Literacy and numeracy testing

Prashil Singh is the manager of Partnership and Stakeholders Relations at VETASSESS where he works with a team of assessors and online platform developers. His role involves connecting customers to a range of assessment services and solutions, and he is a firm believer of the value that assessment can play in quality performance monitoring and improvement.

As VETASSESS rolls out our latest assessment service, we would like to take the opportunity to talk about the importance of literacy and numeracy testing.

Literacy and numeracy are vital skills that can determine whether an individual succeeds in a particular area of training or industry.  Literacy and numeracy testing offers an effective and efficient way to assess these skills in applicants to determine whether they are sufficient to meet the demands of studying or working.

The VETASSESS Test

The VETASSESS Test is an online assessment tool aligned to the Australian Core Skills Framework, covering levels 1-4, as the registered standard for adult literacy and numeracy in Australia.  The test is already in use as the pre-entry test for the Diploma of Nursing by a number of course providers.

With reforms to the VET Student Loans 2017 scheme effective from 1 January 2017, literacy and numeracy testing has become compulsory for applicants seeking loan assistance for VET Diploma level courses and above.  The VETASSESS Test has been approved by the Australian Government as an external and independently verified assessment tool for RTOs, including providers needing to fulfil the entry requirement for the VET Student Loan 2017 scheme.

Can your Organisation Benefit from Literacy and Numeracy Testing?

While the VETASSESS Test was developed to support education providers, it can be beneficial for other VET courses, as well as business organisations for the purposes of recruitment and internal training.  Ensuring literacy and numeracy competency of your members whether they are from an English speaking background or a non-English speaking background can help maintain quality performance within your organisation and industry overall.

The VETASSESS Test provides the user with a report identifying areas requiring improvement as part of the assessment. It also provides reporting on group statistics across the particular cohort.  This information can help guide applicants on how to seek further training, and provide valuable insight for RTOs and employers on whether additional support systems may be needed for their new or existing members.

If you’re using an existing tool, before renewing talk to us about our quality and cost-effective solution. VETASSESS is currently conducting onsite demonstrations and can tailor test requirements for pre-course entry and selection.  For further information and consultation, contact Matthew Miller on +61 3 9655 4754 or email testenquiries@vetassess.com.au

Developing digital literacy in learners: a how-to guide for teachers

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about engaging learners, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the world of work. Here she considers digital literacy, what it does and doesn’t mean, and the important role of educators in enhancing these crucial skills.

What is digital literacy?

“Digital literacy involves finding, using and disseminating information in a digital world” (Deakin University, 2016). Digital literacy is also a transversal skill, which means that by having good digital literacy, a person’s ability to learn and improve other skills increases through the use of technology.

In the next 5-10 years, a number of routine jobs will be taken over by automation and artificial intelligence (AI) (ACS, 2016). This automation and AI will also be ingrained in workplaces, homes and everything we do, due to the increased productivity and lifestyle gains that these technologies provide. In order to remain current in the workplace, and to be able to fully function in society, the need for good digital literacy has never been greater.

While a number of government initiatives aim to address this need in the school sector, a large proportion of the Australian adult population  needs to further develop its digital literacy (ABS, 2013). Either that, or risk ‘dying’, figuratively speaking, in a digitally disrupted world. A common misconception is that young people are highly digitally literate, because they are so active online. While it is true that many adult Australians are engaged on social media, and many of these were born into an ‘online world’, research suggests  that this does not equate to them having good digital literacy. This means that adult educators not only need to be aware of this shortfall, they play a significant role in meeting this need.

Developing learners’ digital literacy

At a minimum, the use of technology needs to be embedded in the learning and assessment process.  This can be done through a blended approach which allows learners to access and submit part of their work online. This ensures that all learners engage with information online, but in a very safe and supported environment. This approach can also help to improve the quality of the learning and assessment environment.

Using technology as part of the learning and assessment process starts by using a simple and easy to use online learning environments such as learning management systems (LMS), ePortfolios, blogs, social media and online meeting rooms, with well-designed learning and assessment activities. It is important to offer an ‘orientation’ to the online learning environment, which can be done either through face to face or online workshops using Google Hangout, Skype or Zoom. Easily accessible orientation videos on YouTube or Vimeo can also provide good support, as well as providing more traditional text based ‘how to’ and ‘help’ support while the learners learn to navigate the online environment on their own.

