Breaking down the barriers to using digital technology in assessing technical education

20 March 2024 Kate Bines

This short report follows on from the Review of the Potential for E-Assessment in Technical Education in England published in October 2021.

Breaking down the barriers to using digital technology in assessing technical education

After his initial review for Gatsby in October 2021 of the role of digital technology to assess technical education, author Stuart Edwards has written a follow-on report. In his first report, he focused on the challenges and barriers to adoption, and made suggestions about how these could be addressed.

This new report builds on this,  outlining specific examples of what is possible, identifying opportunities to do more, and looking at practical ways to remove some barriers and create a more supportive framework that encourages innovation and digital transformation.

His research explored end point assessment (EPA) in four occupational areas: Digital; Engineering and Manufacturing; Marine Pilot, and Care. While the focus was on EPA in apprenticeships, the report also took into account the wider landscape of technical qualifications, including T-levels.

T-levels, he suggests, could offer an opportunity to make more innovative use of digital technology approaches in assessment. This is because in each occupational area there is a single qualification run by a single awarding body instead of there being competition between awarding bodies to offer their own qualifications, and T-level outline content is aligned with apprenticeship standards.

The main conclusions of the review are:

  • There are limited examples of the potential of digital to transform assessment in the English apprenticeship system and more widely in technical education;
  • Despite its other merits, features of the EPA model make it more difficult to adopt technology for the assessment of apprenticeships;
  • There are no quick and easy solutions but there are steps that Ofqual (The Office for Qualifications and Examination Regulation) and IfATE (Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education) could take to encourage more progress;
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to both extend the capabilities of how technology can be used for assessment, and may undermine conventional assessment models across both technical and academic education.

Stuart Edwards, author of the report, said: “E-assessment has growing potential to tackle some of the underlying challenges of providing assessment that is both valid and consistent, particularly for practical skills and behaviours. Digital technology continues at pace to transform the workplace. If it is not fully utilised in assessing workplace competence, there is a risk, especially with the current emphasis on end point assessment, that some apprenticeships become anachronistic.” 

Download the full report [PDF]

Breaking down the barriers to using digital technology in assessing technical education