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The Future World of Assessment

June 26, 2020

The current way of assessing using paper and a ball-point pen in a standardised format is slowly eroding—and has been for years. There’s a greater need for assessments to evolve and adapt to fit the needs of students, teachers and industry alike, and in many circumstances it seems only an online environment can achieve this.

Assessment is in need of reform, not only because of changing technologies, environments and a certain global pandemic, but because many assessments don’t assess the full range of valued outcomes. These ‘twenty-first-century skills’ are:

  • practical, laboratory and fieldwork;
  • speaking and listening;
  • higher-order cognitive processes; and
  • a range of inter- and intra-personal competencies.[1]

Each student has their own individual needs, which assessment and learning need to be tailored and personalised in order to create the most effective learning experience. This is a lot to handle for teachers and trainers, but technology can lend a helping hand and transform the current learning experience into a future you might imagine in a sci-fi movie.

Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and 360° Cameras

Assessment is moving towards an immersive experience. When a student is participating in work-based learning they may feel pressured in a real-world environment to not make mistakes. VR and AR can allow students to experience the same real-world scenario or event without fear of real-world consequences.

Tailoring assessment to the type of student and study is viewed by many education experts as important. Sir Ken Robinson talked about a young girl who everyone thought had a learning problem as she couldn’t keep still in class, who then became a famous choreographer after a doctor advised her to go to a dance school—the lesson being everyone has their own unique make-up, talents and character. We can see how assessment has responded to cases like this over time, with examples such as in this Jisc UK study where dance students were assessed using 360° cameras rather than writing an essay—showing assessment capabilities are broader than one might think, and are able to be specifically catered to all fields of training and study.

“You have to think about your learner. If you’ve got performing arts students, and you’re asking them to write an essay, they’re like little jumping beans. They want to be up and about performing. So, give them a tool that allows them to demonstrate those strengths and their knowledge.” - Deborah Miller, Group Executive Director of Digital Learning Technology at the Grimsby Institute

AI

Artificial Intelligence could be one of the key tools in a learning journey for students and teachers. The unique capabilities of AI will mean it will be able to:

  • Adaptively guide students through learning content
  • Comprehend students’ current state of understanding and motivation
  • Tailor the learning experience to students’ capabilities and needs
  • Help educators see the micro-steps students go through in learning and the common misconceptions that arise.

But how do we control cheating?

A concern for moving more and more assessment online is cheating. Between 2014 and 2018, there was a 15.7% rise in the number of students who admitted cheating in an online test[2].

Some of the tools to control impersonation are:

  • Biometric data: such as face recognition and fingerprints
  • Educational data forensics: look at unusual response patterns in online tests as indicators of potential cheating.
  • Writing-style tools: writing style can be compared to previous work using applications such as écree and Elute Intelligence. According to Jisc, researchers go so far as to suggest that keystroke dynamics represent a highly individual ‘fingerprint’ that could be compared against a previous sample.
  • Online invigilation: with applications such as Proctor U and Examity.

However, there are many privacy and consent concerns from students that have arisen from these tools which is an issue that many students feel has not been addressed with enough urgency or reference to students’ opinions.

Data and Learning Analytics

All of these technologies can give us something paramount to development: data.

Data and learning analytics can help educators to further understand students’ study-related behaviours, see comparisons between students, personalise learning, and improve assessment through feedback.

Check out this school which is already putting some of these tools into practice.

In the VET industry, these new technologies will be incredibly useful. One of the biggest issues in VET as identified by NCVER is that employers and industry are not seeing students graduating as ‘work-ready’[3]. With VR and AR, work-based learning can be more accessible for more students, and employers can be involved in designing the virtual experience.

It’s clear that the current way of assessment is changing and we’re already seeing positive results from across the globe from using these new technologies. There are so many possibilities for how the VET industry will use these technologies, with potential for improvements and change on the rise.

References:

  1. 2014, “Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment”, Pearson
  2. 2020, “The future of assessment: five principles, five targets for 2025”, Jisc UK
  3. 2016, “Work-based learning and work-integrated learning: fostering engagement with employers”, NCVER

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