CENTURY Tech launches Smart AI™ – FE News
CENTURY Tech has released the first version of an all-new Functional Skills Initial Assessment (IA) tool: Smart IA™. In 2021, CENTURY received a grant from the Ufi VocTech Trust (Ufi) as part of its challenge to help build the confidence of learners most at risk of economic and digital exclusion. The adaptive technology of a smart intake tool, along with its user-friendly interface, can help learners overcome barriers and support a simple and efficient process for course providers and college administrators.
What is an “intelligent” artificial intelligence?
“Smart” or adaptive AI is a smart digital initial assessment tool for new entrants into the FE sector. In order to progress through higher education, most students undertake an initial assessment in maths and English so that they can be assigned to the right courses at the appropriate level.
Students come to higher education institutions and training providers at different levels and ages, from teenagers who have recently taken their GCSEs to adult learners who may not have taken formal exams for many years. A rigid and inflexible one-size-fits-all approach, often necessary due to the logistical challenges of introducing a large new cohort, can be detrimental to some newcomers.
The CENTURY Adaptive Assessment Tool learns from students as they answer questions. The tool recommends easier or more difficult questions based on the student’s previous answers, so that the assessment can give an accurate picture of the student’s level of ability. This data is then transmitted instantly to the course manager, who can then assign each student to math and English lessons at the appropriate level.
The learner’s journey
Initial assessments can be a logistical challenge for providers, especially those whose learners take off-site training such as apprenticeships or those who are asked to undertake the assessments at home before their course begins. By designing a bespoke and simple interface, all learners need is access to an internet-enabled device and their login credentials.
After being registered by their college or provider, all a learner needs to do is click on the link to the CENTURY platform where they can log in. The only two options available to him will be the Smart Initial Assessment option in Maths and English, with both available immediately.
Each assessment should take no longer than half an hour. Adaptive technology boosts learner confidence and focus by ensuring they are not pushed down a rabbit hole of questions they are unable to answer or that are far too easy.
When completed, the test displays a message congratulating the student for completing the initial assessment. Results are uploaded to their tutor’s account in real time, with accurate feedback, removing any need for data interpretation or scoring. They can then assign each learner to a course at the appropriate level, either as results come in or in batches.
When the learner has been assigned to a course, they will be presented with the appropriate diagnostic tests the next time they log in. Once the diagnostics are complete, CENTURY will select an individual personalized learning path for that student to begin, allowing for a streamlined and nearly seamless approach. progress of the student from the initial evaluation to his course.
Why develop Smart IA™?
CENTURY has been working with the FE industry since 2018, looking for new ways to use our industry-leading technology and agile approach to benefit an industry that has lacked innovation for over a decade. Ufi has provided funding to 14 organizations, including CENTURY, to develop technology to improve accessibility, create a supportive learning environment, improve assessment, and provide personalization and motivation increased to begin or continue learning.
In addition to CENTURY’s award-winning content for GCSE Maths and English, bespoke content has been produced for Functional Skills. Our team of curriculum experts regularly updates and adds to all our content so that it reflects the latest curricula and reforms, cutting-edge neuroscience, and modern educational practices. On the other hand, some older platforms still have poorly documented neuromyths such as the “learning styles” model.
Along with the CENTURY content, vendors could use the advanced diagnostic tests for initial evaluation during the development of the new smart tool. Many of our partners, such as the City of Wolverhampton College, appreciated the breadth of detailed data provided, but responded that the speed and simplicity of a purpose-built, accurate adaptive AI tool would be more useful and efficient in the long run. term. We listened to their feedback and started the development of Smart IA™.
The FE sector was quick to embrace the technology. Numerical assessments and even platforms using recommendation engines to select appropriate questions have been in use for several years. However, the infrastructure of many of them is now outdated and the accuracy of the tests imperfect, leading many students to take courses that are either too easy or too difficult. An adaptive tool that uses machine learning to accurately understand each student’s level would greatly reduce the chances of a student being assessed inaccurately and placed on the wrong course.
There are other barriers to learning beyond course administration. Many learners come to FE either after struggling with exams or not having attended for several years. Faced with two assessments upon arrival, or even before, the process can be discouraging for newcomers.
Trust can also be an issue. Ufi’s VocTech Challenge white paper said lack of trust was a major barrier to professional learning for those most at risk of economic and digital exclusion. This can be exacerbated by a less adaptive recommendation engine that can guide a learner through several successive questions that are too difficult. In our research, one learner told us that the experience of getting three questions wrong in a row on their first initial assessment was “demotivating”.
Adaptive testing technology will not only be a game changer for the FE sector. Earlier this year, the head of Ofqual, Dr Jo Saxton, said adaptive assessment technology could help remove the ‘ceiling’ on GCSEs at multiple levels and improve outcomes for pupils who would otherwise need to iron. The AQA review board is currently conducting a digital assessment trial in 100 schools which will include an adaptive element.
However, while advanced adaptive assessments can be much more effective and accurate in determining a student’s current proficiency level, there are broader questions about the fairness and rigor of custom testing for high-stakes national exams. , such as GCSEs. Regardless of how adaptive testing is implemented in the future, however, there are clear opportunities for smart assessment technology to improve outcomes for students who are currently not achieving their potential due to systemic barriers.
And then ?
Over the coming year, once Smart IA™ has been rolled out to a number of universities and training providers, CENTURY will work with Ufi VocTech to further develop the tool. This will involve collecting a lot of data to continue improving the adaptability, accuracy and personalization of assessments. This can then feed into CENTURY’s personalized learning path once students are assigned to the correct course.
For more information on CENTURY Smart AI™ tool and our work in the FE sector see here.
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