Program Development Guide

This program development guide is designed to guide libraries and other community groups in planning and implementing a holistic digital inclusion project for K-12 families based on the model created for this toolkit, including primarily in-person classes. Programs using this guide should provide holistic digital inclusion solutions that fit the needs of their community as well as the mission and resources of those implementing it, which will make them unique. For more information on virtual or hybrid programs, see the online course: Implementing the NC Toolkit for Digital Readiness Virtually

Each section includes a description of that step in the process, an example of that step from one of the pilot libraries, and a series of questions that should be answered during that step.

The last section of this guide provides links to other Digital Inclusion planning resources that are wider in scope. A printable PDF of the guide is also available below.

Tab/Accordion Items

Start by reviewing these important definitions of Digital Inclusion concepts.

Important Definitions

from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance

Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies.  This includes 5 elements: 

  1. affordable, robust broadband internet service
  2. internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user
  3. access to digital literacy training
  4. quality technical support
  5. applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration.

Digital Equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.  Digital Equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.

The American Library Association defines Digital Literacy as the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.

A Digitally Literate Person:

  • Possesses the variety of skills – technical and cognitive – required to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information in a wide variety of formats;
  • Is able to use diverse technologies appropriately and effectively to retrieve information, interpret results, and judge the quality of that information;
  • Understands the relationship between technology, life-long learning, personal privacy, and stewardship of information;
  • Uses these skills and the appropriate technology to communicate and collaborate with peers, colleagues, family, and on occasion, the general public; and
  • Uses these skills to actively participate in civic society and contribute to a vibrant, informed, and engaged community.

Set Goals

Spend some time considering and discussing what you would like this project to achieve. 

Example case:

The goal of the pilot program was to affect the multiple aspects of the digital divide that families of K-12 students who experience the homework gap encounter. This holistic program was designed to address home internet connectivity, access to a meaningful device at home, and digital literacy for both students and guardians.

Ask these Questions:

  • What community needs do you want your program to meet? Consider the five elements of digital inclusion identified by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance:
    • affordable, robust broadband internet service
    • internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user
    • access to digital literacy training
    • quality technical support
    • applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration
  • How will work towards digital equity fit your organization’s strategic plan or mission?

Identify Target Audience and Stakeholders

Decide who will participate in this program and who has an interest in your work with this group.

Example case:

AMY Regional Library worked with both of the public middle schools in Mitchell County, a county with relatively low internet adoption rates. They selected families of eighth grade students, because in eighth grade at these schools, students take home their school-owned device for the first time.

Ask these Questions:

  • Where is the digital divide most prevalent?
    • Who uses our computer lab or existing device lending program?
    • What areas have low internet adoption rates?
  • What qualifications will be required to participate? Possible qualifications include:
    • Student enrollment at a certain school
    • Student grade or age
    • Lack of home broadband
    • Agreement that a student and guardian will attend workshops
  • Are there milestones in a student's digital device use at school?
  • Who is already working to meet this population's internet access, device access, or digital literacy needs?
  • Who will benefit from increased digital access and skills among this population?

Identify Barriers to Participation

Consider what would prevent your target audience from successfully participating in your program.

Example case:

AMY Regional Library expected preferred spoken language, transportation, and need for additional childcare as barriers for their participants. 

Ask these Questions:

  • What would prevent families from enrolling in the program?
    • Lack of perceived benefit
    • Time commitment
    • Lack of knowledge about the program
  • What would prevent families from attending workshops?
    • Lack of transportation
    • Childcare for siblings of participating student
    • Language of workshop presentation

Create a List of Existing Resources

Make a list of resources available to you and your participants that could mitigate the potential barriers to their participation in the program as well as resources that could meet some of their digital needs. 

Example case:

A solution for transportation was already present for AMY Regional Library in their partnership with a local rural transportation provider. Mitchell County Schools' one-to-one device program ensured that participating families would have a computer to bring to the workshops and to use at home.

