Theresa Sladek: Welcome, everyone. I'm going to turn off my video here and share my screen with you, but it's great to be spending this time with you. So let me stop this video. So my name is Theresa Sladek, and I am going to be talking to you about Northstar Digital Literacy assessments today.
And I'm not sure how many of you know about the assessments or not, so I'm going to pretty much go over everything with you. And if you have questions, I would love to hear them. Some of you may be familiar with Northstar. And if that's the case, I will be talking about some of the ways that we're using Northstar to help in this time when there's remote teaching.
So first of all, I want to start out by saying that Northstar is a program of Literacy Minnesota. And you may have heard of us. Our former name-- we just changed our name this year-- was the Minnesota Literacy Council. And so we've been around for about 50 years.
We are very involved in the adult basic education world, and we have six of our own schools here in Minnesota. But we provide statewide training to programs for their staff as well as for volunteer teachers that might teach at their schools. And we are also nationally recognized for much of the free curriculum teacher training tools that we have on our website and the advocacy that we do. So that's kind of the bigger organization.
Northstar itself is a part of that. And you can see from this that we are used very widely across the United States and in several other countries. And as a matter of fact, we've had recently several countries ask us to-- Northstar right now is only in English, but they've asked us if we could translate it into other languages. So it is something that around the world people are needing digital literacy and are finding Northstar to be one of the only products that addresses digital literacy on a very basic level.
So here's my question for you, and you can put this in the chat. Actually, let's put it in the Q&A just so I can see that. So how does it affect people to not be able to use computers? How have you seen it affect people you know, your learners, yourselves? Maybe just type in a couple examples in the Q&A.
Can't access unemployment insurance, yep. Can't use email to apply for jobs, that's right. You can't do banking online, fill out applications. The children's schoolwork or even talk to the teacher sometimes if they're sending emails, yeah, a lot of jobs do require some digital knowledge.
Registering for classes, all right, you all have great answers. Thank you very much. I am sure that there are many more. I won't read them all at this point. But I think those are great examples of how detrimental it can be to people to not have basic digital literacy skills.
I don't think it was mentioned, but most health care now are on portals. So to check your results of your lab, those are-- someone wrote unable to get through life period, and that's a very good answer. And someone wrote that they teach English and a lot of their students aren't able to participate in the online class. So that's true, especially in this time, people who are not digitally literate are having a hard time not only for themselves learning English or going to school but also helping their children too who are now forced to do online learning.
I've also known a lot of people who feel that they're disconnected. So maybe they don't know how they can-- they want to have digital literacy to connect with their grandchildren, for example, I've heard quite a bit from people. And there's also greater connection with just what's going on in the world if you can't access the internet.
So Northstar was started in 2008. And in that time, if you remember, we were in a recession as well. And the local library here in St. Paul was seeing a lot of people coming in asking for digital skills training. And the library did have a computer lab, but they didn't know for sure what they should be teaching or how to assess if people were actually learning it. So they asked us if we would make an assessment to help them with this issue.
So we gathered experts from around the nation and looked at, what should the standards be for each what we call module? So basically, what do you need to know for email? What do you need to know for doing a career search online? And we created (inaudible), and then we built the assessments around those standards to show competency and understanding of those standards.
We also, because we are an organization that is an ABE, we wanted to create a product that was accessible by as many learners as possible. So we created the products to be used by learners who have an intermediate or higher English level. So we weren't able to reach very basic English language learners.
But the product was built so that, as you'll kind of see, there are words that are written and then there's a voice that's talking about what's being written and people can play that. Oh, I'm sorry. Someone asked, what is ABE? Adult basic education is what we have done, so especially working with-- we especially work with people who are either English language learners or working on getting their high school equivalency degree.
That's what we, our organization often does. So that's why our focus was on making this very accessible and easy. The language was easy to use. It was shorter sentences. So this is something that wasn't really out there.
We also really believe that these assessments be used to help people rather than, for example, using them to not hire someone. So if organizations want to use them as a gatekeeper, we kind of try to prevent that.
We are a nonprofit ourselves, and so we wanted to-- well, I should back up a bit and say so we created this initially for the St. Paul public libraries. And it's an online product. And we really thought it would only be used in St. Paul. And then because there's really nothing else at the time, and still, like it at this level, it just kind of spread up on its own and became very widely used.
And we, because we're a nonprofit, we wanted it to be affordable to other nonprofits and any institution that would like to use it. So there is an aspect of it that is free, that anyone can use. And then there's also a subscription aspect. And as I go along, I'll kind of explain the differences.
And the subscription aspect, it's a yearly subscription very moderately priced. We really only charge to be able to kind of keep up with new technology and add in new features. So that's our main goal in sharing and having Northstar.
So Northstar, as I said, was started out as assessments. And for a long time, that's the main focus. And I will get into all four of these things as we go along. But at some point, many organizations were using us.
And I should say, too, that we have organizations who are-- that do career pathways. We have community colleges. We have some businesses. We have libraries. We have, as I said, adult basic education. So it kind of runs the gamut. A lot of different organizations use us, workforce centers.
