Can E-Assessment Help Bridge The Skills Gap? 

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The skills gap, it’s a term that is never far from discussions about the modern workforce among educators, employers, and policymakers. This persistent issue, where job seekers’ skills don’t align with what employers urgently need, is particularly evident in sectors like technology and healthcare, where rapid advancements demand constant skill updates. According to the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs Report 2023, an estimated 44% of workers’ skills are expected to be disrupted within the next five years due to factors such as automation and AI, underlining a pressing need for adaptable learning and assessment processes. This makes continuous learning not just beneficial but essential for career longevity. 

Meeting Modern Educational Needs

Tapping into this escalating skills shortage presents a significant opportunity for professional testing organisations. With demand surging from workers, corporations, and governments alike, there’s a clear and urgent call for innovative educational solutions. Traditional course offerings often fail to meet the current educational needs due to two primary challenges: firstly, the difficulty for individuals to fit education and testing into their busy schedules, balancing work and family commitments; and secondly, the rapid pace at which skill requirements evolve, potentially rendering the skills taught in a traditional course outdated by its completion.

On-demand micro-credential courses and assessments are available online at any time, allowing workers to learn and be evaluated at their own pace and schedule, and fitting easily into their daily lives. With short, focused modules designed to target specific skill gaps, these courses are not only quicker to develop but also easily adjustable to keep pace with changing industry requirements. And importantly, the credentials earned can be used right away, helping workers advance their careers quickly.

Testing organisations that leverage this model can tap into a fast-growing market and distinguish themselves as forward-thinking, responsive providers. Moreover, by harnessing automated processes, they enhance operational efficiency, manage a larger number of candidates with fewer resources, reduce costs, and achieve quicker scalability of services to meet market demands. The key to successfully implementing on-demand learning lies in taking advantage of advanced e-assessment technologies. These not only facilitate the operational aspects of on-demand learning and assessment but also enhance the learning experience itself, making education more accessible and effective.

The Role of E-Assessment Technology

E-assessment technology is integral to delivering on-demand micro-credential courses that effectively meet current workforce needs. Here’s how each component of an integrated end-to-end e-assessment platform plays a vital role:

  1. Exam Booking: The exam booking system is a cornerstone of an efficient e-assessment platform. By integrating advanced scheduling systems, learners can easily book their examination slots at their convenience, which is crucial for accommodating the varied schedules of working professionals. This flexibility not only reduces administrative overhead but also significantly lowers operational costs. It enables testing organisations to scale their offerings dynamically as demand fluctuates, ensuring resources are optimally utilised without compromising service quality.
  2. Exam Creation: The creation of exams within a modern e-assessment platform leverages sophisticated item banking tools that allow for rapid updates and adjustments to the exam content. This adaptability is essential for staying current with industry changes and regulatory updates. Furthermore, advanced platforms support a variety of question types and facilitate secure collaboration with subject matter experts from around the globe, ensuring that the exams are not only comprehensive and challenging but also directly relevant to real-world applications. This global input enriches the content and ensures it meets high educational and practical standards.
  3. Exam Delivery: Secure and flexible exam delivery is critical in an on-demand learning environment. The better e-assessment platforms provide robust security measures that protect the integrity of the exams while allowing for a flexible examination timetable. Features such as Linear on the Fly Testing, which offers unique, randomised tests to each examinee, and strong anti-cheating protocols ensure that each assessment is fair and secure. This setup supports a learner-centred approach, accommodating individual needs without compromising the quality or security of the assessment process.
  4. Marking & Analysis: Automated marking systems are a game-changer, providing immediate feedback that is crucial for learners looking to quickly adjust their study approaches. The incorporation of AI technologies enhances the precision and speed of marking, delivering high-quality feedback that helps learners understand their performance in real-time. Moreover, continuous analysis of assessment data enables testing organisations to refine and update course content continuously, ensuring it remains relevant as industry demands evolve.
  5. Credentialing: The final step in the e-assessment process is credentialing, where successful learners receive digital certificates that provide verifiable proof of their competencies. These credentials are key to enhancing employability, as they are recognised by employers and can be easily shared. This instant verification significantly benefits learners by providing them with the qualifications needed to advance their careers straight away.

