The Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment defines basic skills needed to perform tasks on computers and online. Online, self-guided modules assess the ability of individuals to perform tasks based on these skills. Included are basic computer digital literacy standards and modules in three main areas:
Northstar was developed in response to the needs of job seekers who may lack the digital literacy skills needed to seek, obtain, and retain employment, as well as to perform other tasks in daily life. Northstar allows end users to freely take the assessments from anywhere via our homepage, but individuals can instead go to an approved testing location and obtain the Northstar Digital Literacy Certificate when they pass assessments. Certificates provide an important credential for employment, as even entry-level jobs increasingly require basic computer skills. Certificates also certify end user ability to complete computer skills needed in higher education, and demonstrate their ability to use social media and online information thoughtfully. If individuals do not pass, personalized assessment results provide a roadmap to relevant instruction, allowing them to retake the assessment once they have mastered the necessary skills.
Northstar is used by over 785 Adult Basic Education programs, colleges, nonprofits, workforce centers, government agencies, and businesses. There is no cost to complete the assessments on the Northstar homepage.
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Closed captioning is available in all assessment modules, and updated modules were developed to be screen-reader compliant. Each testing location will work to provide other accommodations as requested. Testing locations will provide readers as needed for individuals with documented dyslexia or related conditions when they complete the assessments.
If questions arise regarding specific accommodations, or if you discover a problem while using a screen reader that we missed in our testing, please contact us and we will work to address these issues.
Any person who needs to assess and improve their basic digital literacy skills. This may include ABE students, displaced workers, and others.
Yes, in our version 2.0, you are able to go back and change the answer to most questions.
No, this would invalidate the result of future assessments. Participants receive a printed report identifying areas of strength and areas needing work.
A wide variety of proctor tools, resources for learners, a comprehensive database for each organization to access reports and stats, and marketing materials.
No, the assessments utilize a web-based application, and downloading isn't possible.
The Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment is an assessment tool, not a curriculum. We plan to launch integrated curricula for testing locations in 2019. In the meantime, there are several curricula developed by others that align to the Northstar standards:
The St. Paul Public Library Learning Guide that includes online resources for most benchmarks.
CTEP.weebly.com is a user-friendly resource for test takers.
The Minnesota Literacy Council has a Computers and Literacy Curriculum.
Another curricula resource is available at Intel Learn.
GCF LearnFree (technology) is quite comprehensive.
The admin portal is used to access site activity, reports, certificate generation, proctor training, etc. Registered admins and proctors receive an email explaining how to log into their admin portal. See our admin portal training videos to learn more about the portal's functionality.
In order to keep the assessments widely available at low cost, most processes are automated. Limited staff resources prevent us from providing individualized training, though we have webinars available at regular intervals. There is a wealth of training, reporting, marketing, and other resources available in the admin portal which test sites can access. We do appreciate bug reports, submitted through the "Open a Support Ticket" icon in your admin portal. We will respond to other questions and needs as resources allow.
If you are a registered proctor for a testing location, you will be redirected to the proctor training the first time you log in to your admin portal. You should have received an email about how to log into your admin portal.
Please watch this YouTube video which demonstrates how to proctor the Northstar assessment.
In your admin portal, add them as a proctor to your testing location using the same email address that they are registered under with the other location.
No, the assessment must be completed in one sitting. If a learner navigates away from the assessment or if the internet connection is lost, then the assessment must be restarted.
We strive to keep our modules current with the most commonly used software versions among our users. Currently our modules emulate Windows 7 and 10, Mac OS X, Word 2010 and 2016, Excel 2010 and 2016, and PowerPoint 2013 and 2016.
We agree that there are different ways to accomplish any given task on a computer. We tried to include as many alternatives as possible, and provide more specific instructions where response options are limited.
The Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment is a resource intended to support instruction. We consider it to be a way to see what people already know and to identify areas in which additional skills are needed. Another secondary purpose of the assessment is to provide a means by which learners can 'prove' those skills to others, like future employers. In either case, the assessments are tools intended to support instruction. When a learner takes the test multiple times in order to remember the correct answer, their test results do not represent demonstrable skills; rather, their test results only show their ability to guess at/remember the correct answer. In the long run, this testing strategy will undermine both the efficacy of the certificates awarded and the skill development of the learner. We highly recommend that testing locations refrain from serial testing without instruction in between the test events. Please encourage, provide, facilitate an hour or so of learning per skill area identified as 'needs improvement,' before re-testing. This will ensure the instructional needs of those assessed are met, while helping to maintain the integrity and credibility of the certificate.
We discourage use of the assessments with people who have no previous experience using computers. We recommend instead that you use a paper-based screener. These new screeners are provided as a quick and easy way to determine whether low-literacy individuals have the level of computer skills needed to take the Northstar assessments in a meaningful manner. If individuals have very low skills, it is best to provide some instruction prior to having them take the assessments, so they do not become frustrated by attempting to complete assessments far above their skill level. There are two versions of the screener for each module, one for large group screening and one for one-to-one screening. The use of these screeners is not required, but recommended for use with low skills. You can find these screeners on your admin portal.
There is not a Northstar keyboarding module. Individuals can complete a typing test at http://www.typingtest.com/
There are also keyboarding instruction and practice resources available at these sites:
No, allowing individuals to change the assessment would invalidate the results and certification.
In order to have users' experience of Northstar be successful, certain domain names need to be allowed. For many testing locations, there's no problem with these and they "just work." For some testing locations that have a firewall, though, admins may need to direct their IT dept to "whitelist" the following domain names so their content can be seen/used:
Northstar does not have an answer key for several reasons:
If a proctor or admin does not know how to answer a question, you may email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Digital Badges (or Open Badges) is a recent movement in credentialing. Badges are a way to display and document skills learned both in and out of the classroom. They are often used to demonstrate independent learning and skills mastered in service and volunteering, online learning and computer skills, and job skills or work experience. The Mozilla Foundation has created a way to coordinate and standardize badges, Open Badges. It is a common system for issuing, collecting, and displaying badges earned on multiple instructional websites. Badge issuers, like Northstar, register a learning opportunity, linking it to the online badging system. Once a task is completed, a test-taker is awarded a badge, which is then stored in his or her secure badge backpack, a webpage that serves as a transportable portfolio to be shared with employers or other stakeholders who need to know that person's skills and experience. Northstar integrates with the Badgr badging service to provide an easy-to-use backpack to our users.
“Open Badges” is a means by which assessment test takers can keep a permanent, accessible record of assessments they have passed.
After passing an assessment, a test-taker can click on the Claim Badge button to indicate which email address they'd like to associate their badge with. A badge will be sent to Badgr, and Badgr will send a notification email to the provided email address. If users don't already have a Badgr account prior to claiming the badge, they can simply follow the instructions in Badgr's email to get set up. After that, they can access the record of their Northstar success through Badgr.
These days, every employee needs basic computer skills to perform even most entry-level jobs. Northstar Digital Literacy helps job seekers demonstrate to employers that they have mastered basic skills.