But many people were saying, this is great. We have the assessments. But if someone doesn't pass, in the past, we would direct them either to the site would have a class or they would somehow train the people or there are free online sources on the web that didn't always correlate exactly with the assessment. Or sometimes they'd have to go through a lot of extra information to learn the different modules.
So people were asking us, can you create curriculum? And we decided that we could. So we have 12 assessments, 12 assessment modules. And we're about a little less than halfway through in creating the curriculum for those modules. So that would be more like a classroom-led instruction or even a one-on-one tutoring.
Well, then people were very happy about that. But we also got feedback that, could we do something where a learner could learn on their own? So we've just recently in the past couple months released Northstar Online Learning. And that current currently has one module, which I'll show you. And we are creating more modules for that as well.
And then the last feature is also really important, I think, because it gives you reporting features so that you can go to whoever your funders are or whoever you need to give results to and show assessments you've given, how many have been successful. So it's just a really handy feature for that reason.
So we're going to talk about assessments first. And as you can see, the assessments are-- there's 12. And they're broken into three general areas. The first is really-- the first essential computer skills, the first three of those are something that everyone should be able to pass before they go on to other assessments.
But that being said, you don't have to do them in any certain order. You don't have to do all of them. You might just be interested in-- you might have someone who's just interested in PowerPoint and learning PowerPoint and seeing how well they do on that assessment or the career search skills, for example. So other than making sure that someone can do basic computer skills and you know that they know what a mouse is and they know how to turn things on and off and basic things, it's really up to you and your learners as to what assessment modules you would want to use.
These assessments are-- the assessments themselves are free to anybody to take on our website. And then if you have the subscription, of course, all the assessments are included as well. And I'll talk about the difference in a second.
Well, when you take an assessment, you will get this results page. And it'll let you know if you passed or not. And we, in our assessments, say that you need 85% to pass. And if you look down at the green column-- you can't see all of it because this is a picture-- but it would list all the skills that you had mastered. And then the purple column would list what you need to work on.
So if, let's say, you got 70%, it would tell you those things that you or your learner needed to work on before you took the assessment again. If you are in a subscriber, you can claim a badge which are sometimes used in various educational settings and sometimes for jobs, which is basically a electronic certification.
And if you're a subscriber, the big difference also is that when someone passes an assessment, they will get a certification because the assessment has been proctored. So you can verify that they weren't using notes, they weren't asking someone else, that this is a true reflection of how much they know. If someone takes the assessment, the free assessment online, there is no certification because there's no verification that they didn't have help. So that's one of the major differences.
When we first created the certifications, we thought the biggest benefit would be to show employers what people had learned. And that definitely does happen. I know there was a patron at a library who came in wanting to learn Excel because he said that his boss said if he learned Excel, he would get a promotion. So he passed the Excel certification or passes the Excel assessment and got the certification and brought it to his boss and got the promotion.
However, we found that actually, the biggest benefit of certifications is the confidence it will build in your learners or your participants or whoever you're working with. Many people who-- I help out in one of our computer labs. And at that computer lab, we get a lot of people who are in their upper 50s, lower 60s who have been doing manual labor for most of their career and now just physically can't. And so they're looking to re-skill themselves.
But it's been a long time since they've been in school. And sometimes they haven't had great experiences in school. So they're very nervous and scared, and then compound that with computers, which they may not know much about.
And when they pass the assessment, it's like this light goes on in their eyes. It's kind of amazing to see. And I've had people start crying for joy. I've had people give me high fives. And I see it, too, in them able to translate that new confidence into other things.
So I was working with a woman who was interviewing for jobs at the same time she was practicing her computer skills. And she was feeling kind of stuck, and she was feeling like she wasn't getting second interviews. And she was I think feeling quite down.
And after some struggle, she passed the PowerPoint assessment. And she got the certification, and she went out, and she had another interview, and she just brought that confidence to that interview and ended up getting a job. And it was remarkable to see the change just in her demeanor and her attitude just from tackling that what, to her, had been a little bit difficult.
It also helps with persistence. Because the modules themselves are short enough that you do get a win. You can see your results.
So for example, if you're studying for something long term like getting a GED or something that takes a while, it's hard to see the end. And it's hard to feel like you're making progress sometimes. And here you can definitely see the different-- you know, that you are making progress. It doesn't take that long to learn the materials and then pass the assessments.
We, at one point, were going to give certificates with someone's name and then all the modules they had passed on one certification. And people didn't like that. They wanted to have a separate one for every module they had passed. And some people have framed them. Some people put them up on their Facebook page. So it's a really fun thing to see.
I did have an organization that they're a prison, and they have classes particularly for young men to get their GED. And the young men weren't seeing the value of studying or being in school really. And at the same time, they started Northstar, and they all felt that they knew computers because they all had cell phones. But they realized that cell phones are different than computers and weren't able to pass the assessments right away.
So then they were determined to study and did and passed the assessments. And that kind of persistence and that idea that studying can help you get places transferred over to them learning different, you know, more educational math and science for their GED. So that was kind of exciting.
