We argue that the critical transformation in each case is the reorganisation of the way transactions are managed. Education transactions have, so far, been resistant to being disaggregated into their constituent parts, in particular, the transaction of assessment. New technological approaches to assessment may change this by seeking solutions to challenges at a global scale.
The ARGUS Project (Adaptive Retinal Grading by User-driven Sorting) aims to teach diagnostic skills for detecting early-stage Diabetic Retinopathy through Comparative Judgement (CJ). Working with partners from China, the project faces the challenge of training enough medical practitioners and technicians to screen 92 million Chinese citizens who have Diabetes and whose prognosis need not lead to blindness, just as it doesn’t in England thanks to a national screening programme (Scanlon 2017).
The use of CJ is widely reported in the literature as a valid and reliable alternative to more traditional assessment measures (Tarricone and Newhouse, 2016). CJ is utilised in a large-scale learning activity, which asks students to rank retinal scans. Each judgement is seen as a “short transaction” which contributes to a larger body of data, from which the student’s progress can be assessed. Drawing on banks of existing expert ranking from colleagues in Eye and Vision Science from the University of Liverpool, these rankings can be compared to student rankings, revealing individual learning needs requiring targeted teaching interventions.
Although at an early stage, ARGUS could theoretically be self-managing. As students progress and their rankings equal those of experts, they could be enrolled into the system management, grading new images and supporting other learners. Performance by managers and learners could be continually monitored by peer feedback (like Uber), whilst social pressure to maintain the status of “ARGUS expert” could create commercial pressure for experts to continue to make judgements in the system, incentivising learners to improve their performance.
This potential raises many questions about the future of education. Whilst technology has largely been used to reinforce the existing structures and practices of education (classrooms, lectures, assessments), technology poses a threat to those practices and structures, if it can reconfigure the transactions of education and their connection to social life and employment. Focus on reinforcing existing structures can blind universities to more fundamental social shifts in technology: consequently, the search for new institutional forms and business models is urgent.
Scanlon, P.H. (2017) The English National Screening Programme for diabetic retinopathy 2003–2016. Acta Diabetol Accessed 17/3/2017, doi:10.1007/s00592-017-0974-1
Tarricone, P & Newhouse, C. P. (2016) Using comparative judgement and online technologies in the assessment and measurement of creative performance and capability, International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 13 :16.