Openness and the Future of Assessment

I had the good fortune of being invited to speak at the ETS Future of Assessment internal conference today. The slides are available at slideshare, but here are the three main points from my talk today.

“Badges are not assessments.” OER provide a huge content infrastructure on which educational innovations can be built more quickly and less expensively than before OER existed. The Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI) provides a standard, interoperable system for issuing, managing, and displaying credentials on which educational innovations can be built more quickly and less expensively than before OBI existed. However, no one is paying sufficient attention to the gap between learning anything anywhere (OER) and receiving a recognition (OBI) – this gap is called “assessment.” A badge is not an assessment anymore than a blue ribbon is a foot race. Someone has to pay attention to designing the assessments, experiences, and challenges people will complete in order to EARN badges. There is a huge opportunity for “open assessment infrastructure” in this chasm between OER and OBI.

“Assessment as status update.” People already invest significant effort updating Facebook statuses, tweeting, writing book and product reviews, blogging, uploading videos, etc. Given the opportunity, people will complete simple in-place assessments in order to let the world know what they’re learning from what they’re reading / watching. In addition to the existing “status update” motivations already driving people’s behavior, lots of organizations have a vested interest in seeing this body of data come into existence. Assessment will be ubiquitous in the very near future.

“Browser history as high stakes exam.” If an entity like ETS can establish predictive validity around different performance / behavior patterns and college completion or success, one can easily imagine submitting their usernames for Google Web History, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Blogs, Google Reader, YouTube, etc. IN PLACE OF taking a four hour high stakes exam like the ACT or GRE. Why make a high stakes decision based on a few hundred data points generated in one morning (when you could be sick, distracted, etc.) when you could get 1,000,000 data points generated over three years? Organizations that can figure out how to leverage big, messy data will win. While some will run the other direction screaming “privacy!,” many people will opt to take this non-test path into college. The precedent exists in our willingness to give all our financial data to companies like LifeLock or Mint to monitor against identity theft or recommend better products to us. When sufficient value is available, we are typically willing to pay with personal data.