Making ICDL work for the FET Sector

ICDL in Further Education

As you probably know ICDL comprises eLearning, webinars, online practice tests, automatically-marked certification tests and digital certificates.

ICDL is a prime example of technology-enhanced learning that gives students the best chance of success while maintaining the high standards of a world-leading certification.

Employers, educators and funding bodies, including Solas and the Department of Education and Skills, all recognise the important role that industry certifications play in Further Education Training (FET) provision.

Despite the wealth of valuable QQI-accredited courses available, industry bodies play an important role in ensuring that content, assessment and certification of the latest skills and technologies are available in the market in a timely fashion.

Funding is provided to Education Training Boards (ETBs) for industry certifications so that they can be agile enough to meet the rapidly changing needs of the economy and wider society.

The role of QQI awards and industry certifications in further education are not mutually exclusive, and often students can benefit from pursuing both.

Funding is provided to Education Training Boards (ETBs) for industry certifications so that they can be agile enough to meet the rapidly changing needs of the economy and wider society. The role of QQI awards and industry certifications in further education are not mutually exclusive, and often students can benefit from pursuing both.

There are three distinct ways of using ICDL in Further Education and Training

1. ICDL can be used to enhance current courses with additional skills that improve the employability of graduates of those courses.

2. ICDL can be embedded in the delivery of QQI courses where there are shared learning objectives. This allows students to gain industry certification at the same time as they pursue a QQI award.

3. ICDL can be used as an exemption from certain component awards.

Enhancing current courses with new skills

Many of ICDL’s newer modules like IT Security, Data Protection and Digital Marketing cover digital competencies that are commonly required by employers, but which are not currently taught in mainstream provision.

The recent National Data Protection survey showed that the biggest cause of data and security breaches in business are the accidental and inadvertent actions of users and no current technology can totally safeguard against user error.

For this reason employers are increasingly requiring their employees to understand the fundamentals of data protection and cybersecurity.

The ICDL Safe Worker Award combats weaknesses in individuals’ knowledge about their privacy and security responsibilities. It enables individuals to protect themselves (and their business) from common threats while also building the understanding of their important role in safeguarding the employer’s data and reputation.

Using ICDL to teach current QQI courses

ICDL delivers best practice technology-enhanced learning. Many QQI courses include components that are covered by one or more ICDL modules.

For example, the QQI Word Processing Level 5 Award (5N1358) is 98% covered by just two ICDL modules, Computer Essentials and Word Processing.

With the addition of two brief webinars students can meet all their learning objectives and gain an ICDL certification before completing their final project to gain their QQI award.

Using ICDL content and assessment while pursuing these QQI awards benefits students in a number of ways:

  • High-quality content accessible anywhere, anytime
  • Industry certification highly valued in over 150 countries
  • Registration for life that encourages lifelong learning

Using ICDL as an Exemption

ICDL exemptions are limited to specific groupings of modules. Currently if components 4N1112 + 4N1125 are listed in the choice of components towards a QQI award, ICDL may be used as an exemption against those components.

This exemption is valid with QQI for 5 years after the ICDL certification date.

Approximately a quarter of all post-primary students are lucky enough to gain an ICDL Award while in school. If they proceed to Further Education there will be many instances where they will appreciate being able to use ICDL as an exemption towards their chosen award, and as they have been enrolled for life, they can add further ICDL awards very economically.

Over 40% of QQI awards could benefit from ICDL

Having reviewed the specifications for the top 100 QQI awards (by number awarded), over 40 QQI awards could be significantly enhanced by the integration of just one or two ICDL modules.

Awards in the fields of business and health stand out to benefit the most from the latest knowledge in data protection and health informatics.

The health and business sectors have changed dramatically in the past few years. These 40 plus QQI awards, ranging from Level 3 to Level 6, and representing 63,700 recipients in 2015, could meet more of the needs of employers by simply introducing a couple of ICDL modules.

Bridging the gap

There will be many times when learners, particularly adults, will need an introductory course in order to help them reach the first rung of the digital ladder.

Our Equalskills course, with very similar content to the QQI Level 3 Computer Literacy Award, fits that requirement perfectly.

It is an accessible, engaging, introduction to computers that gently brings the participants from not knowing what the function of a mouse is, to being able to do some basic word processing, send and receive emails, search the internet and recognise the icons on the desktop.

When Equalskills was being developed, great care was taken to write the text in “plain English”. As a result, participants with literacy difficulties are able to complete the programme without fear of finding the text in the Equalskills workbook too challenging for them.

Students’ positive experience of the Equalskills programme has meant that a very high percentage progress to more advanced studies.

Other ICS innovations in FET

As well as ICDL, the Irish Computer Society has a number of other initiatives of value to the FET sector including:

  • Accreditation to award ICS Continuous Professional Development (CPD) points
  • Free ICS membership for FET students on computing courses
  • Accelerated progression to Professional Member for graduates of courses endorsed by ICS
  • Free entry to the graduate development programme for students of endorsed courses


Whether you are responsible for Youthreach, VTOS, community education or apprenticeships, ICDL and ICS certifications enhance learning and offer valued industry-recognised certification.

Irish Computer Society members are the potential future employers of your students.

Time and again they tell us that they prioritise applicants who possess our certifications, membership and CPD history. It is clear they value our services and trust our certifications. If you want to give your students the best possible start in their career you should consider enhancing current offerings with ICDL/ICS qualifications.

To discuss how ICDL or ICS initiatives could enhance your FET Services plans, please contact

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