Digital literacy development activities

If, in the first instance, learners have had limited exposure to computers and mobile devices prior to being asked to interact online, then working with foundation skills staff / consultants to help the learners develop some basic computing skills may be required. This training could be offered through relevant bridging units. Once orientated to the online learning environment, activities which build digital literacy should be adopted.  The following table includes some approaches you might like to consider:

Activity Description
Discussion forums or online groups Learners do online research or view online videos, and then post what they have found into a discussion forum or online group.  These learners should then be asked to review other learners’ posts and comment on them.
Instant messaging or ‘chat’ Learners connect with others in real time to organise a group activity or debate ideas and concepts solely through text.
Mobile devices Learners capture evidence of their learning, or tell a story or present information about their training, through video, audio, photos or mobile apps. This digital content is then uploaded or shared via the online learning environment.
Online calendars Learners schedule when their assessments and other commitments are due. Then the online calendar ‘reminds’ learners when things are due through the pre-set alerts.
Online journals Learners keep a written record of their progress, either on or off the job. These online journals can be either shared with others or solely with the educator.
Online meeting spaces Learners come together to discuss topics, plan group activities, brainstorm problems, conduct interviews and/or present their work to others.
Online questionnaires/surveys Learners either design questions as part of their research or they are required to undertake a survey to demonstrate their knowledge in an area.
Social media Learners follow and interact with key individuals or organisations to find out what current practice or issues are happening within their industry, or to benchmark their own work against these practices.
Wikis/Google docs/Mind mapping tools Learners work collaboratively online to solve a problem or come up with new ideas or designs, either in real time or over a period of time.

Helping learners stay safe online

Before starting any online activities, however, information and activities about the correct ‘netiquette’ when learning and working online should be introduced. This can be offered as generic information to be used across an organisation as part of a learner’s induction to their training, or embedded into the training program itself.

Learners will also need to be supported to manage the privacy of their own information, and that of others when working in groups. Helping learners understand the profile and privacy settings in third party online sites such as social media, as well as reading through and discussing the terms and conditions of these sites can be helpful. Information regarding how third party online sites manage and use learners’ information should also be provided, and discussions about what organisational online learning environments capture about a learner such as ‘activity logs’ should take place.

Ensuring learners work successfully online

Interaction with technology as part of learning and assessment will mean that learners create digital objects such as Word documents, video and audio files, and images. Enabling learners to develop good file management habits should therefore be supported.

Helping learners develop strategies for remembering their login details, and teaching them to have ‘strong’ passwords which contain letters, numbers and symbols is also crucial. A lack of skill in this area is said to be the number one killer of online activities as learners cannot access their work.

And finally, discussions and/or information about copyright and plagiarism are important. Learners need to understand that just because information, resources and digital objects are readily available online, doesn’t mean that they can use these resources as their own.  Teaching learners about quoting and referencing other people’s work is very important.

Sites such as search.creativecommons.org allow learners to filter their web searches so they are only presented with information, video, music and images and so on which have been licensed for open use, as long as they attribute the work. This practice will help the learner easily transition from using other people’s information and content for educational use to more public and online use, without breaching copyright and intellectual property laws.

Guide and let go

Developing digital literacy happens best when learners are supported and guided to learn and work online. Like any real learning, however, this is best done through a spirit of experimentation and risk taking, and an adult learning environment is a great place for this to happen.

Ensure you cover all of this by using this Developing digital literacy checklist.

Video: Competency based education in Moodle

John CollinsJohn Collins is passionate about cloud-based eLearning solutions which enable the delivery of online training anywhere and anytime. Part of his interesting job involves keeping up to date with the latest educational technology advancements.

This seven-minute video blog helps us to understand competency based education in Moodle version 3.1 including:

  • The relationship between the SMS, units of competency and Moodle courses
  • Linear and clustered relationships between units of competency and Moodle course
  • Directly linking assessment activities to specific units of competency.

