Live, Continuous Testing in Higher Education – How Tech is Changing the Way We Teach

Tech has always had a pronounced impact on how we teach – from prehistoric times of passing on survival skills to Johannes Gutenberg’s 1450 invention of the printing press to the most recent two decade push in online education.  Tech within a classroom continues to change with the advent of teaching aids like smartboards and software solutions like blackboard and recent pushes in massive open online courses which are once again redefining how we think about organized higher education.

Today, companies like Knewton are working with universities like Arizona State University to create adaptive learning environments that take advantage of the ability to capture and analyze “big data” (see The New Intelligence in Insider Higher Ed). These new approaches are building adaptive learning systems that essentially measure how much time a given student spends on a particular concept and how well they do on related tests and assignments.  It can then make recommendations specific to the individual.  Modern approaches also restrict students from moving to new material until they have sufficiently mastered a given concept – allowing for individualized timelines.

Approaches likes this could even be developed for live classroom settings wherein short quizzes are built into the curriculum.  With every student having a tablet, smartphone, or computer, deployment and grading of the quiz would be easy and it would force students to stay focused in a classroom that is increasingly dominated by technological distractions.  It would also provide real-time feedback to the instructor on how well students are learning the subject.

College courses and university degrees have long provided a signal to the labor market, but most agree they say less about what one exactly knows. As new data-driven approaches begin to not only test a myriad of concepts, but also record a variety of metrics about one’s ability to master each of those concepts it isn’t difficult to envision an educational world that is driven by thousands of metrics as opposed to one single course listing and a corresponding grade.