Sunday, 8 November 2009

08. Online assessment

I thought I would be a little provocative today and mention about online assessment. (Readers please note that I have a commercial interest in online assessment, so my opinions may be biased!)

If there are 1,000,000 new school entrants every year in the UK, and 10% are dyslexic, that is 100,000 dyslexic kids. So, surprising as it may sound, we could solve the problem of assessments with just 500 assessors (assuming one assessment per day for 200 days a year). The problem with the maths is that we would have to have identified who to assess first (using an assessor?) and that these are all in accessible places. The alternative is to use mass evaluation of all kids, rather than just a select few. But, you say, don’t you mean screening? That depends on your point of view. If a computer can give the same degree of accuracy of, say, memory as a human assessor, do you need to be paying £100 an hour for the face-to-face service? (A human assessor is not as reliable as we may think. At least a computer is consistent!)

But what about support for those identified? Shouldn’t there be somebody on hand to provide emotional support? Yes, I agree. Therefore, at least in the short term, until we have a real Turing machine (where the you cannot tell if the support is human or computer, as is already happening in medical services) for me the concept of online screening/testing/assessment/evaluation is about combining human resources with computer resources to provide a service that is cost effective and easy to implement. For me, it is not about computers. It is about identifying the needs of dyslexic individuals and delivery of appropriate support as soon as possible and in the most effective way. It may not be perfect, but isn't it better than nothing?

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