learnwise, Blackboard or Studywiz. These types of
databases provide virtual storage space for teachers to upload learning activities, assessments
and media files, all for students to access from any computer at home, school or anywhere
that one can access the Internet. Teachers and students on VLEs are provided with email
addresses and a forum for online chats or discussions available for students with disabilities.
Distance learning has developed together with the development of modern informational and
telecommunicational technologies. E-learning has developed new terms that can be classified
with regards to the way the knowledge is transferred between the participants of the process.
That way we get two new roles in the learning process: mentor and tutor.
Comparing e-learning to traditional way of learning
The main change in e-learning is in dismissal of time and place restrains with the use of
informational and communicational technology.
It is typical for e-learning that it is executed through internet. The participants are connected
through network or internet. That enables instant distribution of study materials and
simultaneous communication between them. Characteristic for e-learning participants is
active learning from multiple sources that are available on World Wide Web, in contrast to
traditional learning which is mostly based on prescribed study handbooks.
E-learning enables the adjustment of time and place, which means learning anywhere and
anytime. This is the opposite of traditional learning where the teacher and learner have to be
in the process of learning at the exact same time and on a specified location. With e-learning a
tutor can lead the class through World Wide Web regardless of the location and time of the
learner and the tutor. Also the learner can access educational materials regardless of time and
location. Because learning is without time and location limitations, it can become much more
attractive and fun. It is carried out in a creative environment that is created by tutors and
learners. The environment is creative because it offers instant access to different sources of
studying materials, digital libraries and enables direct communication with tutor and other
participants. The participants have reviewed computer based learning much better than the
traditional way of learning.
Benefits of e-learning
E-learning offers various benefits. Some have been mentioned previously and some will be
discussed here into more detail.
One of main benefits of e-learning, which cannot be carried out without the use of
informational technology, is the fact that the learning can happen anywhere and anytime. The
learners can learn at home, in work, on travels or can access study materials at the moment
they need the knowledge. These benefits are welcome for the participants that due to lack of
time cannot take part in traditional learning. It is also connected to flexibility of learning with
regard to one’s needs. That is why the speed of learning is adjustable, which reduces stress
and increases pleasure in learning.
Another benefit is that with use of informational technology at learning, participants develop
technical abilities that are needed for working in modern environments. Educational
environment and study materials are easily reachable in e-learning.
Online learning pushes students to take more responsibility for their education rather than
relying on teachers to supply them with information. Students must learn to set priorities,
manage time, research information and participate in discussions. The use of online learning
in the classroom has even helped students become stronger readers due to e-books and the
vast amount of information they sift through on the Internet. (Bouchard, 2008)
VLEs encourage students to become self-directed learners, which is essential in adulthood in
order to succeed in college as well as in the workforce. (Bouchard, 2008)
The learner is an important aspect of e-learning. They are the ones that define time and place
of learning, which encourages independent organized learning. At any desired moment they
can look up for needed study material on the internet, take part in internet debates with the
tutor or in groups, solve tests or exercises and answer questions. The learner can ask the tutor
directly for explanation of a study content that he does not understand. An active role of the
learner in the process of e-learning encourages and stimulates the participant to take bigger
responsibility for learning and success. It has been proven that the versatility speeds up
learning, because the learners have to follow changes all the time. That means the learners are
more active and hence they learn the study material faster. That is why we can say that e-
learning encourages learners to faster understanding and remembering of information.
Weaknesses of e-learning
E-learning has some bad characteristics, both from the aspect of the learner and the teacher as
well as from the aspect of an educational institution. From educational institution’s point of
view the biggest problem are higher beginning costs. The organization needs to invest
resources into infrastructure development, which enables e-learning. That is why they need to
do an analysis, cost calculations and realization plan. First they have to check the already
existing infrastructure and hardware and software compatibility with the new equipment.
When the existing infrastructure would deviate on a larger scale from the new one, the costs
would rise accordingly.
For certain learners the biggest problem is the fact that for successful e-learning one needs
considerable use the technology.
Some have a problem with it, because they have a certain dislike for technology or are even
afraid to use it. In some environments the access to the technology can already be a problem.
That is why slow network access, unsuitably efficient computers and similar represent a big
obstacle during the learning process. This is the reason why it is important to correctly plan
the usage of technological capacities and simplicity in using them. Technology must be
helping the learner and not stopping the chance to obtain certain knowledge.
Teachers also have to learn how to use the modern informational and communicational
technology in the learning process, which can be quite hard for some. The problems can
appear during the transfer of study materials into the e-learning environment. This is the
environment teachers have to get to be acquainted with. They have to get to know the new
way of working, which involves the new technology, and new approaches to guiding and
leading as well as teaching the learners. During the teaching itself they do not have such
control over the participants as with traditional teaching, because they are not in direct contact
with them. (Sajovic, 2006)
What is a competent e-learner?
Courses using electronic networks make certain demands on the students who study them.
Inevitably, using a networked computer as a study tool involves basic ICT skills which need
to be mastered, and this eventually leads to a familiarity with the relevant hardware and
Beyond this, students need to learn how to use the computer as a study tool. They may need to
accommodate screen based study, with its limitations on flexibility, and the implications for
time management; in addition to learning how to manage files effectively. Approaches to
writing and sharing information in electronic form offer enhanced possibilities for the re-
drafting of scripts, as well as the use of information from a variety of sources. (Macdonald,
Students need to recognize the gaps in their knowledge, in order to establish what they need to
find out, and Hill (1997) underlines the significance of subject knowledge, in providing the
framework for further exploration and research, in addition to confidence and metacognition.
