On 3/7/19 at 9:00am, I attended the North Carolina Computer Instructors Association Conference Session Making Performance-Based Testing Work For Your Students at the SCITECH Building at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC presented by Amy Savino, product manager: IT/Networking/Cybersecurity at Cengage.
Making Performance-Based Testing Work For Your Students
Cengage is on a recent path to a deep dive to a more authentic, personal, intentional, inclusive content. They want to make students more employable, building the lifelong performance-based work.
This workshop was intended to be used for a roundtable conversion. This was primarily about certifications and whether students take them, why or why not, and what are the concerns of the students for sitting in the exams, particularly CompTIA exams.
This was quickly apparent that it was not about building these items into our classes with examples. This was not about how to create these kinds of questions, or how to expand existing content to fit into a mold where these would be helpful. Instead, this was an infomercial in which Cengage wanted to talk about their existing service. No one in the class used the service, or gave certifications with Microsoft or CompTIA. So, that was a bit of a bust. Many people were too polite to leave.
I took this time to bring up my concerns over examinations in general, especially Adobe ACA exams. I related my concerns in ways that hopefully they would consider.
The experience of taking a certification exam can be daunting for students, so having a campus center which is convenient is helpful. Students could conceivably study together, work together, and then travel over in a group to the location in relative safety and mental security. A large part of this is also the social aspect- having a social safety net if you fail, or a group with which to celebrate if they achieved a passing grade. Going alone to a testing center where they are not familiar, paying additional proctoring fees on top of testing fees can be awkward and slightly scary. Being alone in that area is also a bit of a downer. Working together before, celebrating or licking wounds together can be helpful. I talked how many more adopters they might have if the testing centers could be more easily located on campuses.
When asked whether we were using Cengage Unlimited products, no one had used this or heard about it. When they asked whether we used any of the practice exam materials provided by Cengage, most of us admitted to having used them in the past. None of us used them any longer.
When asked why, a general consensus noted that practice exams didn’t quite focus on the topics which the final exam covers. Faculty who had used it found large sections went uncovered, and some sections covered did not show up on exams. Still others found that testing in sections had questions which did not relate to materials covered. It can be difficult to find the best product to help students feel that they are prepared while they are approachable and cover an accurate range of questions and materials.
PBT (performance based testing) are seemingly better for critical thinking. They showed several slides with numbers and statistics showing that students using performance-based questions were more knowledgeable on PBT Tests.
Cengage wants people to grow the confidence in the critical thinking skills, and expose them to questions with a PBT feel that they’d experience on the exam.
By 9:15am Cengage dropped a few people, myself included.
At this point they talked about MINDTAP products, specifically about A+ products. I am unfamiliar with this material, and was not the only one. They decided to do a deeper dive. This isn’t really helpful, because it moved into an explanation of the materials and how they worked. Because only 1 person in the group used this, several people immediately disengaged. It was partly explanation, but mostly a sales pitch.
The problem with this should have been clear: If no one is using this software, telling us more about it and requesting feedback is difficult. Hearing about it, and (knowing, using it, answering questions from students about it, etc.) are clearly different things.
They discussed the need for covering Bloom’s Taxonomy in classroom materials with the classes, and most of us were well-versed. Each class included a pre-assessment and post-assessment to show how students have adjusted over time.
Behind the scenes they explained how their materials worked: Mainly each built from scenario-based questions, including quality distractors (items such as: has a USB Mouse), include JIT (Just in Time) Feedback, and remediation maps to chapter Learning Objectives and exam objectives. On top of these questions, they are hoping to add simulations to give the look and feel to the practice exams.
Next, they want to know: Would it be better to have active simulations in the class, VM (virtual machines), or items which will be closest to the exams? Will adding critical thinking and learning skills be helpful so that it is closer to the real world or will it be better to be closer to the exam?
Should Cengage materials be based more on virtual scenarios, or something which is testing based?
Tyler Dockery’s opinion on this matter:
What is the goal you’re hoping to achieve? Make your work based for that. If the goal of the material is to be ready for the real world, have more simulations as assignments. If the point is that full completion of the certification exam is the end goal, the certification exam should have a closer connection to the testing and quiz components. Different teachers will have different goals, so opening options on that will be helpful. Giving faculty the option to have access to real-life materials OR test prep OR both would be your best answer.
Also, some areas of this state have different levels of monetary values, and this adjusts the goal of the class materials.. In some parts of the state, students may not have the money to include the testing as part of their experience. For low-income areas, teachers may focus more on real-world skills as opposed to testing and the costs involved with that. This offers some the path to certification and others the path to job skills, still others might enjoy both.
Witold Sieradzan’s opinion on the matter
Almost every 2-year degree is outshined by a BA degree. If you have connections with companies, find out how many of them are actually looking for this certification. Can you contact recent recipients of the testing and connect them with companies who value this certification? We are maintaining mostly Community College students, and if the bonus of the certification could be made more clear would be helpful.
9:45 Cengage Unlimited start.
At this point, the Cengage representative began talking about the new Cengage Unlimited product and wanted some feedback. Not much talk about that, since no one used it or heard about it. We looked up CompTIA certification and saw that in NC there are 179 jobs using those as preferred specifications for jobs and requirements.
The Cengage representative decided to talk about a new product they would be creating called Cengage Cloud+. Witold Sieradzan also asked if we had some material for one of our newest classes: CTI-141 Cloud and storage concept. I was unfamiliar with class, so we looked it up online. We introduced the material to the Cengage representative, and she wrote it down. Cloud+ Cengage-They agreed that the material could be a good connection.
All-in-all, I don’t think they got all the information they wanted, but perhaps it was a good test case. Computer Instructor’s Association might be a nice connection for CompTIA, but all the MS Office products were a pretty big stretch. I wish these were more clearly marked as sponsor sessions.