This is a picture of one of our learners who did pass all 12 of the modules. I don't know that he's holding all 12 of the certifications, but just to show that it is really something of pride for people.
All right, so what are assessments used for? What are organizations using them for? Organizations often use them-- let's say they're going to use a distance learning platform, a different distance learning platform. They often will use the assessments to be sure that people have the minimal skills of email, internet basics, and computer basics just so that they are able to do distance learning.
They can be used for employment, obviously, for higher education. A lot of times teaching staff or people who are tutoring themselves, they may be proficient in digital literacy, but they may not know how to teach it. So this kind of gives them idea of what standards are in each assessment. And also, I feel like even though I use computers a lot, I have definitely learned things by taking the assessments that I didn't know. So they do help us all become more proficient.
We do have several organizations that use them to upscale their own employees. And then people use them-- like if they're going to go to higher level computer skills, they have people go through these assessments first to make sure they're ready for that. During this time when we're all pretty much stay at home, I talked about how our assessments are proctored if you have a subscription. And we do now have remote proctoring available.
And it's fairly easy. You would just use something like Zoom, and you kind of verify that the person's identity. And you monitor them while they're taking the test. And Northstar has a great document that kind of outlines exactly how to do it. It's quite easy. But it's been very helpful to people who don't have brick and mortar places at the moment for their learners or participants to come to.
So I'm going to switch to talking about curricula. And I kind of told you why we started creating it. And you can see we have these six units now available. And then the next three should be available in the next couple of months.
So when we're making curricula, we, again, went with the audience in mind of people who maybe English wasn't their first language or maybe they're people who had not been around technology obviously for a while or at all. And so we tried to, in the curriculum, make it not only easy for teachers to use but also to make it accessible for many different types of learners and job seekers and that kind of thing.
So we aligned each curriculum module with our standards. So the standards, the assessments, and the curriculum are all aligned. We tried to-- as you probably know, using computers, the best way to learn computers is to actually use them. So the curricula is meant to be either teacher-led or tutor-led but is very interactive.
And I would say there's a lot of repetition, a lot of opportunity for repetition. And what's really nice about this curriculum is you don't have to teach it from start to finish. You can pick and choose what might be useful to you.
And so for example, I was talking to a group of people who were helping their participants get jobs. So they would pick out of the lessons the aspects that dealt with applying for a job. So it might be how to go online-- the internet would be one-- how to fill out forms online, how to use email, how to properly write an email, how to create a resume. So it would be kind of they could pick and choose different aspects of the curriculum that are related to what they are doing.
I myself don't have a teaching background. But I did teach the internet basics curriculum to a group of people, and it was very easy to use. So I didn't have to spend more than probably 15 minutes of time, half the time with prep work. And that was mostly just making handouts.
This was back when we were face to face. And so it's really well laid out. It's very easy to follow. And I really found it helpful to me teaching it but also to the people that I was teaching.
And in fact, one of the women, we had a break over the holidays. And I'm in Minnesota. She had gone to Florida to be with family. And she came back on the day that we had our class. And she said, oh, I came back on a 1:00 AM flight. And our class is in the evening.
I said, well, I'm so glad that you're here. I know you're tired. And she said, well, I could have come back tomorrow. It would have been half the cost. And this woman was a custodian, and she lived in public housing. So she didn't have a lot of money.
And she said it would've been half the cost, but I didn't want to miss the class because no one else has ever taken the time to teach me this. And so it was just very moving at how important it was.
Someone asked me if the curriculum is available in other languages besides English, and not at this time. We are really hoping to translate everything of Northstar into different languages and are currently looking for funding to do that. But it would be great if we could do that.
So each module has about six to eight lessons, and again, you could teach this as a class, or you could adapt it for one-on-one instruction. So a lot of times as I'm working one on one with people, I'll just pull out some of the worksheets or some of the practices and we'll go through the practice of something that they need help with. So it not only is good as a curriculum, but it's really good at letting you know how to talk to people and how to teach people this even in, let's say, in not passing, but in a smaller situation.
Depending on your class size and the background of the people, we say it takes about two hours for each lesson. Mine was a smaller group, but it was composed of ELL learners. And it took maybe an hour and a half for each lesson for us to go through the lessons. And they had a lot of questions.
And what was really fun was to see how engaged they were. They really-- the lessons are well-written for adults so that they find it engaging and they relate it to their own lives. And that was very exciting to see.
As we are all now working remotely, we also have created at Northstar an instructional guide on how to use the curriculum remotely with whoever you're helping. So there are very detailed step-by-step guide on how to do that. And it's actually quite easy to use it remotely, of course, as long as your students have the capacity, which, as we know, is often a problem with digital literacy.
The lessons are all-- they kind of all follow the same format. They have the teacher modeling and explaining something. Then they have ideally people working together if they do, but you could skip that part if there's only one person. And then there's some repetition of practicing the skill.
It also always includes vocabulary. Because oftentimes, even those of us who use computers all the time, sometimes people are like, well, what's the-- what does URL stand for, or something like that. So it kind of also uses that vocabulary so that everyone knows what is meant by a certain term.
