SBRI contract enables firm that pioneered online assessment to trial a new application that gives live feedback to pupils.
A business that has pioneered innovative online assessment of learners is now breaking new ground with a product that provides live feedback to students and could help to improve educational standards.
DigitalAssess is trialling its new FormativeAssess web-based application in 10 schools with the support of an SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) contract.
The trials follow an initial feasibility study that found the system would work and suggested that there would be significant demand for it within the education market.
Students can question an avatar on their device – in the form of a rubber duck, robot or building block – and receive individual feedback about their work.
The system uses semantic indexing and natural language processing in a similar way to social media networks that provide intelligent advertising to users.
Karim Derrick, a former teacher and now chief academic and innovation officer at Digital Assess, said:
When you are a busy teacher and there are lots of children asking lots of questions in project work, there’s a tendency to close their questions down, simply because you don’t have the time to address every individual.
What we have is a system designed to question student thinking, not to simply give them the answer. In this way it opens up their thinking.
The system is being tested mainly in secondary schools and on design and technology courses. The company believes it could be a key tool in raising educational standards.
Digital Assess is also expecting to work with some commercial partners on a mathematics-based version and on another to help job-hunters improve CV-writing and interview preparation.
The London-based business, which employs 14 in the UK and 17 at a subsidiary in India, believes it is one of few companies breaking new ground in its field.
Its success in providing online assessment of students’ work with the likes of Cambridge Assessment, Oxford University Press and AQA Education, and its innovative approach to new fields, recently helped DigitalAssess to raise $3 million from new and existing investors to expand its business.
Its chief executive, Dan Sandhu, was also named one of the top 100 most influential edtech leaders globally.
Karim added: “We believe the total global market for our type of product is about £3.5 billion. Most of that is at present being spent on rather blunt assessment technologies. We don’t think full use is being made of the potential for innovation.”
“If we look around at the companies we compete with, there’s not much innovation going on. SBRI opens up opportunities for companies like ours to explore new markets.”
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