Insights from OEB Global 2023: AI, Microcredentialing & Bridging the Skills Gap

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The OEB Global Conference in Berlin wasn’t just a chance to catch up with partners and clients, and revisit one of our favourite cities; it also offered an abundance of insights into the hottest trends in education and assessment. Here are our main takeaways from this year’s conference: 

1. The AI Revolution

As was to be expected, Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to be a dominant theme, with about half of the conference topics revolving around its impact on education. This trend underscores the growing importance of integrating AI into educational practices, not just as a tool but as a transformative element that aligns education with real-world work expectations and enhances accessibility. Moreover, we should consider both the potential advantages it can bring (don’t miss our webinar on the benefits of AI Marking) and ways to mitigate the risks (see our ebook on AI and Assessment Integrity). 

2. Academic Integrity

Melissa DeWees from Proctorio delivered an eye-opening presentation on maintaining academic integrity. The array of cheating options, from students using Chegg to answer exam questions, to a CHatGPT-powered Chrome extension that will take your multiple choice exam for you, is alarming.

However, research from George Mason University suggests a multi-faceted approach is most effective. This includes:  

  1. Time limits, a strict availability window, required affirmation of the honour code. 
  2. Custom questions and multiple versions of the exam (see our ebook on Linear On the Fly Testing for more information on how to achieve that). 
  3. Video monitoring and a lock-down browser (learn more about Cirrus’ security options here). 

These insights are crucial for testing organisations in maintaining assessment integrity. 

3. Rethinking Assessment

There was also much discussion at the conference around universities exploring alternative assessment methods. The focus is shifting from traditional exams, reflecting a growing recognition of the need for more diverse and comprehensive evaluation techniques.

“While the shift in assessment methods is noteworthy, we believe the core issue lies in the design of these exams. Many currently focus predominantly on lower-level cognitive skills, such as memorisation. We would advocate for a shift towards more authentic testing methods that assess higher-order cognitive skills, including understanding and application, as outlined in Bloom’s taxonomy. Authentic assessments, in our view, should not entirely replace traditional exams but should enhance them. Incorporating more frequent assessment touchpoints, such as microcredentials, can provide a clearer picture of student progression. These could lead to a final exam, which might, for instance, account for 30% of the overall assessment, ensuring a balanced and comprehensive evaluation of student learning.”

4. The Challenge of Microcredentialing

In Thursday’s session ‘Digital Credentials and The Lifelong Learning Backpacker’ by Stuart Martin (George Angus Consulting) and Sabine Zander (imc information multimedia communication), we learnt that digital badging and microcredentialing are still gaining traction. However, challenges remain, particularly in ensuring their cross-border transferability and recognition. Universities are grappling with implementing these systems effectively, indicating a need for clearer frameworks and guidelines.

5. Bridging the Skills Gap

A related, recurring theme was the significant skills gap between the competencies job seekers possess and the specific skills companies require. The European Commission’s efforts in developing a framework for credentials and badging are a step towards addressing this. As technology continues to evolve, creating and replacing jobs, the need for adaptable, skill-based education and assessment becomes increasingly crucial.

“We believe e-assessment is pivotal in closing the skills gap, by streamlining the entire assessment process, from booking to credentialing. It offers test-takers the flexibility to complete exams anywhere and anytime, aligning with their knowledge acquisition and career progression. Microcredentialing further enables individuals to build and showcase a personalised skill set, tailored to their unique career paths, without the limitations of geography or conventional learning schedules.”

5. The RAT Model and Educational Evolution:

During Friday’s opening plenary session, Donald H. Taylor provided a compelling perspective on the pace of change in education. He emphasised that revolution is a gradual process, not an overnight phenomenon. Taylor observed that education, to a large extent, remains in the ‘boombox era’. This metaphor suggests that while there have been improvements in how we educate, the sector has not fully embraced the potential of technology to innovate and transform – to ‘do new things in a new way’.

“In the context of e-assessment, this insight resonates deeply with our application of the RAT (Replacement, Amplification, Transformation) model:

  • Replacement: You perform your usual tasks using alternative tools, such as reading a book in PDF format instead of on paper.
  • Amplification: You begin to recognise the benefits of these new tools, like the time saved by automatic scoring of multiple-choice questions, eliminating the need for manual marking.
  • Transformation: You engage in activities that were previously unfeasible, like conducting authentic tests where candidates can code and have their work automatically evaluated for quality.

Introducing new technologies in education is not just about enhancing existing practices (‘doing old things better’) but more importantly, about redefining what and how we assess. By embracing this model, we aim to lead the shift from traditional assessment methods to more dynamic, technology-driven approaches that reflect the needs of a rapidly changing educational landscape.”

What’s next? 

OEB Berlin provided valuable insights into the future of education and assessment. The conference has not only broadened our perspective but also strengthened our resolve to contribute meaningfully to the ways in which we educate and test learners. E-assessment significantly improves access to education, offering broad societal benefits. When combined with microcredentialing, it becomes a powerful tool in bridging the skills gap. This synergy not only aligns learning with job market demands but also cultivates a workforce that is both skilled and adaptable, enriching society as a whole. 

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Picture of Vegard Sivertsen
Vegard Sivertsen
Cirrus’ founder and CEO is passionate about the potential of EdTech to transform how we teach and assess skills and knowledge.
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