And this is not that clear. It doesn't come through that clear on your screen I am sure. But it kind of gives you-- this is what the first page of any lesson would look like. So you can see the vocabulary list in the right-hand upper corner talks about what standards it addresses. At the bottom it's great because it tells you, as a teacher, what you need to copy and any other prep that you need to do. So it's really nice if you're teaching to just quickly glance at it and see what this lesson's about.
As I said, we recently have created what we call Northstar Online Learning, so that with a little bit of help, students can get started on this. And it's something that they can see on their screen. And it's a tutorial, but then it also directs them to practice.
So I'm going to show you an example of what the basic computer module looks like and once I click on the link, what you should see is you'll see a picture of a computer. And then you'll hear a woman reading. And I will let her finish reading, and then I'll talk again. But this is an example of one of the kind of instructional pieces of the Northstar Online Learning.
Speaker 2: If you look closely at the outside of a computer, you will see buttons and many small holes. These holes are usually called ports. Each port has a specific shape for different uses and different types of plugs.
Theresa Sladek: So you can see that she reads very slowly and clearly for someone who, let's say, doesn't speak English as their first language but also for someone who maybe is just concentrating a lot. It's not like they're rushing through. And you can go back and listen to it again over here with a little arrow as many times as you want to. You can see the words in case you have someone who's deaf who's using it, which we have had.
So it's trying to be as accessible to people as possible. So now if I click-- that was kind of the one tiny bit of the tutorial. Then if I click Next--
Speaker 2: Here is a flash drive that you can plug into a computer. Click on the port that matches it.
Theresa Sladek: You can see then that it asks the person viewing to test their skills to see if they actually understand what's going on. So then if I click on the port, it will tell me I got it right. If I got it wrong, it will tell me no, this is not a USB port. The USB port is here. And so that is really nice for people to get that real-time feedback.
Now, what I also like about it is when I click Next, it will give me a checkmark to say, hey, you got it right.
Speaker 2: Here are some earbuds you can plug into a computer. Click on the port that matches them.
Theresa Sladek: So as we would go through this module-- this is the computer module-- at certain breaking points, there'd be little quizzes. And then the person viewing it would have to get the quiz right in order to keep going. And if they didn't, they'd be directed to go back and listen again.
And at the end of the module, there's another quiz. And if the person does well, then they're directed to take the assessment. So it kind of prepares you. It lets you know when you're ready to take the assessment.
And what's really interesting is we used to have-- computer lab that I help out in, we would have people take the assessment. And then we had various free online resources that we had not created, that had been created by other people that we would walk through and help people learn. And sometimes people would have to take the assessment several times with learning in between before they actually passed it.
We found now that even if people come in and don't do very well on the initial assessment, once they do the online learning, something like 95% of people are passing. So it is a very effective, we found, learning tool.
So someone asked if these are free to use for a school, and that's a great question. Right now, because of the pandemic, we are making Northstar Online Learning free to anybody. So you can access it at our website, which I will show you at the end of this presentation. Normally, this is something that only subscribers would get, whether they're a school or not.
And as I think I said, we currently only have the basic computer skills online learning. We have internet basics and career search skills in the works, and internet basics should be done by the end of May, career search skills by the end of June. And then ultimately, we plan to do all of the modules as we get the funding to do that.
So I see a few more questions. Yeah, it's a good question. Someone said, will free access continue through the end of May or the end of June, or are we playing it by ear? And that is a great question. We are playing it by ear as this pandemic plays out.
Through the end of April for sure, May, yes, I don't know about June. So we're kind of just doing this as people are forced to stay at home and having to work remotely for now. And then our website will keep people updated as to that piece.
The other thing that's nice about the online learning is each student has their own account. So if you are a subscriber, you are administrator, and you can sign up students as you wish to have their own account. And if you do, what that gives them is it lets them see their progress on the online learning as well as the assessments. So I am going to give you an example of what that looks like.
So this is what an individual dashboard would look like. And right now, as I said, we only have the basic computer skills. But ultimately, all of the modules are on here, as you can see. And here it shows that-- this is for me, and it shows that I have done 27% of the practice questions. And I have not yet taken the assessment. But had I taken the assessment several times, it would show my best score.
So it gives individuals as well as administrators and teachers the ability to see how much of the online assessment someone's done, which assessments they've passed, and then if we hit details, it also will show us that, but it will then go to the different parts of the online learning and say what I've done. So I went through what are computers, what kinds of computers are there, and you can see the green check here.
As we get down farther, it will show what I have not yet looked at. And if I wanted to go back to a specific-- like, oh, I don't remember what the different mice are, I could go click here, and it would take me back to that section of the online learning.
I saw I had a few questions, so let me-- someone said, can we subscribe with a personal account not associated with a school so we can tutor our own group of students? Usually it's an organization that would have the subscription, and then you can give as many assessments at as many sites as you want to.
So for example, sometimes it'll just be one library, let's say, that has a subscription. And then they can give the assessments to as many patrons as they want. We also have the state of Georgia. All their community colleges are subscribed to Northstar, so then they all have their own site.
