Corporate digital learning today is guided by modern learners who learn and close their knowledge and skills gaps autonomously, when needed. In three words, effective learning is continuous, immediate and self-directed, while traditional training models are discontinuous, delayed and centralized.
This requires an urgent repositioning of learning and development (L&D). Among other things, learning leaders should focus more on skills assessment and less on content delivery. Skills assessment is certainly not a new topic, but three factors are driving it back to the top of our priority list:
- Corporate learning is becoming increasingly skill-centric (and especially power skill-centric), because of the need to accelerate upskilling, reskilling and retooling processes. Learning initiatives will need to future-proof people and skills by defining tomorrow’s skills today. However, it is not possible to carry out efficient and data-based training without a skills analysis and monitoring of the skills gaps within the organization.
- More specifically, it is urgent to assess the degree of digital skills and competence within the organization, which is a deciding factor in enabling digital transformation projects.
- Finally, digital technologies now make it possible to design skills assessment solutions that are much more engaging in terms of the learner’s experience and more effective from the point of view of governance or development of the corporate skills infrastructure.
Upstream of all this, those who design skills assessments should not forget that the experience must be authentic and meaningful, rather than artificial and mechanical. Let’s explore four distinctive features of innovative assessment solutions: gamified, adaptive, authentic and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered.
The combination of assessment and gamification is very effective, especially in the talent acquisition process: When it comes to bringing Gen Z on board, gamification is a very appropriate language for engagement. Indeed, we know that everyone likes to play, regardless of age. A gamified assessment is designed with game mechanics to produce dynamics of involvement, commitment and achievement, as well as emotional responses of pleasure, tension and passion, with a high release of dopamine.
The assessment becomes a game divided into challenges that allow the learner to earn points, pass levels, earn badges and find useful resources for solving more complex puzzles, and progress on the leaderboard. The “Game Over” screen proclaims the winners (and losers) and gives each a skill profile and a skills gap analysis, perhaps with a pinch of humor and irony.
Adaptive assessments are based on a sophisticated algorithm that automatically and continuously modifies the sequence of questions and their degree of difficulty, based on the previous answers. In other words, it is the assessment that adapts to the user, and not vice versa. In practice, the assessment behaves like an expert and flexible teacher.
For example, the assessment could start by asking the participant a difficult first question. If the answer is wrong, the algorithm will choose a second, easier question. If the answer is correct, it will return the user to a question of medium difficulty. The higher the difficulty level of the question, the higher the score for the correct answer.
The advantages are twofold: a more reliable and precise result, and a personalized and engaging assessment experience for the learner.
Assessments can involve different cognitive domains. They can measure the memorization of information, levels of understanding or application to realistic cases. Assessments can also go beyond remembering and understanding, toward more complex domains such as application and, above all, analysis and evaluation.
For more advanced cognitive domains, traditional and “cold” learning tests should be supplemented with or replaced by authentic assessment solutions. An authentic assessment is immersive and job-related, and it requires us to demonstrate what we know. An assessment is defined as “authentic” if it has the following characteristics:
- It starts from a realistic situation and then replicates or simulates workplace or personal life contexts.
- It involves an organic reflection instead of a mechanical response.
- It requires us to choose an action or behavior in an ambiguous situation.
- It requires complex digital interactions to respond to the challenges proposed.
This is why immersive experiences in virtual reality — and perhaps soon in the metaverse — are a perfect example of authentic assessment.
An assessment can be enhanced by sophisticated digital technologies: First, AI, and in particular natural language processing (NLP), machine learning, deep learning, facial recognition and emotion analysis. At least two AI applications are in need of attention when designing an advanced digital assessment, both in synchronous mode: interactive assessments triggered by users’ emotions and interview intelligence platforms.
Interactive Assessments Triggered by Users’ Emotions
This application involves relatively simple AI solutions applied to facial recognition and expression analysis during a “live” assessment experience. When learners access the assessment with their computer or mobile device, the AI activates the camera of the device and can allow various functions before and during the assessment experience. Before the assessment, the AI can validate the identity of the candidates, and only after recognition of their identity will it unlock the assessment. During the assessment, the AI can evaluate the emotional space and levels of arousal and valence of the candidate, and, through this, the degree of self-control, stress management and empathy: All useful metrics in the assessment of soft skills.
Interview Intelligence Platforms
Today AI allows an even more direct way of evaluating soft skills through what can be called video intelligent assessment technologies. Soft skills, and in particular power skills, such as those most related to adaptation and resilience, can today be evaluated by specialized behavioral assessment platforms that combine high technology and human expertise, guaranteeing the same scientific reliability as face-to-face assessments.
Learners answer job-related questions during video interviews integrated into video collaboration platforms. The deep analysis of the answers through NLP technology allows us to evaluate verbal and non-verbal communication, work styles, a wide range of behavioral skills and even personality traits.
Clearly, these approaches to skills assessment — regardless of its main objective: learning, talent acquisition, performance management, etc. — profoundly affect learners’ perceptions about the journey through critical organizational touchpoints. That is why the employee experience is at the center of many organizations’ people strategies and an essential tool to combat The Great Resignation.
Digital transformation has introduced innovations not only in digital learning but also in digital learning assessment. L&D needs to prioritize and focus as much attention on skill assessment as it has historically concentrated on training delivery and develop a convincing learning assessment strategy.
The ability to design authentic, engaging and intelligent assessments can make the difference between an average L&D function and an excellent one, capable of effectively and efficiently filling skills gaps and helping retain top talent.