AEFIS: Learner Success Empowered Through Assessment Management Solutions

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AEFIS is a for-profit organization that empowers higher education institutions to demonstrate their institutional impact through a unified platform for assessment management, learner success, and continuous improvement. Through its broad solutions portfolio, AEFIS (Assessment, Evaluation, Feedback & Intervention System) helps institutions automate evaluation processes, supports individual student assessment, facilitates curriculum reviews, and streamlines campus-wide accreditation processes. Its overarching goal is to help institutions achieve strategic goals while activating authentic lifelong learning. 

What is AEFIS and how does it empower the higher education community?

AEFIS is an all-in-one assessment management platform with a mission to help higher education institutions transition to authentic assessment for learning, on the belief that education knowledge is the most powerful way to evolve change in the world. A high-quality education is at the core of all innovative and forward-thinking societies. 

When we started the AEFIS journey, we wanted to take the traditional assessment efforts that typically exist on campuses and try to create value from them and inspire innovation. In recent months, we became the first company to be certified in the Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR), which is now an industry standard. This has been one of our key priorities for a number of years, in our quest to provide explicit evidential student learning in the journey to meeting and exceeding outcomes for both institutions and learners. It’s been a big undertaking to become the first company to attain the IMS Global CLR certification.

What is the Comprehensive Learner Record?

Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) is a dynamic digital record that enables students to both better understand their learning across multiple contexts and share a verifiable record of their knowledge and accomplishments. CLR reinforces that learning happens everywhere with verified evidence of student learning from course, co-curricular engagements, student employment, and even student self-identified experiences.

At the beginning of 2021, AEFIS became the first ed tech company and IMS Global Learning Consortium member to attain the newly developed IMS Global CLR Standard, enabling a new generation of secure and verifiable learning records which includes the context of learning achievements within courses, competencies and skills, and employer-based learning achievements. Think of it like a pool that all skills attainment flow into and can be verified when they come from an institution directly. IMS Global is a non-profit organization and we are an active contributing member of the IMS Global community. 

Furthermore, the CLR is a digital record of all learning, which can also accommodate self-issued assessments. For instance, if I’m an active advocate for a non-profit organization, I can add that activity to my record as a self-issued, non-verified achievement. CLR affords us the ability to create digital credentials and can include badging initiatives. It’s a space of learning that can determine the direction and the magnitude of the learning that’s occurring in various skills-based areas. The possibilities are endless because we can use the digital skills records to mine the information—with the permission of learners—for employers to find them based on recognition of skills.

What is authentic assessment and what does it encompass?

In higher education today, we have great ways to recognize learner achievement. However, recognition is over-simplified by grades, transcripts, or diplomas. What we consider authentic assessment for learning stands in contrast to what is traditionally a backward-looking analysis of how the learner has performed. There have been many academic leaders that we’ve followed, many of whom have been mentors, and through their support, we have been building tools, a platform, and technology to create transparency into the learning journey as it happens. 

That transparency creates visibility into the skills being assessed, typically for accreditation or for institutional improvement purposes. We help institutions manage assessment and collect that information and make it readily available to learners, educators, as well as employers, for students to share with down the road.

For students in post-secondary education, how do authentic assessment and the CLR come into play?

Institutions that use AEFIS as their assessment management platform provide learners with a central dashboard that’s available to them on that platform and also on the institutional LMS, if they have one. When a student enters a higher education institution, institutions that use AEFIS collect assessment data. Our platform allows learners to view the skills that are assessed on their behalf, or they can do what is called self-issued skills, similar to a portfolio, and the institution has the option to verify records. 

If I have a program that is designed on the AEFIS assessment management platform, learning experiences will be tied to the skills that are expected to be developed through the activities. That capture of skills immediately delivers a verification or authentic assessment by an instructor who is observing the learner perform a skill, which they can then grade and provide a level of skill attained as an authentic way of confirming the student’s attained skills. All of that flows into a pool which we call the CLR.