Someone asked how much it costs. And so it depends, again, on your organization. So it depends on how many students you have and how many assessments you think you'll be giving in a year. It's a yearly subscription. In general-- and you can look on the website, but in general, it's about $500 a year for a site.
But if you have a lot of sites, we often give a bulk price that's cheaper. And yes, someone asked to clarify current free access would mean students can do the one module online. Yep, that's true. And then they can take the assessments without the certifications. So that's what is available for free.
We also have on our website for free links to curated online learning that we did not make but that we feel does a good job of meeting the standards. We also have the ability to do bulk creation of learner accounts. So at this moment, let's say you have 30 people that you want to create online learning profiles for. You don't have to go in and do everyone separately. You can pull them from a list you might have or an Excel spreadsheet or something like that. So that just makes it a little bit easier to use.
Someone asked if we use edu.gcfglobal.org as a resource. I personally don't know the answer to that question. I can check it out and get back to you, but off the top of my head, I don't know.
Anthony Burik: Theresa, can I just chime in on that?
Theresa Sladek: Yeah.
Anthony Burik: So GCF, yeah, a lot of teachers know about GCF LearnFree. But my understanding is that GCF LearnFree is its own website with its own created videos and its own created activities. Everything that you're seeing with Northstar today is basically developed by Northstar. Is that correct, Theresa?
Theresa Sladek: Yeah, that's right.
Anthony Burik: So you're totally separate from any other web sites that are out there, other resources that are out there. Everything that you've developed is developed in-house by Northstar.
Theresa Sladek: Yeah, that's very true. The only-- maybe my confusing point was that on our website, the free part of the website, we do link to other organizations that we haven't worked with, so we just found their resources useful. But that has not been used to create Northstar. Those are just external links.
One nice thing about Northstar if you are a subscriber is you have a lot of control over the administration. So you can create your own administrators and proctors. You don't have to go to us every time you want to add someone or change something. And you can run reports by yourself.
So again, you have a lot of independence. We do have a help desk that we try to answer questions as quickly as possible. So if you do have a question or you're ever having a problem, you can always reach us that way. But it's nice because you're not dependent on us to do a lot of the administrative aspects that you can do yourself.
So I do want to show you a little bit, some of the reports, so you can see what it is that you may find useful to see how much you're using Northstar or how effective it is for your site. So one of the reports would show you her site which of the assessments people are taking.
So you can see here that, for example, at this site over 1,000 assessments have been given for Windows. So this can help you if you have limited resources and you're thinking I can only do a few classes, this might tell you what people are wanting and what people are taking. It can also be used in reporting to say we've given these many assessments on these different topics, which is always nice.
And then it also goes into of the assessments past, what percentage of people have passed them. So you can kind of see what things people struggle with the most and what they might need the most, what might either be the hardest assessments or they might just meet need more instruction on. But it also can give you an idea of, hey, we gave however many career search skills and 72% of people have now passed them. So that can give you some insight into how your program is running.
So when asked if a person could have a subscription, and the answer is no. It would just be an organization that would have the subscription. A person could use the free assessments and the free-- right now-- the free online learning module, but they wouldn't be able to have a subscription unless they were like a consultant perhaps, then using it for a variety of learners.
If you feel you have a unique situation like that and you would want to discuss the possibility, I will show you our website address at the end of this presentation, and you can write in your question there. And we can always discuss it if it seems like something that might be viable. But in general, I would say it's usually-- it has always been an organization.
If we look at this report, you can see also based on modules how many have been given, how many have passed, what the percentage of passing is. If you go into one of the reports, you will see, again, that information. It also tells you how long people are taking to take the assessment, which is just helpful in planning how long you might need to proctor something or how long you can expect it will take.
And it also shows you what questions people are getting wrong the most. So you can see here question 14, a lot of people are getting it wrong. So it could be-- this can help inform your teaching because it could be that maybe you're not touching on it or something is confusing about it or the question itself, maybe the vocabulary is not understood. So that can be really helpful in creating your training that you're doing.
And then if you are like, oh, what was question 14? Why are so many people missing it? You can go down here, and you can click, and you'll actually be directed to the actual question on the assessment. So you're able to see what is that question about.
Someone asked what's the difference between new and legacy modules. And the new modules are what's out there now. The legacy modules are we-- last year we redid all the assessments, one to put them on a better web platform, and two, just as you know, digital literacy is constantly changing. So we wanted to keep them up to date.
So when you actually have the assessments, you are just seeing the new ones. But at this particular site that I'm showing you they've been running for quite a while, so it did not lose any of that information from the legacy assessments that many of the learners took in years past. So hopefully that makes sense.
You can also see by individual question by question how they are answering or what they're maybe having problems with. So for example, if we look at this individual and we look at Microsoft Word, we can see that he passed, what his score was, how long it took him to take it, but also what standards he did master and what he did not. And then you could even, as an administrator or a teacher, look and see, OK, well, he missed number 12. What was that question? Here's that question.
And although you would never share a direct answer with a user, you could then inform your teaching as to what they were missing or what they were confused with, something like that. So that is kind of all I have. And I am wondering if you have any questions.
