Northstar Features

Northstar provides assessments, instructor-led curricula and self-directed online learning for basic digital literacy skills. Subscribing organizations can use Northstar resources to determine needs, provide relevant instruction, and track results.

What are the Northstar assessments?

Interactive digital literacy tests, taken online
Allow test takers to demonstrate basic computer & digital literacy skills
Provide a report of areas mastered and areas needing improvement
Integrated with Northstar Online Learning (NSOL) resources when working with a subscribing Northstar location; learners can access practice resources to build their digital literacy skills
Test takers earn certificates when assessments are passed and proctored through a Northstar subscriber, either virtually or in person at the location
Test takers can store their successes in a digital credential via Badgr Backpack

What is Northstar Online Learning (NSOL)?

Accessible to subscribing Northstar locations
Directs learners to work on areas needing improvement based on assessment results
Includes explanations, demonstration videos, and interactive practice to support learners
Can be used either by learners working independently, or as a resource to support in-class instruction or one-on-one tutoring. Access an NSOL Teacher Guide here!
for our 14 most popular topics. are in development.

Currently Available

  • Basic Computer Skills
  • Internet Basics
  • Using Email
  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Google Docs
  • Social Media
  • Information Literacy
  • Career Search Skills
  • Your Digital Footprint
  • Accessing Telehealth Appointments

In Development

  • Supporting K-12 Distance Learning
Track digital literacy skill development
Robust reporting features can track time learners spend on out-of-class work
Custom tags can be created to organize learner data for more detailed reporting

What is the Northstar Digital Literacy curriculum?

Accessible to subscribing Northstar locations
Ready-to-go lesson plans support learners in mastering Northstar standards
Learner-centered, interactive, and easy to use for all instructors!
Intended for use in classroom settings, but can be adapted for small group or one-on-one tutoring, as well as distance learning
Includes helpful teacher tips and detailed instructions to prep for the lesson
Includes Unit Projects to support and extend digital literacy learning opportunities
Includes easy-to-use, customizable Digital Literacy Routines for very beginning level digital literacy learners. Using routines, learners develop essential digital literacy skills such as using the mouse, typing, and connecting to the internet. The routines scaffold up to the lessons in the Northstar curriculum.
Can be taught remotely; Northstar provides a Remote Teaching Guide and adapted pages for remote instruction

What standards does the Northstar Digital Literacy curriculum support?

Interested in learning more about the Northstar Digital Literacy curriculum?

Check out our FAQs and/or view a sample lesson plan.

Northstar Standards

You can download a copy of Northstar's recently updated standards (also available in Spanish), which define the basic skills needed to perform tasks on computers and online. You can also access a list of standards linked with curated learning resources from the web. Online, self-guided assessment modules assess the ability of individuals to perform tasks based on these standards. Northstar's standards and modules cover the three categories below.

Back to Standards

Basic Computer Skills

  1. 1 Distinguish between different types of devices (tablets, desktop and laptop computers)
  2. 2 Identify specific computer hardware (system unit, monitor, printer, keyboard, mouse or touchpad, ports, touchscreen)
  3. 3 Log on to and shut down a computer
  4. 4 Demonstrate knowledge of keys on keyboard (Enter, Shift, Control, Backspace, Delete, Arrow Keys, Tab, Caps Lock, Number Lock)
  5. 5 Identify types of mice: mouse and touchpad
  6. 6 Identify mouse pointer shapes and the functions they represent (spinning wheel (loading), iBeam (text), arrow (basic clicking), hand pointer (clickable links))
  7. 7 Demonstrate knowledge and appropriate use of mouse clicks (right-click, left-click, and double click)
  8. 8 Drag and drop
  9. 9 Utilize common controls for screen interaction (selecting check boxes, using drop-down menus, scrolling)
  10. 10 Access and control audio output features (volume, mute, speakers and headphones)
  11. 11 Identify icons on desktop
  12. 12 Demonstrate ability to trash and retrieve items using the trash or recycle bin
  13. 13 Demonstrate understanding that it is possible to customize a computer for increased accessibility (customizing a mouse for left-handed use and sensitivity, and changing screen resolution on a monitor)
  14. 14 Demonstrate understanding that software programs are upgraded periodically to fix bugs and increase utility, and that different versions may be installed on different computers
  15. 15 Identify mechanisms for storing files (flash drives, hard drives, cloud-based storage)
  16. 16 Identify whether or not a computer is connected to the internet
  17. 17 Identify and locate camera and mic on laptops, tablets
  18. 18 Turn computer and monitor on and off
Back to Standards