Case Study: AKAD’s Innovative Approach to E-Assessment

In a real-world application of these principles, AKAD University has exemplified how effective the integration of advanced e-assessment technologies can be. AKAD has developed a robust e-assessment system that caters to over 11,500 students, providing on-demand, randomised exams that are tailored to individual learning paths and needs. This system allows exams to be taken at any time and from any location, which is crucial for accommodating the busy schedules of working students. The flexibility offered by AKAD’s use of Cirrus’s blueprint and Linear On the Fly Testing technology means that courses and exams can quickly adapt to the fast-evolving industry requirements, ensuring that the education delivered is always relevant and up-to-date.

AKAD’s implementation has led to a significant decrease in student fail rates by 50% across the board while maintaining consistent exam difficulty, illustrating the effectiveness of their personalised approach. Additionally, the ability to provide immediate, actionable feedback has helped reduce exam anxiety among students, contributing to better learning outcomes. This success was recognised when AKAD won the e-Learning Award 2022 in the ‘Assessment’ category, highlighting their innovative use of technology to enhance educational assessment.

While the benefits of on-demand micro-credential courses are clear, implementing these programs is not without its challenges. These include issues related to infrastructure setup, scalability, security, and credential integrity, each of which requires careful consideration and strategic planning.

Challenges & Solutions in Adopting On-Demand Learning 

A cloud-based e-assessment platform significantly alleviates concerns around technological infrastructure and scalability. With cloud technology, organisations benefit from elastic scalability, which adjusts resources based on demand. This dynamic adaptability ensures that as enrollment varies, the platform can effortlessly support a growing number of users without any decline in performance. Additionally, the security and maintenance of these platforms are often managed by the provider, reducing the operational burden on your IT staff and ensuring that data integrity and privacy are upheld to the highest standards.

However, beyond the technical infrastructure, there are key areas that require diligent management:

Security and Privacy Concerns

It’s crucial to complement your e-assessment’s platform security protocols with stringent internal measures. Implementing role-based access control (RBAC) ensures that staff can access only the data necessary for their specific roles, minimising the risk of internal security breaches. Regular training on security best practices and updates on data privacy laws help staff understand and manage their responsibilities effectively. Additionally, conducting independent security audits and compliance checks ensures adherence to international standards like GDPR. 

Credential Verification and Integrity

Utilising blockchain technology enhances the security and authenticity of issued credentials, making them tamper-proof and easily verifiable by employers, thereby increasing their value and credibility. Additionally, integrating secure proctoring solutions ensures that assessments are conducted fairly, maintaining the integrity of the credentialing process.

Quality of Content and Assessment

Maintaining high-quality, up-to-date content is crucial. By establishing a systematic process for regular content reviews and updates, and involving industry experts and practitioners, you can ensure that your material remains relevant and accurate. Additionally, implementing mechanisms to collect and analyse learner feedback allows for informed improvements, ensuring the courses meet evolving needs. Adhering to established quality assurance standards and seeking certification from recognised accrediting bodies further enhances the credibility and acceptance of your on-demand courses. 

By effectively addressing these challenges, testing organisations can deliver on-demand micro-credential courses that not only meet the demands for flexibility and accessibility but also maintain rigorous standards of quality and security. This comprehensive approach ensures that your educational offerings remain relevant, competitive, and aligned with the needs of both learners and employers in a dynamic professional landscape.

Take the first step towards revolutionising your learning and assessment methods. Contact us today to discover how the Cirrus platform can facilitate the delivery of on-demand micro-credential courses for your organisation, helping you pave the way for a smarter, more capable tomorrow.

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Dani van Weert
Cirrus' Marketing Specialist Dani is interested in how we can make technological advances work for us, to improve education and make it more accessible.
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