Ask these Questions

  • What digital inclusion services and resources does the library already provide? These may include:
    • Public use computers
    • Parking lot Wi-Fi
    • Computer assistance book-a-librarian appointments
    • Hotspot lending
  • Who is already working to meet internet access, devices access, or digital literacy needs in this community?
  • What options are available for free or low-cost home internet connectivity?
  • Are there organizations that can provide free or low-cost devices to families?
  • Do schools provide devices for students to take home during the school year?
  • If the curriculum in this toolkit does not match your goals, you may wish to review other curriculum options at this point.

Contact Potential Partners

Good partners not only make work lighter but also enrich a program by providing their organization’s resources, their varied experience, and their knowledge of, access to, and credibility with target communities. It is important not only to identify partner organizations but also the right individuals who will champion your work together. 

All pilot libraries partnered with schools. Typically, they selected specific schools based on low broadband adoption rate and then reached out to superintendents, district technology staff, principals, or media coordinators depending on their existing relationship with the school. Initial meetings were used to introduce the potential project, gather information from potential partners, and determine if there was a good fit for partnership in this program. The example project introduction below may be useful.

Download Example Project Introduction

Example case:

BHM Regional Library initially reached out to Mattamuskeet Schools’ Media Coordinator, with whom they had worked previously. She handled communication with school administrators in setting up the project and became a close partner throughout the program. School-owned Chromebooks were lent to families in the program. The Media Coordinator offered familiar personal contact with participants, knowledge of extracurricular schedules, and advice on ways to coordinate with content taught in school among many other invaluable contributions that strongly impacted participant engagement. 

Ask these Questions:

  • Who are the stakeholders identified in Step 1? 
  • What are the strengths of your staff and resources for this project? Are you prepared to provide:
    • Device and internet connection technical support
    • Staff for workshops to maintain a ratio of 5 participants-to-1 facilitator
    • Two-way communication with participants throughout program
    • Facilities for workshops
    • Solutions to other barriers identified in Step 1 
  • What areas could use more support and who could provide that support?
  • What existing resources or services does the partner provide that might bridge the digital divide for participants in conjunction with this new project?
  • Within a partner organization, who is the best initial contact? Consider their:
    • Influence within their organization
    • Knowledge of K-12 family needs
    • Dedication to supporting K-12 families
    • Knowledge of school technology programs
    • Support of community partnerships
  • Within a partner organization, who is the best long-term contact? Consider their:
    • Current level of interaction with participants
    • Time available to commit to the program
    • Interest in digital inclusion among families in their school
    • Skills which complement existing project staff’s skills
  • If your partner is better acquainted with participants, ask them the questions from Step 1 to get another perspective on the needs of your target audience.

Determine Logistics

Once stakeholders have been identified and partnerships have been established, it is time to make some decisions about the specifics of your program.

Example case:

Project partners from BHM Regional Library and Mattamuskeet Schools decided to instruct adults and students separately. To accommodate the schedules of both students and adults and to mitigate transportation challenges, students attended workshops directly after school. Adults attended instruction after the students so they had more time to arrive from work and students could return to other extracurricular activities. Both instruction components were held monthly on the same day so the library staff would only travel to the school once a month. 

Ask these Questions:

  • How will each workshop be structured?
  • When will workshops take place? 
    • Consider both the day of the week and the time they will be held.
    • Factors unique to your target community may increase or decrease the likelihood of attendance on a specific day. For instance, in Robeson County many families attend church on Wednesday evenings. Be sure to ask partners if they know of any such factors.
    • You may choose to survey enrolling participants about availability later in the process to make a final schedule.
  • How frequently will workshops take place?
    • Weekly meetings are common in many digital literacy classes because close intervals can improve attendance and help participants build on knowledge from previous sessions while it is fresh in their minds. Closer intervals means a shorter term commitment, which is easier for some families.
    • Meeting once or twice a month makes the time commitment more manageable for facilitators and some families. Spreading out workshops also extends your connection with participants over a longer period and with additional support between workshops, can improve the long-term impact of the program. Some families hesitate to commit to attendance across many months.
  • Where will workshops take place?
  • Will food, childcare, or transportation be provided?
    • You may determine which of these could feasibly be provided and then survey enrolling families about their needs later in the process before making final decisions.
  • What will be the primary language of workshops? Will there be translation?