Internet Basics

  1. 1 Identify the different ways a person can connect to the internet.
  2. 2 Demonstrate knowledge of browsers and identify commonly used browsers.
  3. 3 Demonstrate familiarity with website structure (e.g., landing pages, internal pages).
  4. 4 Identify top-level domains (e.g., .edu, .com, .org).
  5. 5 Demonstrate understanding of how to use browser tools and settings to protect privacy (e.g., private browser windows, clearing search history, and declining to save passwords on shared computers).
  6. 6 Demonstrate understanding of when it's safe and appropriate to share personal, private, or financial information (e.g., recognizing phishing attempts, identifying unsecured websites).
  7. 7 Identify ways to protect your devices (e.g., anti-malware software, recognizing possible virus attacks).
  8. 8 Demonstrate to a website that you are a legitimate user using CAPTCHA or other verification methods.
  9. 9 Fill out an online form.
  10. 10 Identify address bar and demonstrate understanding of its functionality.
  11. 11 Identify common browser tools and icons (e.g., favorites, downloads, refresh, and back).
  12. 12 Perform internet search using clear parameters (terms and filters).
  13. 13 Demonstrate ability to scroll up and down a page and left and right on a page.
  14. 14 Identify and make use of common website interactions (e.g., play buttons, hyperlinks).
  15. 15 Identify and work with tabs and windows.
  16. 16 Enable a specific pop-up window.
  17. 17 Use shortcut keys, or menu or mousing equivalents, to support user experience on the web (e.g., zoom, find text).
Back to Standards

Using Email

  1. Define email and identify common email clients.
  2. Tell the difference between a URL and an email address.
  3. Register for a new email account, using a professional user name and a strong password.
  4. Log into email.
  5. Create and send an email, including recipient address, subject, and message.
  6. Open and reply to an email.
  7. Understand why and how to reply, reply all, and forward an email.
  8. Add an attachment to an email.
  9. Open and download an email attachment.
  10. Manage email: Delete and retrieve messages, identify spam, and unsubscribe from unwanted mailing lists.
  11. Understand basics of email etiquette (using salutations and closings, avoiding all caps, making use of the subject line, understanding when it's ok to forward messages, knowing who to cc or bcc, etc.).
  12. Use caution when opening or replying to an email from an unfamiliar source, downloading attachments, following links, or giving out personal information.
  13. Sign out of email, especially when using shared computers.
Back to Standards

Windows 10

  1. 1 Identify the operating system used by a computer.
  2. 2 Identify the parts of the Windows 10 interface (desktop, taskbar, etc.).
  3. 3 Demonstrate knowledge of the Windows Start Menu, including Get Help.
  4. 4 Demonstrate ability to search for a file, program, or document.
  5. 5 Identify icons, functions, and any file extensions related to basic office software (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel) and default Windows programs (Microsoft Edge, Windows Defender, etc.).
  6. 6 Start and exit programs.
  7. 7 Minimize and maximize windows.
  8. 8 Open, close and switch between windows.
  9. 9 Demonstrate knowledge of Windows File Explorer and identify drives on the computer, as well as cloud storage services (e.g., OneDrive).
  10. 10 Move documents and files, including to and from Recycle Bin.
  11. 11 Shut down, restart, and log off a computer.
  12. 12 Use Settings to uninstall or modify apps.
Back to Standards

