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  4. DISCOVER Digital inclusion skills for carers: bringing opportunities, Values and Excellence

DISCOVER Digital inclusion skills for carers: bringing opportunities, Values and Excellence





Project website:

What research questions the project addresses, aims & themes

The pan-European DISCOVER project focuses upon improving the quality of life of family and formal carers and the people they care for through learning, informational access and support. By improving the digital and caring skills of carers through an online learning portal, we aim to give carers the knowledge to support people living with long-term conditions, the confidence to use technologies that can reduce social isolation and the ability to assist older people to use such technologies.  The needs of carers are at the very heart of DISCOVER and carers and stakeholders have been involved in all stages of the research process.

How the research questions are addressed by the project (methodology and activity/environment)

Carer exploring the Skills ZoneThe consortium has developed a Skills Zone which enables carers to develop their digital skills either directly or as they learn more about the health conditions of the people they care for, develop skills for caring through Serious games and chat to each other for mutual support. The DISCOVER Skills Zone is being piloted in four test bed sites across the EU, in Greece, Spain, The Netherlands and The United Kingdom.  This has involved over 500 family and paid carers who have explored the Skills Zone to enhance their digital, caring and employability skills, increase their understanding of health conditions and connect with other carers. These skills will enable them to maximise the potential of digital technologies to support them in their caring role and give them the confidence to support the use of technologies by people iThe Skills Zone   n their care.

The work is divided into three stages:

Pre-pilot Stage: involved development of the DISCOVER SKILLS ZONE  through iterative, inclusive design with carers and stakeholders, as a ‘one stop resource’ for carers’ information and skills development.

Pilot Phase 1 : over 130 carers and stakeholders, across the four EU countries, were recruited to trial the emerging Skills Zone and the evaluation instruments. Their feedback informed further development of the Skills Zone.

Pilot Phase 2: over 400 carers and stakeholders, participated in trialling the completed Skills Zone. Their evaluation is informing development of a business plan for sustainability of DISCOVER post project.

For more information see

The Open University's contribution to the project centres on user engagement and evaluation of the online training resources that are being developed by the partners in Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Findings and outputs

The OU developed the User Methodology Handbook for the project, to ensure comparability across the 4 pilot sites. Annual reports have been completed for year 1 and year 2.

Preliminary findings show that although participants ranged from novice to experienced computer user, all learned new digital skills from getting started to adapting PC’s and tablets for people with reduced dexterity. Carers selected the skills they wished to improve, including how to find information about local and national services, health conditions of the people they care for and assistive technologies, and how to connect with other carers.  DISCOVER was seen as beneficial by carers, cared-for people and stakeholders and the majority of participants would recommend it.

Project impact

Expected benefits include improved digital skills, better communication and support for carers i.e. less isolation through the development of social networks, increased confidence and thus a better quality of life.

The benefits for those being cared for will include improvements in quality of care and levels of independent living.

Recognising and rewarding excellence in engaged research

Dr Verina Waights was presented with an award by Professor Alan Bassindale (PVC Research, Scholarship and Quality) at the 2015 Engaging Research Award Scheme. The OU’s RCUK-funded Public Engagement with Research Catalyst, ‘An open research university’ Awards Scheme celebrates high-quality engaged research at the OU.

Verina leads the OU team for the EU funded project DISCOVER: developing inclusion skills for carers: bringing opportunities, values and excellence. Her role in enhancing e-inclusion through development of carers’ digital skills was ‘highly commended’ by the Award panel, who stated that the ‘The research took a participatory design approach with evidence of engagement through many stages of the lifecycle’.                       


carers, digital technologies, accessible, caring skills

People involved

John Richardson (IET - evaluation)

Verina Waights (HSC - lead investigator)

Caroline Holland (HSC - co-investigator)

Catherine Powell (HSC- research associate)

Project partners and links

Birmingham City Council (Project Coordinator)



Birmingham City Universty


Coventry University Enterprises Limited


Dundalk Institute of Technology

The Open University (Health & Social Care Faculty and IET)


Partially funded by the ICT-PSP European Commission

Start Data and Duration

April 2012 to March 2015


Research & Innovation