Delegate Responsibilities

Responsibilities should be divided so that workloads are manageable for all partners and should utilize the strengths of individuals involved. Therefore, the division of labor will be unique for each instance of the project. When designating responsibilities, also consider the level of control the lead partner (in pilots, the library) wishes to maintain over hotspots, devices, workshop content, etc. balanced with the commitment of staff and time the initiating partner is able to contribute.
While some organizations may prefer a formal arrangement, it is always a good idea to discuss what everyone will contribute to the project and put it to paper.

Download Example List of Responsibilities

Example case:

BHM Regional Library is geographically further from their program participants than Mattamuskeet Schools, so they held their workshops at the school building. The school’s Media Coordinator was therefore responsible for the workshop facilities. She also handled communication with participants due to her existing relationships and was an assisting facilitator for workshops. The public library’s Systems Administrator used his knowledge of technology to evaluate and troubleshoot hotspots at the start of the program and led the workshops as the instructing facilitator. The public library also provided a snack for participants and an assisting facilitator for each session.

Ask these Questions:

    • Who will provide and pay for the monthly home internet connection for families? 
    • Are there limits on the use of the internet connection? e.g. data caps, filters, etc. 
    • Who will coordinate technical assistance for the internet connection?
    • Who will provide the device (computer, tablet, or Chromebook) to participants? 
    • Can both the adult and student use the device at home? 
    • Will these lent devices be used during workshops or will other devices be necessary for instruction (i.e. a computer lab)? 
    • Who will coordinate technical assistance for the devices?
    • How may facilitators are necessary for each workshop? 
      • Remember, not all families will attend each workshop. A ratio of no more than five participants for each facilitator is best for instruction time. Pilots found that if families were paired together with a single device, each family unit could be considered as a single participant for calculating that ratio.
      • Download Example Staffing Scenarios
    • If the student and adult instruction will be staggered, supervision will be necessary for the non-instruction time and space as well. It would be best to have at least one person familiar with the facility among the staff in each space.
    • Who will lead instruction for workshops? Who else will assist in facilitating workshops?
      • Some staff may rotate, but consistency in facilitators makes participants more comfortable.
    • Is there a good balance of facilitators with technical skills, instructional skills, and interpersonal skills? Not all facilitators need to excel in each area. 
    • Who is the contact for facilities access and questions?
    • Who should participants contact with questions about the program?
  • What additional support and assistance can each partner provide to families during the program?

Conduct Qualification Survey

An initial survey of your target audience will both identify participants who should be invited to enroll and provide additional information about their needs. In many cases, it is best to survey a broader segment of the target population than you anticipate serving to get a more robust picture of the community’s needs and to ensure enough participants will be identified in a single round of surveys.

Download Example Qualification Survey

Example case:

Caswell County Public Library distributed a qualification survey to all middle grade families at their partner school’s beginning-of-year family event. The survey could be completed either online or on paper. The results were used to determine there were enough slots in the program to include interested participants in middle grades with additional slots available. The library then reached out to community leaders in areas they wished to target and shared the survey on social media. The survey also asked for preferred meeting times, language needs, and contact information.