Windows 11

  1. 1 Identify the operating system used by a computer.
  2. 2 Minimize and maximize windows.
  3. 3 Open, close and switch between windows.
  4. 4 Shut down, restart, and log off a computer.
  5. 5 Identify the parts of the Windows 11 interface (desktop, taskbar, Start Menu etc.).
  6. 6 Demonstrate ability to search for a file, program, or document.
  7. 7 Identify icons, functions, and any file extensions related to basic office software (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel) and default Windows programs (Microsoft Edge, Windows Defender, etc.).
  8. 8 Start and exit programs.
  9. 9 Demonstrate knowledge of Windows File Explorer and identify drives on the computer, as well as cloud storage services (e.g., OneDrive).
  10. 10 Move documents and files, including to and from Recycle Bin.
  11. 11 Demonstrate knowledge of Settings.
  12. 12 Use the Microsoft Store to add apps.
Back to Standards

Mac OS

  1. 1 Identify the operating system used by a computer.
  2. 2 Identify the parts of the Mac OS interface (desktop, Dock, Menu Bar, etc.).
  3. 3 Use the Help menu.
  4. 4 Use Finder or Spotlight to locate files and folders.
  5. 5 Open applications using Siri, Spotlight, Launchpad, the Dock, or the Applications Folder, and pin apps to the Dock.
  6. 6 Identify icons, functions, and any file extensions related to basic office software (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel) and default Apple programs.
  7. 7 Move documents and files, and create new folders.
  8. 8 Delete files and apps, and recover them from the Trash.
  9. 9 Identify peripheral devices on a computer (flash drives, camera, etc.) and cloud storage options (e.g. iCloud).
  10. 10 Minimize and maximize windows.
  11. 11 Close, switch between, and quit applications.
  12. 12 Use the App Store to add and update apps.
  13. 13 Demonstrate knowledge of System Preferences.
  14. 14 Log out of, restart, and shut down a computer.
Back to Standards

Microsoft Word

  1. 1 Open a new or existing document.
  2. 2 Identify the parts of the Word window, including the Ribbon, Status Bar and Quick Access Toolbar.
  3. 3 Save a document, being intentional about name and location.
  4. 4 Identify file extensions that can be opened by Microsoft Word.
  5. 5 Use Spelling and Grammar check.
  6. 6 Format text: size, color and font type.
  7. 7 Set text spacing and alignment.
  8. 8 Apply bullets and automatic numbering.
  9. 9 Undo the previous action.
  10. 10 Cut, copy and paste.
  11. 11 Modify page layout, including margins and orientation.
  12. 12 Print.
  13. 13 Close a document.
  14. 14 Insert objects into a document, including images, shapes, hyperlinks, and tables.
Back to Standards

Microsoft Excel

  1. 1 Open and close a workbook.
  2. 2 Save a workbook, being intentional about name and location.
  3. 3 Identify parts of Excel Screen: ribbon, formula bar, active cell, name box, column letter, row number, Quick Access Toolbar.
  4. 4 Locate a specific cell.
  5. 5 Enter data in a cell.
  6. 6 Copy and move cell entries.
  7. 7 Format cells and text: bold, underline, size, merge and center, wrap text, number (currency, time, percentages, etc.)
  8. 8 Create headings and freeze them.
  9. 9 Insert and delete rows and columns.
  10. 10 Adjust row and column size.
  11. 11 Identify worksheet tabs, create a new tab, rename tabs, and rearrange tabs.
  12. 12 Write a formula in the formula bar (-, +, *, /).
  13. 13 Select a range.
  14. 14 Use Auto Fill and AutoSum (Sum, Average, etc.) and understand the differences between them.
  15. 15 Sort (least to greatest, alphabetically, etc.) and filter data.
  16. 16 Insert a chart to display data.
  17. 17 Select a print area, choose page orientation, and print.
Back to Standards

