Learning Assessment: In a State of Flux
The situation has made it urgent for educators and assessors to digitize many of their educational products and services to both protect their existing revenue streams and open up new segments and geographies. As in other industries, the pandemic has driven the imperative to become software-centric. How well educators and assessment companies deliver quality software and software products that address current needs will determine their revenue, costs and customer satisfaction going forward.
Even prior to the coronavirus, the learning and assessment space was undergoing significant shifts. Education providers seek to create unified and embedded learner experiences and products with a focus on life-long learning and delivery of tailored skills-based learning to address the needs of the 21st century. Increasingly, the focus is on blended and immersive learning experiences that adapt to learner needs. The one-size-fits-all approach to assessment no longer works. “Assessment for” is now more important than “assessment of.” Assessments have become formative as opposed to summative, providing a more useful indication of the test taker’s ability to apply a particular skill set.
At all levels, learner expectations of effective learning are shifting from achieving certificates to developing skills such as critical thinking, entrepreneurial skills, and collaborative communication along with social engagement.
The Rationale for Digital Assessment
The shift from traditional “paper and pencil” to next-generation digital assessments drives increased flexibility, responsiveness and contextualization, which are critical in the face of the exigencies faced by educational providers, which should act now to implement or incorporate the following:
- Embedded and contextualized learning. One of the key lessons from the pandemic is that assessment organizations and schools still cannot assume student evaluation will happen following the assessment period. The pedagogy needs to shift to continuous evaluation so that the impact of unforeseen situations can be minimized without affecting student learning.
- Continued demand for online delivery of assessments. The last few years have seen an intense focus on online ways of delivering student assessment. This now becomes still more prevalent and covers even high-stakes assessments, given the current situation.
- Adaptive teaching approach. Both teaching and assessment should be flexible to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the learner. Assessment organizations must understand the student’s potential and interests and deliver accordingly. Real-time evaluation and feedback powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics provides opportunities to address student needs and shortcomings immediately, rather than waiting for exam results as is the case in traditional assessment delivery models.
- Simulations/graphical/video representation. Online channels are a good fit for delivering assessment questions represented via simulations and video representations. These make it easier for students to comprehend and provide responses. For example, the University of Newcastle leveraged virtual reality to create immersive training in the latest childbirth techniques.
A Wealth of Advanced Technologies Aids Assessments
A software-centric approach driven by more agile approaches to building assessments and learning experiences using pods, guilds, enabled by deeper forms of automation, through DevOps and the like, would deliver on the promise of digital engineering. Technology tools are helping educational providers and assessment companies achieve many of their business objectives — everything from providing digital assessments in the COVID era to creating more engaging and personalized learner experiences:
- AR/VR tools. As mentioned above, universities and assessment providers are applying augmented reality and virtual reality as a means to develop immersive learning experiences that enhance learner comprehension and knowledge acquisition rates.
- Adaptive learning platforms. Taking a data-driven approach to learner development by continuously analyzing learner performance via big data analytics and modifying course content/teaching methods to provide learning pathways better fits current knowledge levels.
- Learning analytics tools help schools and higher-education institutions track, capture, model and analyse learning, personal, academic and other data acquired over a learner’s lifetime to facilitate interventions, provide recommendations and ultimately improve learner outcomes.
- Blended learning. As they have learned all too well in recent months, it is now critical for learning providers to develop blended learning models that combine in-person and digital modalities. In-person classroom teaching is not obsolete, but it is at a premium.
In-person time should be reserved for problem solving, discussion and group work while leveraging digital learning tools to support personalized, self-paced learning.
In a world reeling from the coronavirus outbreak, educational and assessment organizations are engineering digital solutions to meet pressing challenges. But the digital learning curve has proved steep. We have helped a number of education and assessment providers leverage digital technologies to personalize user experience, enable robust remote assessment and fortify contextual learning. The next instalments in this series will discuss our work helping providers overcome today’s challenges by becoming software-centric and devising new ways of building assessments and learning experiences, positioning them for growth.
This article was written by Marcin Remarczyk, Manoj Chawla, Daniel Liddy and Nitin Kumar of the Cognizant Consulting Practice UK.
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