Be Online Stay Safe (BOSS) project update

The Be Online Stay Safe (BOSS) project is a partnership between Leeds Older People’s Forum (LOPF) and 100% Digital Leeds. With the support of the DCMS Media Literacy Programme Fund the project aims to overcome the digital inclusion barriers older people in diverse communities face to accessing media literacy, tackling challenges set out in the DCMS Online Media Literacy Strategy.

The work is led by Samantha Haggart, Digital Inclusion Coordinator at LOPF, working alongside four delivery partners: Hamara, Feel Good Factor, Leeds Irish Health and Homes (LIHH), and Health for All. The BOSS project is now over halfway through the funded period.

“During the last four years of teaching digital skills to older people the biggest barrier is always fear, including fear of scams and fear of doing something wrong.  The Be Online Stay Safe course helps reduce that fear and increase learners’ confidence so they can enjoy the benefits of the online world whilst having the knowledge to help keep them safe.”

Samantha, Digital Inclusion Coordinator at Leeds Older People’s Forum

Themed digital skills sessions

The Digital Inclusion Coordinator has designed a series of digital skills sessions to support learners by building digital skills and confidence, increasing online safety and reducing fear, and developing a better understanding of what the internet has to offer.

The sessions are themed around topics learners are interested in, ensuring the content is relevant, engaging, and practical. The sessions take learners back to basics and cover the level of detail needed to ensure people feel informed and safe without leaving them feeling overwhelmed.

The session themes include:

  • Online safety.
  • Media literacy.
  • Using email.
  • Using the First Bus app.
  • Using the NHS website.

The Digital Inclusion Coordinator has established a skills framework for the BOSS sessions, serving as a guide on the essential subjects and themes covered. The framework helps ensure consistency across delivery partners and by reviewing these areas staff and volunteers can be confident they are delivering effective sessions.

“I am building confidence and doing things I never thought I would do… I knew hardly anything before these sessions and was scared of putting things on my iPhone. Now I can order medicine, make appointments, send photos as an attachment, I am practising emails, I can use an app to see when the buses are coming. I was worried about ordering online before, but I have started to do this with ones I can trust and got the apps. I am going to do the Tesco one next.”

Shiva, BOSS participant.

Developing further content

The BOSS project has highlighted the importance of finding the balance of supporting people with digital skills without overwhelming them with too much information. Once learners have gained confidence through BOSS they have the opportunity to explore more things they can do online, including developing their skills independently. A digital skills assessment has been created to evaluate learners’ progress and provide further learning options to explore.

Learners have expressed an interest in further BOSS modules supporting health literacy including how to use common tools such as the NHS app and PATCHs app. Lesson plans are currently being created to be trialled at Hamara.

“When Googling I realise you have to put the right things in. Now I tread more carefully as there are so many websites to look at. I only go on the high quality ones. The [sessions] helped me to know which sites are safer to look at. If I am looking at foods for rheumatism, or looking at [health] symptoms it will be the NHS [website].”

Karan, BOSS participant.

Next Steps

Looking forward, we aim to create a toolkit which includes BOSS modules and learning materials, to be available from early 2024 when this learning will be shared. 100% Digital Leeds continues to work closely with each of the four delivery partners to ensure they have the capacity to support digital inclusion and online safety for older people in future. This includes delivering digital inclusion awareness workshops, helping partners secure additional funding to increase staff capacity, and encouraging new partnerships.