Microsoft PowerPoint

  1. 1 Open a new or existing PowerPoint presentation.
  2. 2 Identify parts of the PowerPoint screen (slide navigation pane, slide pane, notes, the ribbon, quick access toolbar, and scroll bars).
  3. 3 Insert new slides, duplicate, or reuse slides.
  4. 4 Manage text (insert, delete, copy, cut and paste, drag and drop, format, and use spellcheck).
  5. 5 Apply or change a theme.
  6. 6 Use zoom control.
  7. 7 Insert items into a presentation, resize, and adjust them (video, chart, pictures, clip art, screenshots).
  8. 8 Add a textbox, adjust it, resize it, or delete it.
  9. 9 Change the view (normal view, slide sorter, reading view, slideshow view).
  10. 10 Insert, delete, and move slides using slide navigation pane.
  11. 11 Use the quick access toolbar.
  12. 12 Apply and customize slide transitions (select, preview, add sound, automatic advance).
  13. 13 Understand the basics of PowerPoint etiquette (limited text, text that stands out on background, clear titles).
  14. 14 Play a slideshow, advance through the slides, and end slideshow (using screen toolbar features).
  15. 15 Save a presentation as a .ppt, .pdf, .png, etc.
  16. 16 Create handouts.
  17. 17 Print a presentation.
Back to Standards

Google Docs

  1. 1 Log in and out of a Google account and navigate to Google Docs.
  2. 2 Identify the parts of the Google Docs interface, including menu bar, toolbar, document title, comments button, and share button.
  3. 3 Open a new or existing Google Docs document.
  4. 4 Rename a document.
  5. 5 Use Spelling and grammar check.
  6. 6 Format text: size, color and font type.
  7. 7 Set text spacing and alignment.
  8. 8 Apply bullets and automatic numbering.
  9. 9 Undo the previous action.
  10. 10 Cut, copy and paste text.
  11. 11 Modify page setup, including margins and orientation.
  12. 12 Insert objects into a document, including images, links, and tables.
  13. 13 Print.
  14. 14 Download a document in another file format, such as Word or PDF.
  15. 15 Share a document, being intentional about the difference between viewer, commenter, and editor.
  16. 16 Collaborate with others in Google Docs by using suggestion mode to track changes, accepting edits, and adding and replying to comments.
  17. 17 View and restore a previous version of a document.
Back to Standards

Social Media

  1. Identify different types of social media and their primary functions (especially Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter).
  2. Create a new account on a social media network and log in.
  3. Recognize social media interactions that may present a risk in order to make informed decisions (e.g., using a Facebook account to log in to third-party websites, identifying scams, sharing personal information)
  4. Demonstrate knowledge of managing “friends” on Facebook: adding friends, accepting/declining “friend” requests, and the difference between that and “following” someone.
  5. Understand and change privacy settings.
  6. Demonstrate an understanding of the consequences of “liking” or commenting on something.
  7. Share and delete content, including photos, videos, and links.
  8. Identify information that is unwise to post and/or upload on a social media (too much personal sharing, inappropriate photos/comments).
  9. Distinguish between public and private “spaces” on social media sites (e.g., Facebook messages vs. Facebook timeline).
  10. Post, share, like, or comment on content.
  11. Demonstrate knowledge of the permanence of anything posted on the internet.
Back to Standards

Information Literacy

  1. 1 Define a problem, formulate a question, or identify a decision that needs to be made.
  2. 2 Identify the purpose for accessing information (how the information will help solve the problem, answer the question, make a decision, or accomplish a goal or objective).
  3. 3 Define the kind of information needed to complete the task.
  4. 4 Identify types and formats of information found online (articles, databases, images, videos, etc.).
  5. 5 Plan steps required to solve the problem or accomplish the task.
  6. 6 Recognize the costs, in time or money, and benefits of accessing different sources of information (article, newspaper, consumer reports).
  7. 7 Demonstrate use of efficient search strategies to hone in on relevant information.
  8. 8 Locate relevant information in media found online, including text, video, images, etc. Locate the source of the information.
  9. 9 Make use of hyperlinks to follow desired/required path of information.
  10. 10 Demonstrate basic understanding of use of non-Internet sources of information (personal documents, Excel spreadsheets, etc).
  11. 11 Discern between relevant and non-relevant information in an information source and select the information that addresses the issue that motivated the search.
  12. 12 Determine the quality of information by identifying bias, assessing the reliability of sources, and identifying the impact of context.
  13. 13 File/store information in a format that facilitates ease of access for future use (e.g., file naming, folder organization, bookmarking, etc.)
  14. 14 Monitor extent to which information solves a problem and know when additional information is needed.
  15. 15 Synthesize relevant information from one or more sources.
  16. 16 Integrate new information into current knowledge and use it to support understanding, views, perspectives, or opinions.
  17. 17 Act on information to solve basic problems or answer a question.
  18. 18 Select appropriate format for sharing information, based on audience and purpose, and distribute to intended audience.
  19. 19 Evaluate the result of gaining/using the information. Was the question answered? Was the problem solved? Was a better decision made? Was a goal or objective met?
Back to Standards