Ask these Questions:

  • What information will be useful for finalizing program details?
    • Availability during potential meeting times
    • Needs related to potential barriers identified in Step 1
  • In what format(s) will the survey be distributed?
    • Physical printed surveys are more approachable to some target populations who are not comfortable with computers or do not have reliable internet connections.
    • Online surveys are easier to disseminate and share. Make sure your online survey is mobile-friendly and create a short link to increase usability for under-connected communities.
    • Several cost-free survey tools are available for online surveys, such as Google Forms, Typeform, and Survey Monkey as well as Project Outcome for Public Libraries. 
  • Is the survey approachable for the target audience? Consider:
    • Length of survey
    • Language – Is it easy to read without confusing terms? Is it available in the languages spoken among your target audience?
    • Format - online surveys add convenience but can be difficult for some people affected by the digital divide
    • Personal Info – Do you request information people may not be comfortable providing right away?
  • Where will you promote, distribute, and collect surveys? Some possible avenues include: 
    • School events or communication channels
    • Social media
    • Churches
    • Community centers
    • Neighborhood grocery stores
    • Tutoring centers
  • Who will compile and analyze survey results to inform your program decisions?

Invite Participants

Once details are settled and qualified families are identified through the survey process, it is time to invite participants to enroll. 

Example case:

Caswell County Public Library sent a letter to families outlining the requirements and benefits of the program. The letter invited them to enroll by bringing the enclosed participant agreement form to the first meeting. Participants were required to attend a minimum of six out of eight workshops and return the hotspot at the end of the school year. 

If participants stopped attending workshops and couldn’t be contacted, service to the hotspot would be suspended and families were asked to return the hotspot. Benefits of the program included increased digital literacy for parents and students, home internet access through the hotspot, home use of a library owned Chromebook if the family did not have a school-owned device at home, dinner at workshops, and the possibility of earning a desktop computer at the end of the program if they met attendance requirements. 

Ask these Questions:

  • What information will help families understand the program and encourage them to enroll?
  • What information can be communicated at the first workshop to make the letter shorter?
  • Do you need a firm number of enrollees before the first workshop, and therefore need participant agreements submitted before that time? Or can families enroll at the first workshop?
    • A firm number helps with planning logistics and will alert you if further outreach or invitations need to be made to fill the program slots. Asking participants to return a form before the workshop presents the possibility of lost forms, missed deadlines, and additional logistics for the project partners.
    • If families can enroll at the first workshop, they can be invited to learn more about the program and ask questions in person before making a commitment, which may make some families more comfortable. 
  • What other points of contact can be made before the first workshop to remind potential participants to attend?

Train Instructors and Facilitators

In this project’s curriculum, each instructor guide includes directions on how to lead the workshop. As such, instructors do not need to be experts in technology or instruction. However, it is good to introduce the concepts of digital inclusion and digital literacy instruction to all facilitators so they have a shared understanding of the program’s goals, the challenges their participants may face, and best practices for working with computer learners. Workshop facilitators should also meet before the first workshop to discuss roles and expectations.

Example case:

In the pilot use of this toolkit, facilitators from all libraries came together to hear about the Digital Divide in North Carolina, learn from other Digital Literacy instructors, and discuss the logistics of their programs. Each month, facilitators from each library met online to discuss the specifics of the upcoming workshop. In Robeson County, the workshop facilitators would meet before each meeting to briefly review the material and activities. 

Facilitators Should Know the Answer to these Questions:

  • What is the Digital Divide and who does it effect? 
  • What is Digital Inclusion? What is Digital Literacy
  • How should I provide assistance to computer learners?
    • Whenever working with a learner, don’t touch their device if at all possible. Instead, clearly direct them on what they should do with short, simple steps so they can gain practical experience.
    • Remember that social norms and expectations are not universal, so speak in a way that will include the most people, not just those you that fit your assumptions. For example, don’t say “everyone has a smart phone” or “everyone knows what a website is.” 
    • Explain terms and directions in a way that new computer users can understand. For example, during basic skills instruction say “click once on the blue underlined text” rather than “go to the website.” 
    • Remind new computer users that their existing experience and knowledge is relevant to their digital literacy and will help them as they learn. 
    • Encourage questions. Admit when you don’t know the answer and use the opportunity to seek the answer together, demonstrating how participants can find answers on their own in the future.
    • Asking assisting facilitators to accept individual questions throughout instruction can make participants more comfortable asking questions. It is often helpful for the assisting facilitator to raise the question to the instructing facilitator so that all participants can benefit from the answer.

