Accelerate Your Learning With Assessments

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As you work to complete IT training, how can you accelerate your learning and optimize your success? Assessments can be the critical component of your plan to make this happen.

Assessments were initially developed by companies such as Novell to be used as giveaways for students. Their purpose was to provide students with a better understanding of the types of questions they would encounter when taking exams and to get them comfortable with the exam process. As a result of those pioneering efforts, an entire industry was created.

Which brings us to where we are today, with an expansive offering of assessment solutions, each with its own approach and goals. Authorized assessments, delivered by companies such as Self Test Software (www.stsware.com) and MeasureUp (www.measureup.com), directly map to major certification programs. The purpose of this type of assessment is to help students understand when they have reached a level of competency to take an exam. LearnKey (www.learnkey.com) and Transcender (www.transcener.com) also offer this sort of practice assessment.

These assessments can also be used as pre- and post-training knowledge tests. By taking the assessment prior to a course and at the conclusion of a course, you can validate that knowledge transfer has occurred. You can also use assessments when trying to determine what course or level of a course would best meet your needs.

Other assessments are built into the learning itself. An example of this strategy is evident with Element K (www.elementk.com). As you move through the learning, you are exposed to a series of assessments that verify you have mastered concepts before moving on. There are also companies such as Brainbench (www.brainbench.com) that have developed assessments that test knowledge as it relates to job function and is distinct from certification readiness.

On a broader level, some vendors offer technical aptitude assessments to determine if a student has the ability to pursue technical training. This type of exam does not test on specific course or certification topics, but is used to assist in predicting an individual’s job performance and learning ability in a variety of technical positions. You can see the value an organization would find in this assessment when identifying the best candidates for their training dollar or screening individuals during the interview process.

While assessments have been prevalent in our industry during the past couple of years, demand for them is now heating up. More than ever, individuals desire to save time and money, and they turn to assessments before selecting certification programs. As corporations strive to better manage their training budgets, they aim to more thoroughly assess the readiness of their workforce and reward employees for knowledge acquisition.

IDC believes that the demand for practice tests or assessments will continue to grow because they fulfill important needs. They allow candidates to become familiar with the format before facing the actual exam, and they allow them to assess their own skill level and determine exam readiness.

All of these assessment initiatives are driven by the ever-increasing desire to ensure that our most precious resource—our time—is used most appropriately. These practices can help us ensure that we only do the learning needed to achieve our objectives and only take the certification exams when ready. This is further fueled by corporations’ burning desire to prove a return on investment for their training and certification dollars.

So where is all of this heading? It is my belief that the proliferation of learning management systems will enable the integration of assessments and content like never before. In the future, no individual or organization will undertake training until they define their objectives, conduct pre-assessments, identify knowledge gaps, utilize post-assessments to ensure knowledge transfer and reward progress and finally, as appropriate, feed into certification to make sure the right people take the right certification exams at the right time.

We used to think about learning and assessments as two separate entities. This evolution is taking us to the reality of having learning, content and assessments woven together with certification exams to validate knowledge transfer, prove return on investment and reward learners.

Martin Bean is the chief operating officer for New Horizons Computer Learning Centers Inc., the world’s largest computer training company.

 

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