This is the website here that you can go to, and you yourself can check out the assessments and take them for free and just see what they're like. You can also from there if you're interested in trying out the Northstar Online yourself or with any of your students that you're working with, there are directions on how to give them access to that.
You can also see if you want to subscribe, there is a place to enter your information and get pricing information based on how big you are and how many assessments you might give and to ask any further questions. You can always direct questions to me about any of the information that I've talked about. Or if you have questions that come up in the next day or two or three that you think of, I'm happy to help you with those. And at this point, I'm going to ask if anyone has any questions.
Anthony Burik: So Theresa, I don't see any questions at the moment. But I'm wondering, since we have a few minutes, would you mind just giving us a general orientation to the Northstar website and where we can find some of the things that you were talking about and how we can contact you if people have questions about pricing? So maybe just a couple of minutes to kind of orient us to what we're looking at when we visit the Northstar website.
Theresa Sladek: Well, that's a great idea, so let's go to the website. So this is the website. And if you scroll down, you'll see there's three major sections. One is to take an assessment for free. And we'll go there, and we will do that first.
So if I click on that, it breaks it down into those three major areas that I told you about. And you can take whatever assessment you want. Once again, these are not proctored, you wouldn't be given a certificate for them. But if that is not important to you or your learners, then you can take them all if you want to. We can take a look I think--
I'm going to skip some of this intro, but it would give an orientation. And then it will tell you how many questions there are.
Speaker 3: Select all of the internet browser icons. Then click Next.
Theresa Sladek: So this is an example of one of-- the first question. Someone taking the assessment can always click I don't know and move on. They can click to hear it again with this arrow. If you go to this menu, you could-- let's say you are 10 questions into it and you thought, oh, you know what? I answered question five wrong. I want to go back. You'd be able to go back.
Once you complete the assessment, it also asks, are you sure you're ready to submit your answers, or would you like to review any of them? So it gives you a lot of flexibility in thinking about how you might want to answer a question.
If we go back, if you wanted to become a testing location over here in the blue, you can-- and a testing location would be to mean that you have a subscription-- you can click here. And it tells you a little bit, and then it gives you a chance to fill out a form or ask a question about your site and what pricing would be, like I said, in general. Let's just go here and see.
It would have you fill out your information and then send it in, and then you would get the pricing for your site. In general, it's about $500 a site, depending on how big you are. Sometimes if you're really tiny, it'll be a little cheaper. Or if you have a lot of sites, we'll give you a bulk discount. So it's always good if you think you have a unique situation to explain that in this format.
The other section was build your skills. And if we go there, that's where if you are someone who wanted to learn about how to go in to a place to learn digital literacy, you could click here. And then all of you who are subscribers would be listed by zip code. So it would help someone find a place near them where they could actually work with a testing location.
Here number two shows you how you can access the Northstar Online Learning right now for free. And then, as I mentioned, here we can click on this. So these are other sources curated by Northstar but not created by Northstar.
So this is the only part that we have not done ourselves that is linking to outside sources. So for example, if you are just using the assessments for free and you don't have our curriculum, then you can use these other free resources that are not tied in any way to Northstar but we just have found them helpful.
I see I have a few questions. Someone asked if this is accessible from a cell phone. It is. But to be honest with you, some of the assessment questions are very difficult to do on a cellphone. So we are hoping to make it so that you can. But at this point, I wouldn't recommend that.
Someone asked if you can get a free account or could you use the assessments for free. So as you saw, anyone can take the assessments for free. You don't have to tell us you're going to take them for free. You don't have to notify us in any way. And I, as of today, over 4.2 million people have taken assessments. And many of them have done it for free.
The curriculum you don't have access to unless you are a subscriber. And let's see. Someone said if we wanted to organize a Northstar basic computing class online now and use a course management system, would this require a subscription? If you wanted to-- yes, if you wanted to have reports on individual learners, if you wanted to have reports over all, that is true.
If you just wanted to direct some of your learners to the website to go through the actual Northstar Online Learning for basic computing, you could do that. You just wouldn't have access to the information of how many people had used it or how their individual report card kind of.
Anthony Burik: So if I'm a teacher, I see that you're logged into the site or signed into the site. Is there an account that I can use? Or is it I can only create an account if I have the subscription?
Theresa Sladek: Yeah, you can only create an account if you have subscription. So once you subscribe, you would be given access as an administrator to your site, and you would have as many sites as you wanted, as many proctors as you wanted, as many administrators as you wanted. But you're given a unique kind of ID number to access your information.
Anthony Burik: And then if you can remind me again on this website, because every so often I visit the Northstar website, I know that there's a place, and I'm not sure whether we've seen it yet, where you have your kind of the standards laid out and the curriculum laid out so that if I'm a teacher I understand what is all the content that's on this Northstar website.
Theresa Sladek: Oh, yeah, great question. So we do have a link to the standards so that you, as an educator, would know what are the standards. So what I did was I clicked on Assessment Info at the top. And then I went to just kind of scroll down to Standards.
And here you could get a list of all the updated standards for every module. And then you can also scroll down, and you can say, I just want to know the standards for Windows, for example. And so if you would like, we can look at-- let's look at this one.
