Friday, September 12, 2008

Test preparation services get into social networking

In addition to creating high school aptitude, college prep, and entrance exams for video game platforms,
"two of the country's largest test-prep course providers are pairing with video game companies for the first time, to give students another way to practice for these oft-dreaded exams." [By Barbara Ortutay, Associated Press]
some of the major publishers in the educational study guide market are branching out into producing study guides in combination with social networking sites.

In the past, both Kaplan and Princeton Review have created study guides that "play" within the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS and Apple iPhone, study guides described by one publisher representative as being designed for "complete idiots."

Studying requires concentration, contemplation and understanding, while video games require rote memory of "power ups" and enemy locations. Educational testing is usually a one-shot proposition where the student can only choose one answer per question and does not allow unlimited "continues." Video games often have a "god mode" whereby the player can do no wrong.

So producing study guides that play like video games so they appeal to the average "gamer's" intellect is like giving a monkey a dozen eggs and expecting a souffle. Which is perfect if your definition of souffle is twelve eggs smashed against a wall.

Hence, the next logical level of testing preparation after video games is to combine study aids with social networking software. The addition of the 2.0 component advances study from a solitary endeavor to one that includes whole groups.

The latest testing materials are used entirely online and utilize "answer aggregation" whereby the student submits the study question to the social networking sites and members vote up or vote down the correct answer. Students no longer need to rely on their own knowledge of the subject matter. To date, bother Digg and Facebook have agreed to participate.

With the current emphasis on social networking on the Internet, and with the importance and utility of the Internet expanding every day, these publishers anticipate a future where no answer is simply black and white, right or wrong, but more likely an aggregate of the whims of the crowd at that particular moment.

College and university admissions officers are eager for this new form of testing where there can be no claims of biased testing or socio-economic advantage or disadvantage for students. All correct answers are decided by the group.

Representatives for both Kaplan and Princeton Review and several major universities where not surprised when the latest batch of sample online tests utilizing the social networking model recorded a majority of answers that included variations on the use of the word, "ass." Even when the answers were multiple choice. Somehow "ass" just kept showing up.

Now would I make this up?