Most computer-based learning systems for Functional Skills (and other courses) have tended to track “progress” by giving students tasks to undertake and then monitoring whether they have been completed. Unfortunately, the term “completed” is subjective as merely accessing a resource can at times render it “complete”. Another problem with “progress” tracking is that it is merely a checklist and tells us nothing about whether the tasks that have been prescribed have improved the student’s ability. Most knowledge testing in a resource is incomplete, hence the data thereby provided is limited in use. As a result, a better approach would be to track “improvement” rather than “progress”, as that is the real metric that we are interested in.
To create a reliable system for tracking improvement, there first needs to be accurate and precise measurement which allows for the detection of even small advances. For example, a student could be measured as being E3.2 (fairly low Entry 3), and then as E3.4 (almost halfway), and then again as E3.7 (well on the way to Level 1). Whilst the student has stayed at Entry 3, it is nonetheless clear that he or she is improving. The data also suggests that it will not be long before the student is Level 1, and there is a good chance that they will achieve this upon the next measurement. Without this level of precision, however, the measurement data would simply show results of Entry 3, Entry 3 and Entry 3, and it would be impossible to draw any conclusions from this.
Thankfully, the new bksb course structures make full use of the ability to measure accurately and detect incremental advances. Using these measurements, the system will take an improvement in a module such as “Calculations” and apply it to both its parent element “Number” and its parent subject “Maths”. As students then work through resources and take assessments, the platform will use these changes to create estimates as to what their overall ability for a subject might be. For example, a “Subject” such as Maths can be broken down into “Elements” such as “Number”, “Measure, Shape and Space” and “Handling Data”:
Elements are subsequently broken down into “Modules” such as “Calculations” or “Measure”. Using the “improvement tracking”, it is then possible to take a detected improvement in a module and estimate a new ability level for the related element. Likewise, this improvement to an element can be applied to the overall subject. Therefore, as a student completes resources and takes progress check assessments, the system is constantly applying these results across the entire subject to produce estimates of overall ability.