So this is telling you what people should know in order to be proficient in this module. And then this is what we build the assessments around and what we build the curriculum around. And I've worked with teachers who aren't necessarily teaching digital literacy, but they want to incorporate digital literacy into whatever it is they're teaching.
So they've often found it helpful to look at the standards and say, OK, yeah, this fits in with what I want to teach. And so maybe we'll use this part of the curriculum or this part of the assessment or this assessment to work with my larger goal.
Anthony Burik: I'm also curious just in general. Do you find that teachers have, like, the method that they go about it is, like, they'll do an assessment as a pre-test and then do some instruction and then go back to the assessment as a post-test? Or are they just doing instruction and then doing the assessment? Like in general, do you have some sense as to how teachers are actually using this site?
Theresa Sladek: Yes, so in general, teachers do do a pre-assessment, one to see if someone even needs to be in the class, or two, to see maybe, let's say, they want to hold a class of 20 people. Maybe there's something that everyone knows, so they can just touch briefly on that or not even at all. So it can guide how they tailor their instruction.
But also, it's really helpful to the learner to see where they started and then after instruction, hopefully they've passed, but even if not, how they've grown in their ability to understand the module. So usually, it could either be a classroom type of situation. Or sometimes it will be in a computer lab someone will come in, they're almost always given the basic computer assessment first. And if they pass that, then they might be given other assessments to kind of see what they know and how far along they are and where maybe they need some help from an individual tutor. So that's how I've seen it used.
Like I say, I've also known of organizations who have made all their teachers take the assessments as a prerequisite to show that they are ready to teach digital literacy. So they have to pass the assessment before they can actually teach the digital literacy. I've seen the assessments given to determine if a student is ready for other distance learning. I would say that's usually how I've seen it work.
And I see we have a bunch of questions. So someone asked what ESL levels is Northstar appropriate for. So we created it to be used with intermediate ESL or higher or native English speaker. So sometimes when I was teaching the class, I found that the English language learners could understand the lessons and they could understand the vocabulary that we went over.
What sometimes maybe needed more scaffolding was when, for example, we were learning about websites and they were searching for-- I think they had to answer the question of, on a museum website, how much is parking? Well, whatever the category that was under, if you weren't part of this culture, you might not recognize that as being where you'd find the parking information. So those kinds of things sometimes I had to scaffold. But in general, for intermediate or above.
And someone asked if I could answer or talk again about how much time lessons will take. So for each module, there's, in general, six to eight curriculum lessons that go with those modules. And we say it takes about two hours for each lesson.
When I taught a smaller class-- and it was a class where they had a lot of questions-- I would say it took about an hour and a half on average. So it just depends on your class and how adept people are. But we say two hours in general.
And someone asked, if your organization has an account, is there any way to change the percentage required to pass? The answer is no. The assessments themselves we can not tailor to individual sites. One, we want to keep the integrity of the assessments just for our own sake.
And that's really the main reason. So the assessments themselves can't be changed. And so the percentage required to pass wouldn't be able to be changed.
However, if you are administering assessments and you're finding something where you think the wording is not clear or you have a question about one of the questions or something in the curriculum, we get a lot of people-- not a lot, but we get people writing to us who ask those kinds of things. And often, we will be able to work to make our product better because of what people are giving us feedback on. And also, in terms of reporting, if you specific reporting needs, we can sometimes create reports that are more specific to your organization.
Any other questions that are coming up?
Anthony Burik: Oh, actually a question just popped up in the Q&A again.
Theresa Sladek: OK. Someone asked, what is the set percentage for passing? It's 85% for each module. And then if you remember the screen that showed once you take an assessment, it will tell you what standards you've passed and what you have not.
As we continue to add to the Northstar Online Learning, one really nice feature is that once you take that assessment and you see what standards you still have to work on. If you click on that, it will take you to that place in the online learning that is talking about that standard.
So let's say you got an 83% and there was really only one or maybe three different standards you needed to work on. You wouldn't have to go through the entire online learning if you didn't want to. You certainly could. But you could go specifically to those areas where you were having difficulty, study them, and hopefully then when you took the assessment again, have learned what you needed to know.
Oh, here's a great question. Do the tests allow for a redo to give the student a chance to pass? Yes, they do. At a proctored site-- so that would be a subscriber site-- an individual can only take the same assessment twice in any given day. On the free site, you can only take it once on any given day.
And the reason we limited it was because we were finding that in some instances, people just kept taking the assessment over and over and over again. And so they were kind of learning the right answer just by trial and error. And we really hoped that people would actually learn the information through other ways than just repeatedly taking the test.
But people do take the assessments sometimes multiple times if it's something they find challenging. And it's nice because then you can see your progress. Even if you're not passing, you can still see you're hopefully getting better as your percentage goes up. And that is very encouraging to the assessment taker.
Someone asked if there are any digital literacy resources available for the beginning level ESL. So I have known teachers who have taken the Northstar curriculum and really scaffolded it quite a bit down. And so it might take a lot longer to do something.
