From the CEO’s Desk: The Future of Assessment Practices

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Headshot of Tim McClinton, Meazure Learning's CEO
Tim McClinton, Meazure Learning CEO

The testing industry is on the cusp of exciting changes in both higher education and professional credentialing. Emerging trends signal a shift toward assessments that are not just a measure of what has been learned but a seamless and—dare I say—fun part of the learning journey itself. As someone deeply involved in both sectors, I’m optimistic about the direction we’re heading—where assessments actively contribute to, rather than merely judge, educational outcomes.

From my vantage point as CEO of Meazure Learning, I believe the initial shifts we’re already witnessing will not only gain momentum but also become central to our assessment strategies. Throughout this article, I lay out my predictions on the evolving role of assessments and a future where they play an even more meaningful part in both the educational system and the professional credentialing journey.

Prediction #1: Continual Learning and Testing

Gone are the days when assessments were mere checkpoints at the end of a learning journey. The higher education and professional credentialing sectors are now embracing a model where evaluation is a continual process. This shift is blurring the traditional lines between the two sectors, creating a more fluid and integrated experience that caters to the lifelong learner in all of us. As the need to reskill and upskill becomes increasingly critical in the job market, this model of continual assessment directly supports the test-taker journey, ensuring they’re equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive.

I believe the following practices are at the forefront of this shift:

  • Microcredentialing: This practice refers to the granting of certificates or credentials to individuals who have completed a short learning course on a specific subject or skillset and passed a competency-based assessment.
  • Microtesting: Characterized by short, frequent assessments, this approach aims to quickly gauge what test-takers understand and where they need more support.
  • Just-in-time (JIT) testing: This practice is focused on delivering assessments precisely when a test-taker is ready so that they’re tested on concepts right after they’re introduced.
  • Stapling: In this emerging trend, professional certifications can be attached or “stapled” to a traditional degree program, allowing higher-ed students to earn credentials through their institution.
  • Stacking: The accumulation of multiple microcredentials or certifications over time, stacking allows individuals to build a comprehensive portfolio that reflects a broad range of competencies and specialized knowledge within a particular field.
  • Continued education: This practice involves ongoing learning and skill development through activities such as courses, workshops, and seminars. Continued education has long been required of many licensure professions, but it’s gaining traction among other, non-licensure professions as well.

To better understand how these practices intersect, consider the potential pathway of a student who’s enrolled in their university’s computer science program. The institution may partner with an IT professional credentialing provider to “staple” one of their certifications to the degree program, meaning the student could take that certification exam as a part of their curriculum. Successfully passing the exam allows them to graduate with not only their primary degree but also a professional certification. Now, let’s say that recent graduate hopes to specialize in cybersecurity. They may continue to seek additional learning and assessment opportunities to “stack” future certifications or microcredentials together to better demonstrate their focus on cybersecurity and related niche abilities. This strategy not only highlights the individual’s dedication to their chosen field but also enhances their appeal in a very competitive IT job market by showcasing a comprehensive and up-to-date skillset.

Prediction #2: Integration of Interactive and Gamified Elements

A professional man in a suit is interacting with a futuristic digital interface. The interface displays various graphs and analytical data, such as pie charts, bar graphs, and digital maps. The man is facing forward, gesturing with his hands to manipulate the virtual data screens that float in the air in front of him.

We’re already seeing more interactive elements used in testing, such as virtual reality and online skill demonstrations. However, it’s the integration of game mechanics—points, levels, challenges, and badges—that promises to make the testing process more engaging and immersive. Because these elements encourage test-takers to become more involved and motivated, I believe they’ll lead to better understanding and retention of key concepts. This approach not only makes learning more enjoyable but can also improve performance and outcomes by providing immediate feedback and fostering a deeper connection to the material.

Salesforce’s Trailhead program is a standout example of how interactive and gamified elements can transform an educational experience into something engaging and personal. This program is embedded in Salesforce’s training platform and allows users to “choose their own adventure” through various educational “trails”—earning points, badges, and certifications along the way. It gives individuals, teams, and companies an opportunity to upskill, connect with a networking community, and visibly showcase their learning accomplishments on social media.

Prediction #3: Technology Usage to Better Leverage Data

With more exam-related data at our fingertips than ever before, we have an unprecedented ability to measure and predict test-taker performance, identify areas for improvement, and tailor exam content to meet diverse needs. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible. As technology and development capabilities continue to advance, we’ll be able to capture, process, analyze, and interpret data faster and more accurately than ever before. And in doing so, we’ll uncover insights into individual styles, preferences, and challenges, making it possible to adapt the assessment process to each test-taker.

Closing Thoughts

The assessment industry is evolving at an incredible pace. And its continuous evolution is both a challenge and an opportunity—to lead, innovate, and redefine what meaningful assessment practices look like. As leaders in higher education and professional credentialing, we have a responsibility to embrace these opportunities and meet the evolving needs of both our clients and their test-takers.

For a deeper understanding of these trends and opportunities, consider reading “6 Key Themes Shaping the Future of Higher Education” and “5 Most-Pressing Questions Facing Credentialing Today.”