All posts by Jennifer Fremont-Smith

How to Share Your Smarterer Scores

Last week, I wrote about exciting new changes we made to Smarterer. You can now review every question you answer after a test session to improve your skills, and can return to measure improvements in your score over time to help guide your learning efforts. This change marks a shift from public skill validation to private learning, and with it, we’ve removed public profiles from Smarterer. But don’t worry–you can still share your scores!

How to Share Your Smarterer Scores

1) Visit your dashboard
2) Locate the score you would like to share
3) Click “Share,” then click “link/email”
4) Copy and paste each score into an email for easy sharing

You can also include your links on your LinkedIn profile, blog, or any other site where you would like to display your knowledge.

We recognize that publishing scores is important to many of our community member, and we are actively working on new ways to facilitate sharing. Have thoughts on how you’d like to be able to share your scores? Email us at info@smarterer.com. We welcome feedback as we continue to build new tools into our product. We’d love to hear from you!

Jennifer Fremont-Smith

Question Review: A New Smarterer Way to Learn

Everywhere you look, there are new ways to learn on and offline. We’re in the midst of a massive trend towards lifelong learning – a trend that has empowered people with unprecedented choices about when, where, and how to learn. With so many ways to learn, people need a simple way to benchmark their skills and track their progress as they improve their skills.

Until now, Smarterer has focused primarily on helping you quantify your skills. Public profile pages, badges, and competitive leaderboards helped you show what you know. But time and again, we heard from the community that you want to use Smarterer in a more private way, to track your progress against your learning goals. You told us that you want to review questions and use Smarterer tests to improve your skills, not just to prove them.

So we listened.

Today we’re rolling out three major new product enhancements that will better enable you to learn with Smarterer:

  • Improved Test Flow: One of Smarterer’s greatest assets is the ability to calibrate someone’s score in under 20 questions (think 60 seconds or so!). Where before, many people continued answering an endless supply of questions with the hope of improving scores, we now message you as soon as we’re able to accurately assess your skill level, creating a clear end to each test session.
  • Question Review: Since launching, we’ve heard that people value Smarterer test questions as a way to expand their knowledge. Following each test session, we now promptly move you into a new mode where you can review every question, learning from right and wrong responses.
  • Continuous Benchmarking: Keeping each individual’s personal learning path in mind, our new user flow enables you to return over time to reassess your skills as you learn. With so many new learning options available (from EdX to Udemy to Skillshare), this becomes an essential tool for measuring the impact of different types of curriculum.


Question Review

 

In support of this shift from external recognition to private validation, we’ve also replaced public profiles with a personal dashboard to house these new learning tools. From the first day you create an account, your scores are private by default.

This new learning-focused experience comes close on the heels of our decision to remove leaderboards from the site. We found that users didn’t want to compete with each other nearly as much as with themselves, while using Smarterer to direct their learning. For those among you who thrive on being at the top, we’ve introduced your skill rank in the dashboard, letting you know exactly how your skills stack up–you can still see just exactly how much Smarterer you are than the rest of the pack!

We hope you’ll dive in to explore these new tools. This is just the first step in our evolution toward fostering learning. Stay tuned for more game-changing builds in the near future. And of course, let us know if you have any suggestions–we’re listening.

5 Ways to Initiate a Powerful Personal Learning Network and Accelerate Your Skills

Since beginning this journey at Smarterer I’ve been immersed in the fascinating world of how people learn and develop skills. From myriad conversations with researchers, thought leaders, innovators and colleagues within the skills and education spaces, I’ve taken a deep dive into the world of how, when and where learning truly happens.

First, there’s the formal structured education we receive in K- 12 and college. We may take other instructor-led classes too, perhaps in the form of Princeton Review or Kaplan Test Prep courses as we prepare for standardized tests, or a summer math refresher before grad school.

Cultivate your own personal learning network.Later, once employed, jobs often require professional development – facilitated training to gain tools, skills or certifications needed to advance. A brief poll of almost any work force will likely reveal a wide range of professional training experiences– from safe food handling training for restaurant jobs to software training for web analytics (and that’s just at Smarterer).

For the self-motivated learner there are the myriad learning opportunities in vogue today – from Lynda to Udemy, Udacity to Coursera – MOOCs (massive open online courses) to online degree programs.

These are some of the known ways to develop your professional skills and advance your career. But what about all the informal ways you gain knowledge from the people around you? Isn’t skills transfer often a very personal interaction? Nobody can keep up with emerging skills and technology in isolation – don’t we learn from our peers in the same way we learned from our families and the people around us as young children, by observing what they do and modeling their behavior? Sounds like a Personal Learning Network.

A personal learning network is an informal network comprised of the people you interact with and learn from, both direct in a face-to-face setting and indirectly through technology. Peer-to-peer learning and its impact is constant and profound.

