"Just having the option of answering 'I don't know' is fairly unique to most certifications," Webster points out. "In most tests, if you don't know the answer, you are forced to guess, but that testing format promotes contamination of its own data. It doesn't honestly reflect what the test taker actually knows." The benefit of promoting such honesty, he notes, is that students begin to view the testing process as their "friend" in helping them move through the material and master the information.
"Ultimately, it's not the score we are after; it's the learning," he adds. "The CBL method gives you accurate data on what people actually know."
In the program's second step, as shown in Student Feedback at the top of Page 160, Knowledge Factor provides rich feedback to students, who quickly see where they are misinformed, uniformed, or had doubts or mastery. The "Question, Answer, Explanation and Link" displays, as shown on Page 160, for each test question show the chosen answer and correct choice, coupled with an explanation as to why it's correct. Online links to additional materials relating to the subject are also provided. This knowledge enables users to focus on learning what they most need to know — not information they have already mastered.
In the third step, Knowledge Factor delivers the entire course back to the learner. Its primary focus is to compel students to hone in on areas of misinformation and lack of knowledge, not subject matter where they've already achieved mastery.
"What is the return on investment to teach people stuff they already know?" asks Warr. "Think about a course you've attended where you were frustrated because the instructor was teaching material you'd already learned. What happened? You started to check out."
George Epp, executive director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado Inc., an association charged with developing training initiatives for Colorado sheriff's offices, knows full well the frustration of sitting through training he didn't need. "As an officer, I've sat through 8-hour training classes where the first 7 hours covered stuff I already knew," he says. "Finally, in the last hour, they got to the stuff I found valuable. Knowledge Factor's training is designed to reduce this time waste."
After completing the program's third step, students select "retake" to have the system administer a new test with a fresh set of questions. Knowledge Factor writes a large pool of questions for each module. Every time students go through the system, they receive a random set of questions.
This virtually eliminates the ability for people to beat the test, says Warr. "In order to cheat with Knowledge Factor you'd need to spend more time cheating than actually learning," he says.
Once students are retested, they revert back to step two, and hopefully their pie chart shows a greater percentage of green or mastery levels. Each time students go through the program, more green should appear in the chart until they achieve 90 percent mastery or better — whatever mastery score their department requires. "Once they reach that goal, students are done," Warr says. "At 90 percent, they have shown they not only know, but confidently know, the material."
Retention rates skyrocket when information is presented to students in this way, says Warr, who notes CBL increases retention of knowledge by seven to 10 times that of traditional training programs. "We are building confidence around the knowledge," he says. "It's the difference between telling someone something and allowing them to discover it on their own."