UK Online Centres / Online Centres Foundation Annual Review
April 2011 - March 2012

Online Centres Foundation UK Online Centres

Digital skills

Supporting people who have never been online before, or those who want to improve their skills, has been one of our main achievements in the year to March 2012.

Spend an Hour

Take a look at an inspirations video from our Spend an hour campaign

Developing world-class content

To contribute to our target to get a million more people online by 2013, we needed a market-leading learning website that would support tutors and volunteers to get people online, and that learners could access easily and for free.

In April 2011, our Go ON learn website was introduced to lead the way in getting people online. The website was designed to be collaborative, with resources brought together from partners including BBC First Click and Digital Unite, as well as those that were developed for UK online centres’ previous learning website, myguide.

The UK online centres’ network played a large role in its development and the website was trialled before a full launch with a group of pilot centres, who provided useful feedback and guidance to ensure it worked for the target audience.

Since the website launched, we have maintained this consultative approach. A group of centres meets with the Product Development team on a regular basis to talk about developments and evaluate new ideas. These centres act as a critical eye, and provide a valuable insight into the grassroots learning that takes place in centres.

"The way the site is made up of courses that teach people a lot of the skills they need to be able to use the internet for everyday tasks – such as shopping and applying for a job, applying for benefits - means it is a very useful resource."

"The site helps you make conversation with even the quietest of learners"

"The site makes me look like more of an expert than I really am."

Innovative, exciting marketing campaigns

In the year to March 2012, we ran three exciting marketing campaigns. Through providing local marketing packs to all centres taking part and working with partners to secure above the line marketing support, we have been able to encourage over 100,000 people to get online for the first time during a campaign.

Spring Online

In May 2011, we collaborated with Digital Unite, to celebrate the 10th year of Silver Surfers’ Day, running the week long Spring Online campaign. UK online centres and Digital Unite centres that took part in the campaign received a marketing pack and a full toolkit of marketing resources to help them promote their activity locally. The campaign benefited from Digital Unite’s PR activity, with significant media coverage leading to over 30,000 people getting online during the campaign.

Get online week and Go ON give an hour

In 2011, Get online week took place from 30 October to 6 November, and was all about giving an hour, or spending an hour. The campaign was run in conjunction with Race Online 2012 and the BBC, and 1,500 UK online centres signed up to the campaign. All centres taking part were provided with local marketing packs they could use in their communities to encourage those that were offline to spend an hour finding out a little bit more about the internet in a venue where there was help and support available.

This grassroots marketing activity complemented the national campaign run by Race Online 2012 and the BBC, encouraging Digital Champions to spend an hour getting someone they knew online. By co-ordinating our messaging, local venues could take advantage of coverage on the BBC, and could provide a space where Digital Champions could refer friends and family once they had inspired them to get online.

New Year, new online you!

We kicked 2012 off with New Year, new online you!, working with Jobcentre Plus to encourage over 30,000 people to make this the year for getting online for the first time. The campaign ran from 23 January until 17 February, and encouraged over 1,000 UK online centres to pair up with their local Jobcentre so learners could gain the skills they need to get into work. The campaign also promoted public services more widely, encouraging people to use websites including the National Careers Service, NHS Choices and the DWP Benefits Advisor, supporting the government’s drive to move services online.

The campaign was supported by a research report into jobs and the internet, which revealed that 72% of employers wouldn't even interview someone who couldn’t use computers and the internet. Coverage for the campaign, and the Jobs and the internet report, was achieved in the Sun and on BBC local radio, as well as gathering a buzz on Twitter and through social media channels.


In 2011, we again supported the National Digital Conference which took place in May in London. Day one of the conference celebrated Digital Champions, bringing 1,000 of them - including many UK online centres’ staff and volunteers - together to recognise their achievements. Day two followed a more traditional format, with Online Centres Foundation’s Chief Executive Helen Milner running the seminar on housing and neighbourhoods.

Go ON places

During the last year we have held, or supported, local campaigns in a number of cities around the UK including Go ON Sheffield, Go ON Leeds, Go ON it’s Liverpool and Go ON Barnsley. These campaigns aimed to bring partners together to get whole communities online, and we worked with O2, Plusnet, Race Online 2012 and local authorities as well as a number of local UK online centres and partners.

Go ON Sheffield - November 2011

UK online centres staff, volunteers and learners tell us about their experiences at Go ON Sheffield events during Get online week.

Funding support for digital skills

To support our ambitious target to help one million people gain computer and internet skills, and to ensure our funding model could support these learners, in April 2011 the Online basics grants were launched.

Very different from previous funding models, the Online basics grant paid registered centres a set amount for each learner they supported through the course. Centres were able to register and claim for the grant in an end-to-end online process, reducing central administration.

In line with the grant, we also developed a robust delivery assurance framework to ensure we could recognise any irregular behaviour being claimed for, and ensure that the public money we receive would only reach those centres that were supporting those really in need.

The Online basics grant ran from April 2011 until February 2012. Over £6 million of funding was paid out to over 1,500 centres, enabling 450,000 people to get online, and gain the basic skills they need to use the internet confidently.

Our 500,000th learner celebration at Google

This video shows how we celebrated reaching the 500,000th learner milestone with tutors and learners at Google.

South Yorkshire widow finds the support to change her life online

After the loss of her husband, a South Yorkshire pensioner has found a new lease of life, lost almost four stone and improved her health all thanks to getting online.

Two years ago, 78 year-old Nora Hanley from Conisbrough, near Doncaster, lost her husband of 55 years - Mick. She says "We were at school together so I'd known him almost all my life. He was just my pal, you know. When he went, it was like falling off a cliff. I miss him to death."

However, after years caring full time for her beloved Mick, Nora suddenly found herself with the opportunity to pursue some of the interests that had previously fallen by the wayside - one of which was seeing how computers and the internet could change her life. She says, "Nursing Mick meant I didn't really have the time for sitting down at a computer but after he passed I very quickly went from having not enough hours in the day to having all this time."

After taking classes at her local UK online centre, run by the Doncaster West Development Trust, Nora soon found the internet could open up a whole new world. "It was important for me to look for the positive things in life because even then I knew you can't build on negative things. And I could see the internet was just an open door, a door to new opportunities."

After attending the classes and eventually buying her own computer, Nora was able to grow her skills, which led to her making a huge change in her life.

"It was after the royal wedding. There was all this press around the Middletons and how good they looked, and it was then that I read about this Dukan diet Catherine, her sister and mum had supposedly been on.

"I thought I might as well try it! I'd tried plenty of diets before but at my age, and with severe arthritis it made sense for me to lose weight so I didn't have to carry much about. I thought 'why not?'"

After reading up about the diet, it wasn't long before Nora decided to give it a go, especially once she saw the online support she could receive. Along with regular, encouraging emails with meal suggestions, the Dukan website's online community helped Nora maintain her eating plan by sharing tips, recipes and the personal successes of other dieters.

She says "I lost about four stone, in less than six months, which was a lot for me. And there's no way that I could have done it without the website. I really don't believe I would have lost all this weight without the emails and help I was able get online."

And losing the weight has meant real changes in Nora's life. She says, "Like many people my age, I had a lot of ailments and a lot of these are now disappearing. My cholesterol's gone down, my diabetes is less severe and my mobility has increased a huge amount, I never knew I could get around so quickly! My arthritis has improved so much that I've even started learning how to play the ukulele!"

For Nora getting online has given her a new lease of life - one she intends to make the most of. She says, "The more I learn about the internet and use it, the more it changes my life. And as my dad used to say 'if you're lucky enough to be born in to this world, the only sure thing is death. But between the two there's a lot of living to do!'"