More on Moodle competencies

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IxD and usability: Must haves in online training and assessment tools

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about engaging learners, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the world of work. Here
Allison discusses the impact of IxD and usability principles to both enhance the user experience and drive technical evolution in the world of education.

User experience and the technical evolution

Technology and the internet, both their development and uptake, have been changing at an amazing pace over the last five to ten  years. This has been greatly enabled by mobile devices and better internet/mobile data plans. Another key driver of this evolution has been improved user experience (UX).  For example, consider how touch screens, mobile apps and improved mobile phone responsiveness have greatly changed how we live our lives and communicate with one another compared to ten years ago.

However, it could be said that this technical evolution has not occurred as rapidly in online learning and assessment tools such as learning management systems (LMS), eportfolio tools and webinar rooms. This evolution is also unlikely to gain the same momentum as other technologies while educational institutions continue to accept a low level of UX design in these systems.

To ensure that your next online training and assessment tool (online tool) doesn’t fall into the same low UX design trap, ensure that you factor in UX from the perspective of the learners, educators and educational support staff, by basing your selection criteria on interaction design (IxD) and usability principles.

What are IxD and usability principles?

IxD and usability principles make sure that an online tool is:

  • Efficient to use as it takes the least amount of time to accomplish a particular task,
  • Easy to learn to use, and
  • More satisfying to use compared to other online tools.

IxD and usability principles concentrate on:

1.      Being user focussed

This is done by defining who the users of your online tool will be, and then determining their needs in relation to your online tool, for example:

  • Learners wants to easily find relevant information and access learning and assessment activities, eg discussion forums, assignments etc, from any device.
  • Educators want to easily find learners’ work to mark and provide feedback, and to be able to easily update information or activities.
  • Educational support staff want to be able to easily create exciting and interactive learning and assessment spaces; extract learner data such as their results; and view site stats about the use of the online tool for reporting purposes.

2.      Ease of use

How easy is it for users to navigate the online tool to achieve their goals is also important. Questions to ask in this area include:

  • How many clicks does it take the user to satisfy their needs?
  • Does the system’s workflow help users meet their requirements in the least amount of time?
  • Can users easily find where they need to go to achieve their goals?

3.      Learnability

Optimum learnability means the online tool has a consistent design approach  which makes it easy for the user to quickly understand how to use it, with the least amount of information and support. You determine this by consulting with organisations that already use the online tool you are considering and ask them how much upfront support their users needed before they felt confident to use it.

4.      Signifiers

Online tools should provide symbols which indicate how far a user has progressed through a task task such as ‘progress’ bars or through prompts such as ‘you are at Page 5 of 15’ or ‘you are marking learner no 2 of 5’.  Signifiers provide the user with a context of where they are at in completing a task which can help them manage their time better, and/or motivate them to continue to complete a task.

5.      Functionality

Considering the key functional requirements for each user group and the way they might therefore navigate your system will contribute to the user friendliness of it. For example:

  • Learners want simple ways to access content, as well as communicate and collaborate with others, and to upload their work.
  • Educators want simple ways to access learners’ work, provide feedback and results, and to review information about their learners eg activity logs.
  • Educational support staff want simple ways to present information and encourage learner activity, and to access results and reports.

6.      Feedback

As online tools cannot use body language to communicate how well a user is performing, it is important that the online tool provides feedback prompts to users as they progress through the system eg You have successfully submitted your assignment. This confirmation ensures that users feel confident that they have achieved their task, and they can take satisfaction in this achievement.

7.      Response time and responsiveness

Most users these days have access to fast internet on highly responsive devices. This means that they expect pages/screens of your online tool to load quickly. They will also expect to be able to access the online tool from any device, whether that is a computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. This means that responsiveness needs to be a key factor in the selection of your online tool.

Get it right at the start

Incorporating IxD and usability principles into the selection process of your next online tool will ensure a return on the investment you have made into researching, implementing and maintaining the online tool, and your users will quickly adopt and continue to utilise the system with lower ongoing support.

This approach requires user consultation and research into how other educational organisations rate the IxD and usability of the online tool. Any questions? We’re here to help.