When students graduate from post-secondary education, a degree or diploma can be opaque as to show what specific skills the student has developed, including additional skills outside of their area of study. It’s very interesting to interview current graduates because they are not equipped to talk about their skills specifically. The skills dimension brings a whole new set of possibilities to the world. 

Registrar offices are moving from the administrative side to the academic side, inciting the recognition of skills. Skills recognition is much more valuable than a list of grades on a transcript and on a diploma. So the CLR standard allows this to occur through different technologies.

How would you define authentic lifelong learning and what empowers it?

Given the events in the last 12 months, I believe that we all have to go through an unlearning and relearning process. I’ve watched our partners go through 98% in-person courses to fully online in a matter of weeks. I think as we look to the future, unlearning and relearning and the lifelong ability to learn and adapt is the master skill of them all. This is the collective wisdom of many leaders across institutions. 

Lifelong learning is important because in 10 or 15 years when we have the next technology breakthrough or the next AI revolution, we will all need to unlearn and relearn all over again. There is no age limit to learning. We should consider ourselves lifelong learners and anything we do as a society should empower that. An educated society is the only way we will collectively progress and solve problems. 

From your experience, what role do higher education institutions play in preparing students to become lifelong learners?

I consider many higher education leaders my superheroes, especially given recent events. In an industry that is widely regarded as traditional, maybe that is no longer true. Many of our academic partners are looking to innovate and to create more value from the educational experience in the ‘new normal’. At AEFIS, the concept we are focusing on this year is accountability. We have been inspired by our academic partners because they have done that this year. Now more than ever, higher education is innovating—they are creating accountability, and reflecting on how to best deliver value to the world through education. 

The challenges today have been intensified by COVID-19, and I think academia is taking true leadership stock on this by making cross-cutting decisions and looking at new ways to innovate to deliver value. The CLR is certainly on many people’s agendas right now. It’s exciting that so many academic leaders are considering it as a critical path to demonstrate value to their learners and for the benefit of the institution as a whole.

What is your view on the EdTech community today and how do you see education and training evolving?

I think EdTech as an industry has had an interesting relationship with the institutions that we serve. Ultimately, I think this is such a critical time in human history. I believe that we are at an inflection point, where technology platforms have become a vital social and public utility. With EdTech, especially in higher education, we have a social responsibility to recognize the positive social impact that we can create. 

Big change is imminent in education. At large, higher education has reached a tipping point to realize its value against so many of the movements taking place elsewhere, such as the gig economy, self-learning via MOOCs, earning certificates to perform certain skills to earn a living, and so forth. Every form of hard work is honorable, but there’s something to be said about pursuing learning that is college-bound and that offers a different set of experiences. There’s a balance between what the higher education community delivers to our societies, which keeps it at a balance between those who seek more technical training on the skills they want to develop. EdTech companies can provide equitable educational opportunities. They can also support the initiatives that formalize the recognition of skills, to demonstrate the value that higher education really provides. 

What is AEFIS Academy and what is the benefit of joining?

At the beginning of COVID-19, we had some support resources online, but our partners had been asking us to build an environment where they could collaborate virtually. During the initial days of COVID-19, conferences halted, which is one of the ways we foster partnerships and relationships. Together with AALHE, a non-profit assessment organization with several thousand members in the assessment community, we worked April-May 2020 to bring the first iteration of AEFIS Academy to life.

Right now, we have over 1,200 community members, out of which about 70% are not AEFIS commercial partners. We have been able to build courses, live and on-demand events, and provide a space for many individuals to network and connect with each other. The academy was built on the principles of communities of practice and it enables educational leaders to learn, teach, collaborate and innovate together. Everyone is welcome to join and there are no fees involved. Through our courses, we are empowering educators to learn about new topics such as gamification and eLearning in general. We are getting significant engagement and positive feedback. We have been the spark, but then the academy has taken on a life of its own.

I invite everyone to join AEFIS Academy. Start by checking out the upcoming featured events section and see what our academic community leaders are creating.

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