Today, the LINCs Assessment list is hosting a panel of GED Testing Service representatives as they field questions about the new test they've been describing with their Assessment Guide. There's a lot of anxiety about the new test, and I'm hoping that both sides work things out with these sorts of public discussions. In the meantime, I also want to see adult education embrace innovation and meet the growing need for online learning. So, I'm pulling a few of the questions out, as they come in, so we can debate the topics that are most relevant to computer-based instruction and distance education:
I certainly understand, and endorse, the need for the computer based test, raising performance standards, and the need for transitioning, but my overriding concern is for the students who lack computer skills. It seems that by mandating a computer only test based policy, we are placing a large segment of the GED and Adult Education student population at a distinct disadvantage as they prepare to take the test. In my opinion, a computer version only option for taking the GED test is potentially unfair to this segment of the adult population. Such a policy could potentially be labeled as discriminatory and could possibly face a legal challenge.(David in Mississippi)
This is a common concern, so my response is not directed at David. In fact, I'm glad he described the situation so clearly. There is a sizable segment of the population that we serve in adult education that either isn't interested in using computers, or we just can't conceive of them becoming proficient enough to be successful as a computer-based tester. However, I don't know if we can claim that requiring computer skills is unfair. The GED test certifies skills equivalent to those required to graduate from high school. To graduate from high school today, you need to use computers. Trying to exempt our learners from these skills that are so foreign to them is akin to asking for a time-machine accommodation so they can go back in time to take the GED during the era when they left school. And even then, they'd need to learn how to work the controls on the time machine (I'm hoping it's part Delorean).
Okay, that's a cheap joke. But, I'm being silly, because I think that it's puzzling that educators point to learners "lacking skills" as a permanent barrier. And, of course, not every person who is held back by computer illiteracy is generations removed from being a digital native or a millennial, etc.