Career Search Skills

  1. 1 Identify tools for determining career aptitude (self-assessment, interest inventories, skill identification, and values awareness).
  2. 2 Identify features and timeline of a job search plan.
  3. 3 Identify resources that aid in finding a job (internet resources, social media websites, job listings, targeted employment, job fairs, networking clubs, etc.)
  4. 4 Demonstrate the ability to use search and filter functions in job search sites.
  5. 5 Distinguish between skills sets (job skills, transferable skills, self-management skills, and emotional intelligence).
  6. 6 Demonstrate understanding of the value of volunteering.
  7. 7 Identify steps to prepare for a career or job fair (posting resume, preparing introduction, reading schedule/calendar).
  8. 8 Identify ways to research employers, labor markets, and salary ranges.
  9. 9 Identify elements of a strong portfolio including work samples and other supportive documents.
  10. 10 Identify elements of a cover letter and distinguish between weak and strong cover letters.
  11. 11 Identify elements of a resume and best practices for writing one (including employment history, hard and soft skills, accomplishments, job search goals, gaps in employment, etc.)
  12. 12 Identify best practices for sending and following up with resumes.
  13. 13 Demonstrate understanding of hiring processes (including recruitment, screening, and selecting).
  14. 14 Identify the basic principles of direct employer contact (in-person, telephone, video calls, social media, and email).
  15. 15 Identify key steps in preparing for an interview including identifying common interview questions; distinguish between strong and weak answers to interview questions; how to practice for an interview, giving answers for gaps in employment or previous incarceration.
  16. 16 Distinguish between different types of interviews (such as screening, selection, informational, work sample, peer group, group, luncheon/coffee, stress, video conference, etc.).
  17. 17 Distinguish between legal and illegal job interview questions; appropriately respond to illegal questions in an interview.
  18. 18 Identify key post-interview steps (contacting references, thank you notes, social media).
  19. 19 Demonstrate understanding of proper etiquette throughout the job search process, including when you are not hired.
  20. 20 Demonstrate understanding of negotiables: salary, schedule, benefits, professional development, training, and vacation time.
  21. 21 Distinguish between job types (temporary, seasonal, part-time, full-time, and unpaid internships)
  22. 22 Identify best practices to be successful on the job (including meeting employer expectations, making arrangements so that responsibilities and problems outside of work do not interfere with the job, learning new skills, dressing professionally, showing appreciation, and accepting constructive criticism).
Back to Standards

