Northstar Digital Literacy Assessments, a program of the Minnesota Literacy Council, allows users to assess their digital literacy and basic skills on the computer. The assessments are available in three key areas, essential computer & software skills, and using technology to accomplish tasks.

Essential computer skills include computer and internet basics, email, and fluency with Windows and Mac operating systems. Essential software skills test experience using today’s most used programs such as Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Technology-based task accomplishments include social media use and information literacy.

These series of assessments were created as a joint project in 2010 by the Saint Paul Public Library and Saint Paul Literacy Consortium as a community-based program to address the needs of the multitudes of unemployed and displaced workers created during the 2009 recession. The assessments were meant to be mutually beneficial to both workers and employers by identifying skill levels in a meaningful way, eventually leading to certification and further job prospects.

Northstar assessments allow users free access to the modules from anywhere, through their website. Assessments taken at one of their over 600 testing locations offers many benefits such as assistance in test taking, skill certification, and personalized assessment results to provide a roadmap to relevant instruction.

Another key feature is the integration of the Mozilla OpenBadges program, which allows users to create a digital “backpack” which houses their completed certification badges. Northstar has grown exponentially with over 1 million assessments on the public interface combined with several hundred thousand through testing locations across the country. As of 2018, a Version 2.0 was approved and through conjunction with the CareerForce project received funding for its completion. With the recent release of the first module Computer Basics 2.0—featuring improved interface, navigation, and new design elements receiving many positive reviews—Northstar has achieved much notable recognition including receiving Partner of the Year Award from the Community Technology Empowerment Project. While initially created for adults entering the workforce, Northstar’s digital literacy assessments have a wide range of applications and can be utilized by students of all ages.

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