Review Curriculum and Customize Content

The instructor should download and review the instructor guide, handouts, and slideshows before each workshop. The cover page of each instructor document suggests some tasks for preparing that session. At minimum, the instructor should make sure they understand each activity and are prepared to lead a discussion in each topic. It would also be beneficial to customize the materials to some degree. Programs developed with this guide may use curriculum other than the one within this toolkit. Curriculum should be select based on the needs of participants and resources of facilitators. Facilitators should review curriculum to determine what is needed for each meeting.

Example case:

Robeson County Public Library facilitators rotated instruction responsibilities. Whichever facilitator was leading instruction each month would review curriculum and make changes to the provided slideshow to include specifics relevant to their community and to share their library’s resources. They also added a URL to the adult handouts where participants could access online versions of their workshop materials.

Ask these Questions:

  • Are there any changes to the presentation slides or handouts that would make the material more relevant to your community and participants?
  • Is the instructing facilitator familiar with all the activities and concepts for this workshop? 
  • Are there any locally specific resources or topics relevant to the subject of this workshop that can be included?

Prepare Facility

Doing a little prep work to make sure the space is ready to host your workshop can go a long way towards making participants feel welcome and ready to learn. It’s a good idea to review this list of questions when a space is selected to make sure it will meet your needs, but it may also be appropriate to return to the checklist before each workshop to make sure everything is still ready to go.

Example case:

Robeson County Public Library held workshops at their partner school’s media center. Before each session, they would arrive early to make sure the room was prepared for their participants. The space was used for many activities throughout the year, so it wasn’t easy to anticipate what would change between workshops. By the time participants arrived each time, the facilitators made sure tables were ready for families to use and their slideshow was projected so families knew they were in the right place. During arrival time, facilitators made sure each family brought their school-issued device, helped them find a place to plug-in if their battery wasn’t charged, and answered any questions about the previous month’s material.

Ask these Questions:

Adapt to Feedback from Participants

Solicit feedback throughout your program to make sure your work is effective. Read feedback soon after receiving it and make plans to address the suggestions given. Also consider the informal feedback participants give during workshops both verbally and non-verbally.

Example case:

At the end of each workshop, participants at the Robeson County digital literacy workshops completed a short exit survey that provided feedback on their experience in that session as well as the other components of the program, including the lent hotspot and device. Library staff used these surveys from session-to-session to make sure instruction was addressing the participants’ needs and to learn about some issues families were experiences with devices. The feedback was also used when making plans for their second year of the program.

Ask these Questions:

  • What are the goals of the participants? How can you adapt future content to focus on those goals more?
  • Which activities or topics are participants most engaged in? How can you incorporate similar activities and topics in future sessions? 
  • Are examples given during workshops relevant to participants? 
  • Do participants seem to feel the workshops are moving too fast, too slow, or both? How can you accommodate those learning preferences? 
  • How will you solicit feedback from participants?
    • Resource: Project Outcome is a free tool from PLA for libraries to measure the impact of their programs and compare their programs to those of other libraries. Its Digital Learning – Immediate Survey may be relevant to Digital Literacy Workshops conducted in this program. If you would like more specific feedback about your program, you may develop your own survey. 
    • Online survey tools are likely viable if facilitators are available to offer technical assistance while participants complete them. 
    • Download Example Exit Ticket Questions
  • Who will compile and analyze survey results to inform your program decisions?

