PORTLAND, Ore–()–According to a popular myth, in order to reach mastery and expertise you must first put in 10,000 hours of practice. Pioneering Human Performance researcher at Florida State University, Dr. Anders Ericsson, recently stepped forward to clarify this myth. According to Ericsson’s book “Peak,” what counts towards building expertise is what he calls “deliberate practice.” Deliberate practice distills to four independent variables: practice, consistency of practice, tracking your practice, and “mental mapping.” CollegeNET has demonstrated through both its November and December StandOut Challenge Interview competitions that the company’s new, patent-pending FocusRing technology can assess these attributes at scale for the first time. FocusRing presents candidates with a video question script that probes for the independent variables of practice, and then gives each candidate the task of scoring the video answer scripts submitted by other randomly assigned candidates. The requirement for peer review and evaluation forces each candidate to listen to, learn from and make judgments about what others are saying. These key academic and social engagement skills are neither exercised nor tested by traditional assessments such as the SAT or ACT.

The World’s First Subjective Supercomputer

FocusRing is called the world’s first “subjective supercomputer” because it is the first technology to extend a person’s cognitive “Evaluation” skill as they answer a question to the subsequent task of evaluating answers to the same question given by others. Human minds are arranged in a peer array in FocusRing that not only provides for shared and unlimited scalability of the scoring function, but also requires each student to listen to and learn from others as they perform their evaluations. By contrast, traditional siloed college assessment tests such as the SAT or ACT require test takers to hide their work from each other, thus cutting off the opportunity to learn anything from the answers given by others.

As computer scientist and FocusRing co-inventor Jim Wolfston explains: “Regardless of whether we find ourselves in a casual social situation or a formal business setting, when we prepare to answer a question posed by others we immediately and subliminally invoke three real-time cognition skills: Configuration; Evaluation/Self-Editing; and Delivery. During Configuration, we choose from our own base of ideas, evaluate those ideas, and arrange them for delivery. During Delivery we extend this evaluation through internal and auditory feedback and the feedback, if any, as it is given to us by listeners. This real-time evaluation thus forms a question-specific mental bridge spanning the configuration and delivery of our own answer. What FocusRing provides is the chance for each participant to re-use and further extend this bridge when evaluating the answers given by others. Having already answered the same question, the student is well positioned to apply their mental evaluation bridge to the task of assessing answers to the same question given by others. Further, as a student assesses the answers given by others, they learn from them and thus extend their own base of ideas.”

The Paradox of Traditional Academic Testing

The fundamental deficiency in traditional assessment testing is that traditional tests measure only the dependent variables of academic performance (e.g., how much math does a student already know?). This creates a paradox from an educational perspective. At the same time a college is aiming to teach a subject, it is constrained by traditional assessments to favor and select candidates who already know the most about that subject, not necessarily those who would attack and learn the subject with the highest persistence and discipline. Although assessing a dependent variable such as a student’s math skills provides indirect evidence that high-scoring candidates may also possess the independent skills around persistence and struggle that drive math skill acquisition and learning, this causation is by no means certain. Particularly in today’s era of SAT super-scoring where students take standardized tests multiple times and both the student and the school choose the highest score, irrelevant factors such as guessing, statistical anomaly, expensive test coaching, and the family’s capability to pay for multiple tests all blur away the ability of the school to discern the key behavioral traits around consistency, discipline and practice that drive academic and career performance. These test prep techniques and strategies—all overwhelmingly available to richer students and families—thus bias educational testing to the wealthy, further exacerbate our national decline in social mobility, and suppress recognition and educational opportunity for less well-off students who may, in fact, possess superior skills and discipline around practice and struggle.

As the December candidates answered questions on video and then watched and assessed the answers given by others through FocusRing, they not only proved their own authenticity, they also made judgements about the credibility of others in the competition. Unlike essays that can be written and edited by others or standardized tests that can be gamed, the human minds arrayed in a FocusRing collectively ensure authenticity in the results and outcome.

The Importance of Rules of Thumb, Patterns, and Tracking in Practice

The winners of the December StandOut Challenge Interview competition demonstrated high alertness to “mental mapping” and “tracking” when building skills and learning. Mental Mapping describes a person’s appetite for conjuring rules of thumb, shortcuts, key positions, and patterns in mastering new information and skills. For example, first place winner Amber Lehmann revealed the important rule of reaching out to mentors when learning new skills. Second place winner Colin Nguyen explained the importance of “skate position” when gliding through the water. Nina Berhanu, third place winner, described how she consistently tracks her various practices using spread sheets.

The three top-scoring students in December’s StandOut Challenge Interview competition are:

First Place: ($25,000) – Amber Lehmann

Second Place: ($15,000) – Colin Nguyen

Third Place: ($10,000) – Nina Berhanu

Watch the winners’ responses during the December FocusRing scholarship competition here:


Additional StandOut Challenge Interview competitions are underway for January and February 2024. CollegeNET will award a total of $200,000 in scholarships to winners attending schools who are participating in the StandOut Admissions Network. Schools who wish to join with other institutions in the StandOut Admissions Network are welcome to contact CollegeNET.

About CollegeNET

CollegeNET, Inc. has been a prime mover and developer of important new product markets for higher education, including the world’s first automated classroom scheduling system and the first patented system for serving institution-branded web-based admissions forms. Today CollegeNET is pioneering new AI/Supercomputing/Video markets that enhance learning and career opportunities for students and citizens. The company’s new suite of Opportunity Drivers includes StandOut® Intelligent Mirror and StandOut Classroom. Intelligent Mirror provides patented AI voice analysis technology and self-guided practice for job seekers, professionals, and others who want to improve their speaking skills and self-confidence (www.standout.com). StandOut Classroom solves the long-standing “degree pathways” problem by introducing a new, asynchronous learning environment that requires no specification of time or place. CollegeNET systems are now used by more than 1,000 institutions worldwide for event and academic scheduling, virtual classroom instruction, career preparation, college admissions, campus hiring, candidate recruitment, and course evaluation.