History and Purpose

In 2010, the St. Paul Public Library and the St. Paul Community Literacy Consortium began a community process to determine how best to assess and quantify digital literacy knowledge among lower-skilled adults, as well as for displaced workers who might lack such skills. The intent was to provide meaningful assessment that could lead to a certificate useful for employers and job seekers. Through an open community process, the Northstar Digital Literacy Standards were designed over a period of several months by a taskforce with representatives from non-profit community-based agencies, public and academic libraries, Minnesota Department of Education, DEED and workforce centers, Adult Basic Education professionals, and others.

In 2011, the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library obtained funding through the Otto Bremer Foundation and the Library Services and Technology Act, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Minnesota Department of Education, State Library Services Division. These funds supported the hiring of a professional design team to create the online assessments. The Design Team included Jen Vanek, Project Liaison, Michael J. Graif, Digital Literacy Designer, and Jennifer Asp, Educational Specialist, under the coordination of Tom Cytron-Hysom, Project Manager. A Community Advisory Group, organized by St. Paul Library Director Kit Hadley, provided feedback and assistance to the Design Team. A CTEP Community Engagement Project assisted in designing online training for proctors at approved sponsor sites.

In late 2011-mid 2012, online assessment modules were designed, piloted, and implemented. The Minnesota Literacy Council agreed to house the project. A process through which organizations could be certified to award the Northstar Certificates was developed. A database and other technical infrastructure were completed. A professional marketing campaign, developed by Cynthia Hill, began in August 2012.

In 2014, funding from the Minnesota Department of Education through a Library Services and Technology Act grant (LS-00-13-0024-13) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services was received to develop a new social media assessment module, establish five library/adult literacy program collaborations using Northstar in Greater Minnesota, and integrate Northstar into the Mozilla OpenBadges program. Funding from Minnesota Department of Education through the Adult Basic Education Supplemental Services Distance Learning project was designated to develop an Excel assessment module and fund other upgrades. JennaRose Bondeson, with the Minnesota Literacy Council, joined the project as Helpdesk Expert. Developer Jesse Morton joined the project team in late 2014.

The Northstar Standards have been adopted as statewide digital literacy standards by Minnesota Adult Basic Education. They have been integrated into the new Minnesota Adult Diploma. By mid-2015, there were well over 225 Northstar sponsor sites in 27 states and territories. Here is a comprehensive article summarizing the development and history of Northstar.

The Northstar Digital Literacy Project is available under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-NoDerivs License which prohibits commercial use, freely allows use of the material with attribution, and prevents changes.

If a Certificate is desired, the assessments must be completed at a sponsored site.

Project sponsors