Accessing Telehealth Appointments

  1. 1 Activate an account for an online health portal in order to access telehealth appointments. (e.g. by changing a temporary password, or by accessing a website and entering an activation code provided by clinic staff via text or email).
  2. 2 Create a secure password.
  3. 3 Log in and sign out of an online health portal.
  4. 4 Organize links and passwords for quick access using browser favorites, password managers, or other tools.
  5. 5 Navigate multiple pages using the back, home and menu buttons to view and manage virtual telehealth appointments (e.g. view scheduled appointments, reschedule appointments, cancel upcoming appointments, complete pre-visit questions).
  6. 6 Prepare a device for a virtual visit (e.g. allow an online health portal access to camera and microphone, download an app on a smartphone or other device, to access telehealth appointments).
  7. 7 Demonstrate understanding of how to create an environment for an effective telehealth visit. (e.g. being in a quiet, private, well-lit space, adjusting camera view, ensuring space to walk/move, positioning camera at eye level)
  8. 8 Join a scheduled virtual telehealth appointment with a medical provider via a shared link or an online health portal, including completion of any check-in questions.
  9. 9 Use virtual meeting features including mute, video, and chat.
  10. 10 Troubleshoot common technical issues encountered during telehealth appointments, including factors that may impact audio and video (e.g. updating software, checking internet speed, switching locations, closing and reopening apps)
  11. 11 Recognize the difference between using mobile data versus wifi and be able to switch between the two.
  12. 12 Recover or reset a password for an online health portal.
  13. 13 Demonstrate knowledge of accessibility features that can be requested prior to a virtual health appointment. (e.g. interpreters, captions).
  14. 14 Identify help or contact-us button in order to access tech support.
Back to Standards

Your Digital Footprint

  1. 1 Define digital footprint.
  2. 2 Understand why a digital footprint is important.
  3. 3 Understand the potential benefits of having a digital footprint.
  4. 4 Understand the sources of a digital footprint (browsing, job search, shopping, social media).
  5. 5 Understand that actions online can have unintentional impacts to your digital footprint.
  6. 6 Identify consequences of a digital footprint (permanent, real-life, employment-related).
  7. 7 Demonstrate how to manage an online identity responsibly.
  8. 8 Demonstrate ability to manage privacy settings.
  9. 9 Understand breaches of privacy and the dangers these represent.
  10. 10 Identify the different organizations interested in a digital footprint and what they might use it for (employers, retail, government).
  11. 11 Define cookies and understand how these are used to track a digital footprint.
Back to Standards

Supporting K-12 Distance Learning

  1. 1 Understand models of remote instruction offered by schools (including synchronous and asynchronous distance learning, hybrid or blended learning) and strengths and challenges for each model.
  2. 2 Identify requirements for beginning distance learning successfully, including technology and technology support resources.
  3. 3 Log in and sign out of a distance learning platform.
  4. 4 Demonstrate internet skills essential for distance learning, including connecting a device to the internet, navigating to a website, closing and enabling pop-ups, and making use of common website interactions (e.g., play buttons, hyperlinks).
  5. 5 Understand the benefits and uses of parental control settings to create a safer online learning environment for children.
  6. 6 Identify the common features of distance learning platforms such as the dashboard, classes, calendar, and assignments.
  7. 7 Join a synchronous class meeting using a virtual meeting platform.
  8. 8 Mute, turn on/off video, chat, and change screen view in synchronous class meetings.
  9. 9 Understand basics of synchronous classroom etiquette.
  10. 10 Open an assignment in a learning platform and complete it using voice record, video, document upload, or other platform tools.
  11. 11 Organize links and passwords for quick access using browser favorites, password managers, or other tools.
  12. 12 Troubleshoot common technical issues encountered during virtual learning, including factors that may impact internet speed, audio and video issues.
  13. 13 Advocate for your K-12 student’s specific needs and/or ask for technical help by making use of virtual communication tools such as email or learning platform messaging.
  14. 14 Identify ways to provide support for K-12 students’ social emotional development while participating in distance learning.

Free Resources

The following resources developed by others address many of the Northstar Digital Literacy standards:

Web resources curated by Northstar that are available to everyone. is a user-friendly resource for test takers.

GCF LearnFree (technology) is quite comprehensive.

Interested in curricula developed by Northstar? View information on becoming a Northstar location.

I learned a lot of things in this class. It will help me when I go to the GED classes and take the tests, which are online. Technology is always changing, so I really need these skills. I feel more comfortable with computers. I used to call and ask my kids all the time to help me use the computer, but now I'm independent! If you don't know how to fill out an online application, you need someone to help you, but now I feel like I'm the boss of the computer. Mothers want to be able to check their kids' school progress, and if you know how to use the computer, it's easy. You can follow your kids' school progress online through their gradebook.