The ETS iSkills TM assessment: A digital age tool



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The Electronic Library









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Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to show how information and communications technology (ICT) literacy skills reflect twenty‐first century requirements for researching and communicating information in digital environments. An interactive problem‐based, scenario‐based, web‐based assessment tool, iSkillsTM, has been developed through a broad‐based effort to establish standards for performance and certification of ICT literacy proficiencies. This paper aims to discuss the assessment's potential in determining the effectiveness of instruction programs.

Design/methodology/approach– Since January 2001, a consortium of experts in ICT literacy served as advisors to the Educational Testing Service (ETS) test developers as they designed an internet‐delivered assessment that measures students' abilities to research, organize, and communicate information using technology. This paper reviews that R&D process, concluding with an example of its application to information literacy program planning and evaluation. A mixed methods approach collected and analyzed qualitative sources and iSkillsTM pre‐test/post‐test data for first‐year Purdue University students.

Findings– Findings informed curricular decisions for instituting an integrated problem‐based learning (PBL) information literacy program. Secondary goals included developing an understanding of how information‐processing skills are acquired, identifying best practices for integrating information literacy into the curriculum, and assessing the impact of skill acquisition on overall academic achievement. ICT literate students are generally better problem‐solvers, more self‐directed, and communicate ideas more efficiently.

Practical implications– Universities are beginning to require ICT literacy as competencies for graduation. This paper presents a new strategy for assessing the effectiveness of instructional programs which aim to matriculate proficient students.

Originality/value– This paper reports on the efficacy of a problem‐based learning (PBL) approach involving three convergent principles of design: the organization and dissemination of information, the creation and communication of information, and problem solving within the context of research projects and assignments. As such, it provides important insights into pairing an innovative instructional approach and the iSkillsTM ICT literacy assessment.


This paper developed out of a panel presentation by Gordon W. Smith, Alexius Smith Macklin, and Mary M. Somerville at the Library Assessment Conference held in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, in October 2006.