Recommendations for a "Test Assignment"

May 08, 2014

If you wanted to gauge a potential hire's current capabilities in regards to e-learning and instructional design, what would be a test assignment you would give them? We're definitely not expecting them to be an expert, and we have seen some of their work, but still want to provide a really small test assignment. Any recommendations or past experience with this?

6 Replies
Alexandros Anoyatis

I'd hate to start this with an "It depends" answer but... it really does!

There's a whole lot of questions you will have to ask yourselves first, such as (but not limited to) :

  • What are we hoping to get out of the courses we want to build
  • Do we hire them strictly for an ID role, or would they take over every phase including development?
  • What's the status of our technical capabilities and how do we plan to serve our courses? Will he be required to assist in that area?

Once that's over and done with, find a way to somehow measure their strengths and weaknesses, that would potentially directly impact your business process and objectives. It's not always just about the skills - not to say that it can't be.

If you are confident with that, then try to make up a small scenario that you can picture being a common one on his day to day activities. It doesn't have to be big, and it could include some theoretical talk ("How would you tackle X if we wanted to do Y").

That's all I've got right now. Hope I haven't confused you much.

Just my 2c,

Ashley Chiasson

Rachel - My first ID gig had a short and practical assessment. The employer was based in the aerospace industry, and after my interview, I was provided with a short (two-page) activity that included a label graphic of an aircraft, and asked me to structure a training module in a logical order. I know it sounds really basic, but they were able to assess my ability to organize content logically, which was a huge part of the role at the beginning of my time with them.

Alternatively, I have completed many larger (2+hour) assessments wherein the employer provides an explanation of the task, an example of a completed version of what is being requested, a style guide, template, images/audio/media assets. These assessments usually involve following a storyboard and authoring accordingly - this allows them to assess the individual's ability to follow instructions and develop high-quality (well - usually limited by the dictated style guide) e-learning modules. In this example, the instructions/style guide/template/storyboard could all be read ahead material so they are familiar with the activity prior to beginning - this will also reduce the amount of time the individual spends synthesizing onsite if time is a concern.

Steve Flowers

I'd approach it with a multi-stage assignment. That will let you adjust stages based on displayed strengths. Maybe something like this. Giving them something to work with but not all of the answers and asking for something clear in the end. A rubric for the assignment might be helpful. 

  • Project Brief Response. Give a few details and ask the candidate to describe how they might approach first steps - assignment deliverable = a paragraph illustrating how they might approach the project. Another paragraph describing assumptions based on information contained in the brief. And 3 questions they would ask to explore or clarify the brief. This tests how well they interpret what's being asked as well as how well they communicate. Most importantly, it gets to how well they formulate questions. I would argue that the art of asking questions is the most important design skill. 
  • Activity Design. Provide performance and audience details, an objective, and a heap of content. Ask them to design an activity on paper that satisfies the objective. This is another interpretation exercise. 
  • Write an Explanation. Provide some technical copy. Something obtuse from a technical guide that describes a principle of operation or a process. Ask the candidate to provide a 30 second script that clarifies the technical copy for a general audience.
  • Diagram Something. Provide some images and bad diagrams of something abstract or concrete. Ask the candidate to diagram the thing they consider most important to the audience's understanding of the concept.
  • Develop a Brief Program. Provide storyboards and media. Ask the candidate to develop 2 to 4 screens based on the storyboards.
Rachel Barnum

Thanks Ashley and Steve!

You've given me great ideas for more advanced test assignments for future full time developers. As of right now, we were looking at interns, and gave them a project based on taking an e-learning topic and having them do a small PowerPoint type presentation on it to assess how well they could explain/teach and how well they could layout (part of the requirement was to start with a blank template).

Thanks so much! 

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