Generative AI Set To Revolutionize Higher Ed: ETS Conference Explores Future Skills and Assessments


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the education sector, from how students learn to how their skills are assessed. The Educational Testing Service (ETS), known for administering the SAT, recently hosted a conference in Washington to delve into the implications of AI on education. With 200 experts in attendance, the event highlighted the growing importance of alternative credentials, the emergence of AI, and its potential to reshape learning and testing in classrooms and the workforce.

Generative AI Set to Revolutionize Higher Ed: ETS Conference Explores Future Skills and Assessments

(Photo : WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Mduchnowski)

Redefining Credentials: The Shift Towards Skill-Based Assessment

A college degree has traditionally been the gold standard for signaling competence and workforce readiness. However, the rise of AI is challenging this notion. According to a recent ETS survey, 78% of respondents believe that ongoing skill acquisition, such as earning certificates or licenses, will be as valued as a college degree in a decade.

Amit Sevak, CEO of ETS, emphasized the changing landscape, noting that learners increasingly seek new ways to showcase their skills beyond traditional degrees. This shift is driven by both learners, who are challenging the adequacy of degrees as a signal for their abilities, and employers, who place greater value on a broader range of skills, including communication and teamwork.

AI is seen as a catalyst for meeting this demand. It offers personalized learning experiences and real-time feedback, allowing students to develop and demonstrate their skills more effectively. ETS showcased several AI assessment tools at the conference, including HireUp, designed to evaluate skills like innovative thinking and effective communication while identifying areas for improvement.

READ MORE: Amazon Web Services And Educause Introduce New Assessment For Higher-Ed's AI Readiness 

The Evolution of Soft Skills: AI's Role in Assessing Durable Skills

In addition to technical skills, employers are increasingly prioritizing soft skills, such as communication and collaboration, which are harder to measure. Lydia Liu, from ETS, highlighted how AI expands the scope of skills that can be tested. For instance, AI can analyze body language, facial expressions, and gestures, providing a more holistic assessment of communication skills.

Libby Rodney of The Harris Poll emphasized that soft skills will become even more valuable as AI automates technical tasks. Employers will seek a technically proficient but also communicative, creative, and collaborative workforce. This shift underscores the importance of AI in assessing and developing these skills.

Harnessing the Power of AI in Education: Opportunities and Challenges

Kara McWilliams of ETS outlined the diverse applications of AI in education. AI could assist in college admissions, screening job applicants, and predicting student group dynamics for group projects. However, McWilliams stressed the need for equitable access to AI tools, as not all learners and educators have the same resources.
Derrick Anderson, from the American Council on Education, expressed hope that AI could simplify the process of granting students credit for prior learning, further emphasizing AI's transformative potential in education.

Despite the potential benefits, McWilliams cautioned that major changes in education systems would not happen overnight. She emphasized the importance of making incremental changes to gradually adapt to AI's capabilities.

In his closing remarks, Johnny C. Taylor of the Society for Human Resource Management highlighted the urgency for change in the workforce. Employers are struggling to find candidates with the right skills and work ethic, and AI is poised to automate many tasks previously done by college graduates. Taylor emphasized the need to reskill the workforce for the jobs of the future, acknowledging that relying solely on degrees as a proxy for talent is no longer sufficient.

AI is reshaping education profoundly, from redefining credentials to assessing and developing a broader range of skills. While the future of education with AI holds immense promise, it also presents challenges that must be addressed to ensure equitable access and preparation for the evolving workforce.

RELATED ARTICLE: Survey Reveals Majority Of Institutions Lag In AI Policy And Curriculum Adaptation 

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