Last month, twenty-three ACT team members representing departments across the organization attended the Association of Test Publishers (ATP) Innovations in Testing Conference alongside more than 1200 assessment professionals in San Antonio, Texas.  It was an exciting three days of learning, networking, exchanging ideas with friends and colleagues, and showcasing ACT products and research innovations.  The Innovations Conference is one of the largest gatherings in the testing business and attracts assessment professionals from all different segments of the industry.  Attendees ranged from educational test developers to professional certification and licensure testing agencies, to employment and talent assessment experts and workforce skills credentialing providers, as well as psychological and clinical assessment companies.

The conference programming reflected the rapid changes happening in the assessment industry. Technological advances and increasing computer processing horsepower have transformed the testing business.  A cursory search of the keyword “machine learning” in the conference program yielded sessions across multiple areas of practice and expertise.  Machine learning algorithms are being used today in personnel selection, language learning, I/O testing and adaptive learning.  This is something hard to imagine just a decade ago.  Alongside many other industries, automation is making a significant impact on our industry, and Automatic Item Generation (AIG) was a hot topic at the conference.  Practitioners from medical credentialing boards, allied health testing organizations, nursing education agencies and test vendor organizations all shared experiences and methods of using AIG to enhance their testing programs.  Not only can items be generated automatically with cognitive mapping templates, items can also be scored automatically using machine learning algorithms.  For example, our colleagues from the U.S. and Canadian Certified Public Accountants agencies shared their research on automated essay scoring.

In a changing assessment industry, ACT is at the forefront of innovation.  In our Platinum Sponsor session, The Evolution of Educational Testing from Summative Tests to Learning and Assessment Systems, CEO Marten Roorda and Senior Vice President Alina von Davier presented a vision for the future of testing to a standing-room only crowd.  In Marten’s vision of the future, assessment is adaptive, holistic, real-time, authentic, stealth, interactive and open.  Adaptive learning will become the new normal.  The future of testing will integrate learning, making tests fun and engaging.  Fortunately, the future is already here at ACT.  Alina presented several innovations at ACT that are turning the vision of assessment future into reality.  These innovations included the ACT Holistic Framework, the ACTNext Educational Companion app prototype, automated content generation, the science learning adaptive system, collaborative problem solving, and the use of data cube to organize student data.  It is an exciting time in the testing profession.  Marten often quoted William Gibson “the future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed”.  Here at ACT we are innovating and collaborating with colleagues from different fields to realize this bold vision for education and assessment, and continue to help people achieve education and workplace success.

Ada Woo

Sr. Director
Strategy Implementation and Operations