Offer One-on-One Assistance

Since participants begin the program at different skill levels and have different goals, one-on-one assistance throughout will help meet their individual needs. Many libraries already offer computer help through book-a-librarian appointments or during open computer lab hours. Coordinating with existing efforts ensures that project participants receive consistent instruction that will help them stay on track with skills learned in workshops and add opportunities for them to work to towards personal goals which require skills beyond the workshops. Ideally, a facilitator from the workshops would be available to connect with participants for one-on-one help outside of workshops, but coordinating with other staff who will provide this assistance is also advantageous. In the curriculum documents, there is a self-guided set of activities for each workshop designed for participants who miss a session or wish to reinforce what they’ve learned. Make those and other handouts from each session available to any staff providing computer assistance and in any location where participants might seek help.

Example case:

Robeson County Public Library had an existing book-a-librarian program, which they recommended to participants at their workshops. Since some participants may have had difficulty getting transportation to the library, they also offered to meet participants before workshops for additional help with the previous session’s content.

Ask these Questions:

  • Where would participants normally go to receive computer assistance? 
  • How can you coordinate with those existing avenues so that staff understand the context of your program and is able to help participants who seek their assistance with content from your workshops?
  • How can you provide additional one-on-one assistance to both participants who need more practice with skills taught during workshops and those who have learning goals beyond what is taught in workshops?
  • Is there a Digital Navigator program in the library or community that could provide support to participants? Is there an opportunity to create a Digital Navigator position to support this program?

Follow-up with Absent Participants

Have a plan for how absences will be handled and communicate that early in the program. If attendance is required for some benefits of the program, be very clear about what consequences of absence would be and at what point those consequences would take effect. Even if attendance is not strictly required, it is best to attempt to contact absent participants, learn the reason for their absence, and work with them on how to ensure their attendance in the future. 

Some libraries offered make-up options to families who missed too many workshops but wished to remain qualified for some benefit of the program. The self-guided workshop documents could be used for this purpose, but can also be provided simply for the benefit of learning the skills taught in a missed workshop. 

Example case:

AMY Regional Library staff in Mitchell County reached out to participants who missed more than one workshop. Before contacting each family, the program facilitators checked the usage data on their hotspot. During phone calls with families who had little hotspot usage, facilitators asked if the hotspot was working and offered to provide assistance with the hotspot at the next workshop. Some participants said they had no need for the hotspot after all and chose to return it and leave the program rather than continuing to attend workshops.

After the hotspot discussion, facilitators asked if there were issues that prevented families from attending workshops. In one case, they learned that one guardian would only be able to arrive from work in time for the second half of the meeting time. The program facilitators moved the student-focused content to the first half of the session so that the late-arriving guardian could still participate. 

Ask these Questions:

  • What are the attendance requirements? 
  • What are the consequences for absence?
  • What support can be provided for participants hoping to learn skills from workshops they miss?
  • During check-ins with absent participants, you may ask these questions:
    • Are you having trouble with internet access?
    • Are the devices lent to you working?
    • Do you feel the workshop are beneficial? What could we do to make them more useful for you? 
    • What computer skills would you like to learn? What would you like to be able to do on the computer?
    • Are there scheduling conflicts that prevent you from attending workshops?

Provide Resources for Long-Term Support

Both throughout the program and at the program’s end, it is important to think about long-term internet access, device access, and digital literacy for participating families.

Example case:

Participants who completed the requirements of the program in each pilot community received a free desktop computer from Kramden Institute, a computer refurbisher in Durham, NC. During the last meeting of the workshops, information about low-cost internet offers were shared and in some cases, there were options for continued use of the hotspot through the library. Resources for continued learning are shared at the close of each workshop and computer assistance continues to be available at each library.

Ask these Questions:

  • After completing the program, what will a family need to continue participating in the digital activities as they have during the program? 
  • How can participants continue learning digital skills? Are there other technology classes at the library or elsewhere in the community? 
  • Can families borrow devices or hotspots from the library or other community programs? 
  • Is there interest in starting an informal digital literacy peer learning circle for guardians of K-12 students?

For more guidance on building a robust Digital Inclusion Program in your community, see the Broadband Infrastructure Office of NCDIT's Digital Inclusion Plan Template and National Digital Inclusion Alliance's Digital Inclusion Startup Manual.