It is clearly not enough to teach students searching techniques, and then to assume that they
will be competent investigators.
In short, I have argued that the competent e-learner will have developed communicative and
interpretive ability using electronic media. This involves the use of computers as an effective
study tool, but also implies the development of critical and analytical abilities to work as a
self-directed learner, together with the communicative abilities to work with, and learn from
peers. In other words, competence in e-learning has many parallels with competence in
learning, and is probably acquired as a developmental progression, alongside developing
confidence and metacognition, and a growing understanding of a discipline. However, the use
of online media for study, and the ready availability of information rich resources on the web,
means that students may need to develop competence and self direction at an earlier stage in
their undergraduate career than they would in more conventional distance courses. Course
design and outcomes will need to reflect and support these needs. (Macdonald, 2002)
Developing digital competency in Slovenian Education
Using digital technology has a very long tradition in Slovenian Education. Computer science
became an optional subject in Slovenian secondary schools in the school year 1971/72. It
became compulsory ten years later in all middle schools in Slovenia. Carrying out students
learn about computers and programming in program language Fortran (later Pascal).
With the development of computer science and fact that more and more computers were
coming into the schools, the curriculum on computer science changed many times. Major
methodological and content changes in the digital technology curriculum have been made in
the year 1995. The subject in the middle school has been renamed to “Informatics”. Its main
goal became developing a higher level of information literacy. The “Computers” has become
an optional three years subject with names Dataprocessing, Multimedia and Computer
Networks in the last three years of basic schools (http://www.zrss.si/default.asp?
link=predmet&tip=6&pID=24&rID=291). It became an important point in developing basic
information literacy. Developing computer literacy moved down and was integrated in
different subject of basic schools.
In the year 1991 The Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills – SCANS,
under the Ministry of Labour, published a research (Secretary's Commission on Achieving
Necessary Skills, 2009) in which they defined five competences which have to be developed
by the students when they are educated for effective work and satisfactory life:
• working with sources (organizing time, money, material, place and employed),
• inter-personal skills (cooperation in groups, teaching others, leading, negotiating,
• working with data (searching, acquiring, assessing and usage of data, organization and
maintenance of documentation, knowledge presentation, use of informational
• understanding of systems (understanding of social, organizational and technological
systems, accompanying and changing of productivity, designing and improving
• use of technology (choice and use of suitable technologies for particular tasks and
The mentioned competences are based on:
• basic skills (like reading, writing, arithmetic and maths, speaking expression and
• mental skills (like creative thinking, solving problems, knowing the laws of learning,
searching and accepting decisions),
• personal characteristics (like personal responsibility, self-image, sociability, self-
organization and integrity).
In accordance to these demands, the education should change as well. Lessons should be
subject to these competences and should be based on applicable knowledge. (Wechtersbach
To survive, hopefully to prosper in an ever changing world, digital curators must be agile.
They must be able to address not only the problems of obsolescence, but also the two sided
challenges of new technology. In appraisal, ingest and preservation, they have to be able to
deal with formats and also with hardware and software they have never seen before, but they
also have to be able both to recognize and capitalize on opportunities offered by new
technologies. Most importantly, they will have to be able to aquire and often to produce new
knowledge and new skills. Professional digital curators should be able to apply their
knowledge and skill in a variety of different contexts, in interactions with various
communities. (Thibodeau, 2007)
The community of practice must be a learning community. Critical role of formal education is
to prepare pupils to be life-long learners, not simply accretion, expansion or deepening of
knowledge or skills learned in schools, but even and especially to learn new skills to be able
to adapt and replace previous knowledge.
Computer Literacy, Information Literacy & Information Technology Literacy
Having computer literacy means that a person has enough understanding of computer
applications (including their limitations) to use them correctly. A person with computer
literacy can complete information-based tasks using a keyboard, software, and hardware
correctly. The student creating a PowerPoint presentation is considered computer literate, for
example. A person is said to have information literacy when he or she can determine which
resources are needed and can access them easily. For example, a person with information
literacy can distinguish which applications and resources are best for use in different
situations, like knowing that a scholarly journal is a better resource than a magazine when
writing a master’s thesis. Information technology literacy (ITL), on the other hand, maintains
that a person is capable of utilizing a variety of technologies, like digital electronics, data
storage components, and advanced computer applications: writing HTML, for instance. The
IT literate person understands how technology changes from day to day and how those
changes can be applied to various tasks. (McMahon, 2008)
Foster (2006) may be right, as many people are computer literate and never move beyond the
need for using basic computer applications. However, universities and employers are
changing their requirements to include the utilization of computer functions beyond what is
considered basic computer literacy. Without advanced technological experience, some
students will not be accepted into the colleges of their choice and will not be hired for
positions for which they would otherwise be qualifed. As a result of this shift in expectations,
many higher education institutions are making technology one of the courses of study for all
of their students. (McMahon, 2008)
It is in the detail, and in implementation strategy that differences of emphasis emerge. In some
countries, ICT skills training is integrated with other learning objectives, while in others, ICT
skills are taught separately.
However, education and training in basic ICT skills is no longer sufficient to meet the
requirements of Europe, or to prepare young children to engage with the information
economy. The main feature of today’s information infrastructure is the emphasis on services.
E-services of increasing complexity, from ringtones to blogs, from Myspace to YouTube, are
now routinely used by young children, and the education programme for 4 to 12 year old
children must change to reflect this.
This means that a new programme of digital competence is needed for young children. Such a
programme will build on basic ICT skills, but also explore the safe and secure use of global
ICT services. It will focus on developing good practice, and highlight the negative
consequences of e-services misuse and abuse.
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