In December 2016, we outlined a series of predictions as to how the assessment landscape would evolve during 2017. In this blog post, we look back at these predictions and ask ourselves what 2018 may have in store.

In a three part series, we envisioned how assessment would evolve from a candidates’ perspective, which technologies would develop, and how people and assessment technologies would grow together throughout the year. A key theme running through was the use of technology to make the learning and assessment experience more personal to the candidate and to the examiner.

Which predictions came true?

In 2016 we predicted an increased focus on real-world assessment, accelerated transition to digital assessment and the use of integrated technology solutions to deliver best-of-breed, end-to-end assessment solutions. Our case study with ICAEW illustrates how an increasing number of awarding bodies are moving in this direction.

We also predicted an increase in non-paper exams marked online, such as multimedia assessments, as well as improved technical abilities for examiners to mark at a place and time to suit them. Our development of RM Assessor³, aims to cater for both of these needs, making coursework and audio/visual exams available to mark on a range of devices including iPads and android tablets from any secure location. Our Mark Anything, Anywhere™ video illustrates this philosophy.

Which predictions are yet to be realised?

Candidate-centricity and tailored candidate experiences in assessment and feedback are still not the norm. However we can see an ever increasing focus on this area – with student satisfaction high on the agenda in higher education, professional and vocational sectors.

Computers are increasingly able to learn in much the same way as humans thanks to the increase in data and machine power. It’s due to this explosion of data that has allowed artificial intelligence (AI) to rapidly advance over the last few years. AI gives computers the ability to see (facial recognition software), read (analyse big data) and speak (for example how Alexa and Siri are able to talk back to you). However, what humans can bring is critical thinking, a vital skill for future workforces. AI also cannot judge art or music the way humans do as they lack the emotion needed to develop expert opinion.

Even though AI has its limitations, we can see a future where AI can resolve some of the issues faced by the assessment industry, for example augmenting the marking of exams. We know this will not happen quickly for more complex exams involving essay-based answers, but will be a gradual process over a period of time. Our ‘Five level model for the adoption of machine marking’ illustrates the different stages of automation, including what each stage may look like, which processes are likely to be automated and the likely level of human intervention at each level.

Trends that we think will shape the assessment landscape in 2018

It’s not always possible to predict the future. However, by reviewing market trends it is possible to make an educated guess to what the future may hold. In this section we predict what the coming year will hold in the world of assessment, from widening of access to qualifications to increased use of machine learning and AI.

I think that 2018 will see a widening of access to assessment (through ongoing political reform, social mobility and technology advancements), whilst at the same time a real focus on the currency of the assessment and the certification it brings.” Predicts James Redgate, Head of Business Development.

“For example in higher education, this means much more focus will be placed on candidate feedback mechanisms, where students can effectively ‘feed forward’ into their next assessment.”

Katherine Lancaster, Development manager shares a similar opinion, where she believes that access to assessment will become more easily attainable for those in isolated locations:

“Increasingly students are learning online and often in remote locations where they are unable to easily access traditional testing facilities. This development is particularly welcome where it can empower and enrich the lives of students who may not otherwise have had access to traditional Higher, Further or Professional Educational facilities. I would predict that 2018 will see an even further increase on the prevalence of digital exams and more specifically increasing advancements in remote proctoring in order to ensure the security of Assessments.”

It is undeniable that the use of on-screen proctoring and assessment will further increase over the coming year. For Steve Harrington, Account Director, who is part of our international sales team, he believes that “we will see more awarding bodies embarking on pathfinder projects to introduce innovative on-screen assessment and marking for high stakes exams – and look to technology providers to bring exciting, innovative solutions to the table; not necessarily in a race to the top, but to prevent them from falling behind a global trend of embracing technology in a traditionally risk averse sector.”

2017 was a year for firsts in robotics: from commercial breakthroughs of driverless vehicles (the world’s first self-driving truck made its first delivery in November 2017), to a robot getting citizenship. 2018 looks set to be a springboard year, with an increased use of AI.

“In 2018 it’s clear to me that we will each directly and indirectly experience more AI in our lives – whether its facial recognition that indexes all our smartphone photos or backend services that protect us from cybercrime – that we will increasingly accept AI as the norm” states Paul Metcalfe, Senior Product Manager.

In turn, I believe, this will effectively give permission to the assessment sector to start to seriously explore AI for marking and, in particular, I predict that candidates/centres/regulatory bodies will all generally agree that this is acceptable. I’m not talking about full marking of candidate responses here yet; I’m talking about the use of AI to support marking – i.e. up to Level 2 of the RM Results’Five Level Model for the adoption of Machine Learning in Marking.”

Nick Hope, Development Manager agrees with Paul, and sees data playing a much larger role: “With a focus on Machine Learning at RM Results, I predict that we’ll be exploring what data we need to capture to support the assessment and marking experience through AI technologies. Exactly where this will take us during 2018 isn’t necessarily clear yet – which makes it all the more interesting!

Over the next year it will be interesting to see which of our predictions come true. If you have any assessment related predictions for 2018, we’d love to hear them. Tweet us at @RM_Results or find us on LinkedIn.