It might take more-- there are quite a few pictures in the curriculum. But it might just take more time and more effort on the teacher's part. But I have known of teachers who have used it for beginning level ESL.
At this moment in time with remote learning, it might be very difficult, especially if they don't have digital literacy skills and they're beginning ESL. It might be difficult unless you maybe had an interpreter. But it certainly has been done in the classroom.
Anthony Burik: Theresa, can we show people again the place on the Northstar site that links to the outside resources? Because I did notice that I think that Northstar does link to some other web sites that might be good for the beginning level ESL students. I know that, for example, Learning Chocolate I think is linked to a number of times. And teachers have found that particular site to be helpful, especially when they're helping their students learn some of the basic vocabulary words.
I haven't looked too thoroughly through that part of the website, but if you could show us again where that is and then maybe folks can take a look at what you have listed there and think about maybe some of those other resources that they could also use in conjunction with the Northstar site.
Theresa Sladek: Yeah, so on the main homepage, if you go to Build Your skills and you click on the See More, you will find number three is view other resources from the web. And what's nice about this is we-- so again, these are not things that we've created. But we show whether it is a text resource, media, or it has the learner do an activity. And then it's again arranged by the modules.
And so then it goes through the different standards. And it says, OK, if you want to learn between different types of devices, there is a print resource and there's a media resource. And so it will take you to this website, Computer Hope.
And it will show you-- it explains what the difference between a computer and a tablet is. So that is all available on the Northstar site. And then it goes through all these different standards that are associated with this module and different resources that you can use to do it.
Unfortunately, it doesn't really show you the name of the resource until you click on it. But that is a handy-- if, for whatever reason, you just have a few users or budgets are often tight, so if you can't afford Northstar at this time, this is a great way to go to different free web sites.
We try to keep this updated frequently. We try to update this frequently. Sometimes, as you know, web sites die or they go away. So sometimes the links will perhaps not lead anywhere, but we do our best to keep them viable.
So someone said that their school has stopped using multiple choice test questions for summative assessment. They only use it for formative. Do we offer open-ended questions or other writing tests? We do not. Mainly-- well, I don't know. That's not how it was developed.
But also, with the ELL component in mind, I think it was felt that it would be more accessible to people if they weren't having to write the answers in this. So they weren't having to not only show their digital literacy but also their English language literacy. I would say that if you wanted to use the standards as they are, it would require your site to create questions related to those standards.
Anthony Burik: Again-- I'm sorry. On the Northstar website was there an easy way to reach out to you to contact you with other questions?
Theresa Sladek: On the Northstar website--
Anthony Burik: Or should they just email you directly or--
Theresa Sladek: Yes, so on the Northstar website, you can either go to just on the homepage there will be at the top where it says become a testing location, if you click Learn More, than there's a place to answer questions there like here if we go to Learn More and then ask a question, so any question. And that would be answered by anyone on the help desk.
It would be answered by the person on the help desk who would be the best person to answer. So if it was a very technical question, our computer designer would answer it. If it was a pricing question, our pricing manager would answer it, for example.
However, if you have a question that you want to ask me personally, I'm happy to talk to you via email. And my email is here on the slide at the top. So either way, whatever you're most comfortable with is fine with me.
Anthony Burik: So I want to thank Theresa for our presentation today. It's been very, very useful helping us learn a lot more about Northstar. While we have a minute, because I know a couple of people asked the question, Theresa, if you wouldn't mind, if you could stop sharing just so I can show people the OTAN website really quickly and then where we were going to post this information-- So I'm going to open up my desktop here. Let me see if I can find the OTAN website.
So for those of you wanting more information, please go to the OTAN website, OTAN.us. If you look at the top story on our home page, we do have the information about the upcoming activities for the week, webinars. Our office hours are also posted here at the top.
And then when you're at the website at the home page, please click on this COVID-19 field support button. This will bring you to our COVID-19 field support page where we're trying to organize a number of resources that we're want to share with the field. But in time, we will, as soon as we can, post Theresa's handout and a recording of today's session on this in the previous OTAN webinars table, which you find on the page.
So again, as soon as we can get those resources accessible, we will make them available on the website. Also, take a look at the OTAN resource guide. If you click on this link, it opens up a Google doc. And we actually do have a little bit of information about Northstar here as well. We've worked with Northstar for a number of years.
And so if you if you click on the online curricula section-- I believe that's where it is, or maybe it's not. No, actually I think it's on our home page, sorry. Oh, yeah, right at the beginning, web sites to acquire digital skills. So we do have a number of sites listed in addition to Northstar Digital Literacy.
And we actually have a previous video from I think last year's technology and distance learning symposium. So if you also want to learn more about Northstar, you can do it by watching this video as well. Theresa, actually there's one more question in the Q&A if you wouldn't mind.
Theresa Sladek: Oh, I see that. So the question was, I thought you said at the beginning that the online was free until the end of May. That is-- we're kind of going with the pandemic and are not sure how long we'll offer the free Northstar Online Learning. But since it's-- it will be at least until the end of May and then perhaps longer. It's hard to say at this point.
Anthony Burik: I will officially say again thank you, Theresa, so much for presenting today about Northstar.