Here are five ways to initiate a powerful personal learning network that will help you accelerate your skills:

  1. Participate
    • Volunteer: Get outside your comfort zone and volunteer for something you’ve never done. I spoke to a student who had graduated from Boston Startup School and was now learning about sales by helping to bring more sponsors on board.
    • Join a professional board or group – then seek out colleagues who can offer assistance and knowledge when you’re trying to do something new.
    • Join a group or forum: I am in a forum for early-stage venture-backed CEOs that meets quarterly for two days, offsite. It’s an incredible way to learn from my peers, and share my own perspective (which in itself is a learning activity)
    • Find a mentor or coach: Seek people who know how to do the things you want to learn, and ask them for regular sessions. Mentoring is usually unpaid, while coaching is paid.
  2. Connect and Discover
    • Follow people on Twitter and see what publications they reference. Hash tags can help you find great content. Join scheduled chat sessions on key topics to help get up to speed.
    • Have conversations at conferences. At the ASU summit on Innovation in Education I learned a lot from the formal program, but gained tremendous insight from discussions I had with people on the sidelines.
  3. Consume
    • Read and watch presentations in SlideShare and YouTube. Check out TED Talks and the YouTube channels of some of the companies and people who speak most eloquently on your topics of interest.
    • Subscribe to RSS feeds for blogs.
    • Take a test (like Smarterer) or view flashcards.
  4. Create
    • Write an article, blog post, or op-ed piece about a topic you want to learn about. The process of researching your topic will teach you a lot.
  5. Contribute
    • Teach! In prepping for and delivering two classes I recently taught, I learned a great deal more about the topics. Want to test if you really know something well? Explain it to someone else. The minute you try to answer their questions, you’ll know how well you’ve learned.
    • Initiate a project and solicit others to help out. A friend wanted to improve his leadership skills, so he organized a Food Truck festival –something he’d never done before. He had to pull together numerous skillsets and deploy them to make this huge event a success. He came out of that experience a much better leader (and event planner…).
    • Curate! Seek out the best and most relevant content for your topic and share it. Explain it by helping others see the key points (and in doing so, learn them yourself).

If you consciously identify, prioritize and stay engaged with your most valued Personal Learning Networks and contribute as much as you take, you’ll find that learning becomes unavoidable in your life. If you select and immerse yourself into the right PLNs and truly engage, your level and pace of learning may astound you.

How to Identify the Savviest Recent Grads and Motivate Them to Work For You

Every twelve weeks or so, I undergo a ritual at Smarterer: the changing of the guard for our interns. As one group of seasoned old hands moves on after three intense months at Smarterer, a fresh-faced new group comes on board.

I always sit down with the departing group and talk to them about their plans, and in doing so, I’ve gained some insight into what makes these recent graduates successful and how to appeal to them.

There are always one or two interns who stand heads and shoulders above the rest in terms of their approach to their career. They are inevitably the ones we bend over backwards to help out, and or even hire full time. They’re the ones with multiple job offers from other employers. Yet they are not necessarily the ones who were most skilled coming in the door. So what do they do that makes them stand out and get hired? Here are the three behaviors that distinguish the good interns from the great:

  • They raise their hands to gain skills.

    Marketing is a big field with lots of sub-disciplines, including content marketing, social media, search engine marketing, lifecycle email marketing, and marketing analytics. Interns at Smarterer may work on one or two of these during their tenure, but probably won’t deep dive into all of them. It warms my heart when I overhear an intern ask, “Hey, can I sit in on that marketing analytics meeting? I want to get exposed to how it’s done,” or “I’d like to take a shot at rewriting copy for the upcoming email campaign so I can gain some experience there.” The savviest interns are ones who recognize that these are marketable skills and push to gain them. They don’t wait for assignments to come their way – they ask for opportunities to help. They go to classes at Intelligent.ly almost every night (since Smarterer covers their tuition I get a bill at the end of the month and can see who the learners are). In short, they work their tails off during their internship to get exposed to everything they can, and they are more marketable as employees as a result.

  • They ask for feedback.

    At this stage in a career, feedback is key. Interns and entry-level hires should be direct and ask for explicit feedback on how they are performing on specific tasks, and open-ended feedback on what else they should be doing. Remember that at this stage there are unknown unknowns – by asking experienced people for feedback, interns and new hires can surface some of these and accelerate their performance.

  • They network like fiends.

    Recent graduates have little work experience and an even smaller network – yet a professional network is one of the most powerful assets a young professional can have. The successful interns are the ones who sense that they should invest in building and maintaining their network, and who use their time with us wisely. That means making time to sit down with people to ask for their advice on career direction, volunteering to help out with their projects, and participating in events they care about. In exchange, you’ll gain their mentorship, support, and potentially valuable introductions. Case in point: I met with a Smarterer intern last week who wants to pursue a career in writing, and thinks the right next step for him is in copywriting. My advice: tap the networks of key team members for suggestions on how to start in that field. The mere act of asking for help creates a commitment on the part of the person being asked – by giving advice they become vested in the outcome. It pays to learn that lesson early and practice it often.

What does this mean for employers?

Many young professionals getting out of internship programs are skilled – if they’re smart they’ve gained experience that makes them really valuable, and they can hit the ground running. But that also means they’re savvy and know how to create opportunities for themselves, so you may have to compete for them. But what do they really want? From my experience, they’re looking for more of what I outlined above – opportunities to gain skills, to learn through exposure and feedback, and to build their network. Here are some easy ways support new team members:

  • Offer tuition reimbursement, time off to take classes, or even brown-bag lunch sessions in which you bring in a subject matter expert and invite them to discuss a topic.
  • Offer consistent feedback in the form of 1:1s or other direct sessions – and ensure that your management team does the same. Encourage mentoring and networking throughout the organization.
  • Understand that new team members – and particularly Millennials – want to feel that they have an important role to play in something meaningful, and that their work, even if it’s entry-level, makes an impact. Make sure you paint this picture for new hires from day one, by sharing your company’s mission, cluing them in to your strategy, and ensuring they understand the impact of their work on your overall goals and objectives.