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Partnership allows researchers to test new mobile assessment system

  |   Kristen B. Morales   |   Permalink   |   Spotlight

Just as technology can seem overwhelming, it can also open doors.

That's the thought that went through Muhammad Nazil Iqdami's head as he listened to Kinam Park talk about new mobile-based testing developed by her company, North Star Development Village, or NSDevil. Iqdami, a graduate student who came to the University of Georgia to study ways to bring technology into the classroom, suddenly realized how this new system could help students at his home university.

"It opened my mind, that it can support learning," said Iqudami, a graduate student in the Learning, Design and Technology program in the College of Education who plans to return to his rural hometownin Indonesia after graduating. "That's one of the reasons I'm here, to learn how to implement technology in the classroom."

In Indonesia, the technological divide is still wide, he said. But with technology like what's been created by NSDevil, rural schools like his can keep up with more developed parts of the world.

Iqdami got a glimpse of the system during an on-campus demonstrationearlier this fall by NSDevil, a South Korea-based tech start-up that is entering a five-year agreement with UGA to share tablets, server/relay systems and software for their new mobile-based testing technology. Company officials were on hand Nov. 21 for a signing ceremony at the College to mark the start of the agreement.

Known as a "ubiquitous-based test," or UBT, the system uses tablets or smartphones that connect to a local server. Unlike current computer-based models, the server does not need to be connected to the Internet during the test, making it more adaptable to less-developed locations. Teachers can monitor students' progress during the exam—even seeing the battery life of the tablets—and results are instantly calculated once time is up.

The agreement, initiated by Ikseon Choi, an associate professor in the College of Education's Department of Career and Information Studies, totals about $500,000 worth of hardware and software. Plus, it allows UGA to be at the forefront of this emerging technology.

The UBT system uses tablets or smartphones to administer tests. These connect to a local server that does not need to be connected to the Internet during the test, unlike current computer-based models. Teachers can monitor students' progress during the exam—even seeing the battery life of the tablets—and results are instantly calculated once time is up.

The end result is less paper used, less time spent scoring the tests, and a wealth of information gathered on how students respond to questions, the technology and the design of the test itself. And because the system can run off solar cells, tests no longer have to be taken in a traditional classroom.

Kinam Park

"Internet technology can hinder people who don't have the technology, but this system can move around, offering more opportunities," said Choi. "The company is very proud of their technology, but now they want to work with educators to enhance the pedagogical way."

Park, strategy and planning manager for NSDevil, showed a sample of a test used in Vietnam, where five elementary schools are using the system. Set up like a comic book, students could read along with the flick of a finger, then touch phrases that best completed questions about the story. The system is now used in 10 countries, including Japan, Russia, South Africa and Iqdami's home country of Indonesia. In the Philippines, one university adopted the system to use for their college entrance exams, Park said, and by 2020 all medical schools in Korea will use it for their residency exams.

"We hope to work with UGA to expand on our project," said Park, through a translator. "We believe (ubiquitous-based tests) can replace paper-based, computer-based and Internet-based examinations. It's more stable and it reduces costs—A UBT can reduce costs by more than 50 percent."

NSDevil's overall goal is much larger, though. The system's low cost—a server/relay system can be purchased for less than $1,800, and NSDevil is working with giant tablet manufacturer Foxconn to produce tablets for less than $200 each—makes it possible for schools in rural, third-world countries to administer high-quality lessons and exams.

NSDevil also developed a "universal learning management system," or U-LMS, which delivers cloud-based, open-source educational material anywhere in the world. This technology furthers the company's mission of delivering education on a global level.

"We witness many students with a passion for education, but are in a situation where they can't advance their learning. So we began to work on a global level—all learners can learn where they are," said Park. "We first experienced the iPhone outside of Korea and we knew that such a small device can change the future of education."

Faculty looking at new software

By partnering with UGA, NSDevil can collect more research on their products while reaching a larger, more technologically advanced market. Choi said educators across UGA are encouraged to give the technology a try, and he's collaborating with the College of Education-based Georgia Center for Assessment on future possibilities with the technology.

At UGA, uses of this test could give professors more freedom in where they give their tests. For example, veterinary students could take their tablets into exam areas for a test, health care students could be tested in a real-life clinic situation, or classes interested in testing psychology or simply offering a new format using tablets could experiment with the new tests. Allan Cohen, director of the Georgia Center for Assessment, said the test is ideal for situations where there is no Internet access, or in high-stakes tests where security is important.

"Sometimes, because of technology, this may create more separation between the haves and the have-nots," said Choi. "NSDevil's vision for educational technology—that is a big reason for me to work with this company, on a philosophical level. Luckily, they are willing to work with me to provide this system to the University."

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