March 9, 2005

Technology competency exam being tested by students

Technology skills have become just as vital for success as basic English and math skills in today’s computer-driven world, and the University is part of a project to see if its students possess the skills necessary to solve real-world problems using information and communication technology.

The California State University system has joined with several other universities and the Educational Testing Service to develop a competency test to measure the ability of students to use technology to access and use information ethically. The test is being pilot-tested with Sacramento State and will eventually be administered nationwide.

Linda Goff, the head of instructional services for the University Library, began to “test the test” at Sacramento State last summer with a trial run of 28 students. Another round of tests is scheduled to run through March 18, and is open to all Sacramento State students. Goff hopes to recruit as many as 300 students to take and validate the test. Students can sign up for the project at http://library.csus.edu/survey.

The two-hour test is taken online with a secure server, and students are offered the incentive of a $25 gift certificate.

Barbara O’Connor, communications studies professor, is the chair of the ETS International Information and Communication Technology Literacy Panel, which designed the test. O’Connor said the test has been in development for the past five years, and was jointly sponsored by the European Union.

“This test is groundbreaking and the first of its kind,” O’Connor said. “What good is a pen if you can’t write? It is the same with technology. People can learn technology and software, but they have to have useable content.”
The CSU system plans to test as many as 3,000 students, with a minimum of 50 students per campus. The results of the test will influence the final appearance of the ETS national test.

The assessment goal of the test is to see if students can solve problems with technology, and if the information they obtain is useful and not biased.

Starting in 2006, the test for individual students should be finalized and ready to use. Once finalized, the results of the test could have several positive benefits for the campus, Goff says.

“Different campuses and departments can compare test results to see how each institution ranks, or the results could also be used to determine if there is a need to offer specialized classes,” Goff said. “The data could also be used to demonstrate the skills of Sacramento State students to future employers or legislators.”

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