An increasing number of Edtech startups are developing software to measure students’ performance in class, and better to support the learning process.
Technology is increasingly penetrating the classroom and also changing the way we learn both inside and outside school. Educational approaches such as ‘blended learning’ and the ‘flipped classroom’ are making strides,and – with the help of advanced technology – redefining the ways that teachers and students interact. These new learning techniques call not only for an overhaul of course content but also of the way in which student performance is monitored and assessed. Accordingly, we are now seeing a number of education products focusing particularly on assessment. A perfect illustration of this trend is the recently-announced partnership between education technology startup Knewton, which designs interactive-adaptive educational tools that enable continuous, real-time assessment of pupil performance, and education publishing giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), a company which creates teaching materials.
Different approaches, different models
An increasing number of educational software are hence developing new assessment methods, that each represent a different approach to blended learning. Knewton has developed an adaptive learning technology that provides full insights on a student’s performance: “what they know, how well they know it” and also how they learn best. “A child might be better at understand maths with he leans with rich media” the site explains. The company’s tools can be adapted to each learner’s individual needs, whether s/he’s in the K12 (primary and secondary education) system, studying at a higher education institute, or pursuing professional development. By partnering with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Knewton is extending its offering to millions of young Americans. Meanwhile NewsCorps has developed Amplify- a tablet and its software, specifically designed for education that provides a seamless, integrated learning experience in class. Amplify’s approach to student assessment takes the form of short quizzes at the end of every session, and the results are transmitted in real time to the teacher. Learning Catalytics, a startup out of Harvard University, assesses students in real-time to help teachers form study groups of the same level and also uses student-to-student assessment.
Real-time assessment, efficient teacher support
The purpose behind these new ways of tracking student progress is to improve their performance in a systematic way. Traditional assessment methods are usually based on ad hoc tests with a fairly limited format which does not provide very accurate measurement of how the student is progressing. With this in mind, the performance-tracking models that have been developed recently are based on a more continuous form of assessment with a view to checking progress more systematically. The new types of assessment also have more varied and interactive formats which give a broader picture of the student’s attained level. The other goal of those softwares is to create assessement methods that are relevant to today’s emerging blended teaching methods, which use connected devices and interactive content. The results, which are more granular, are transmitted in real time to the teacher, who can then step in, help the student to make the necessary adjustments and iron out misunderstandings before they take root. And at a time when the US government is trying to optimize its education model, this type of solution could well also turn out to be highly cost-efficient. Of course, adoption of such software highly depends on the adoption of hardware, which is expensive for public schools.