From education to employment

Bolton College launch FirstPass platform following Assessment Innovation Fund win

Bolton College launch FirstPass platform following Assessment Innovation Fund win

Bolton College, a leading further education college in the North West, has been awarded funding through NCFE’s Assessment Innovation Fund to test its FirstPass platform, in a move that could revolutionise assessment models in England.

The 15-month pilot will test the efficacy and impact of using this online platform to support learners and teachers with the formative assessment of open-ended questions. FirstPass offers real-time feedback to learners as they compose their answers, allowing them to reflect and improve upon their work before submitting it to their teachers for final review and commentary.

It also marks an important step in the development of automated marking, as well as supporting learners with special educational needs, including autism.

The grant from NCFE is part of an initiative which will see the educational charity invest £1 million worth of funding to support organisations in piloting new approaches to assessment and explore innovative uses of technology.

Aftab Hussain, ILT & LRC Manager at Bolton College, said: “Colleagues at Bolton College are delighted to have the support from NCFE to pilot FirstPass with other further education colleges in the UK.

“The Assessment Innovation Fund gives us a wonderful opportunity to test the efficacy of using artificial intelligence to support the formative assessment of open-ended questions.”

Bolton College will deploy the FirstPass platform across five of their own curriculum departments which will be matched with departments at five additional colleges to assess the overall effectiveness and impact of the platform in enhancing learning.

Teachers across all six institutions will use FirstPass to set and mark formative assessments and check understanding and knowledge retention.

Some early feedback on the platform shows promising results:

· Learners stated that they wrote more when they used FirstPass and their answers were of a higher quality.

· Learners said that FirstPass will help them prepare for open-ended exam questions.

· The Head of Learner Support at Bolton College stated that FirstPass is a good tool to support autistic students because they will respond more readily to the real-time feedback that is provided by FirstPass.

· Learners like using the hint tool on the feedback panel. Hints (authored by teachers), provide additional guidance to learners which helped them to compose their answers.

The pilot will conduct qualitative and quantitative surveys to capture learner perceptions of the FirstPass platform.

Jessica Blakey, Head of Assessment Innovation at NCFE, said: “We’re delighted to be awarding this funding to advance the models of assessment to meet the needs of learners in the future.

“The education landscape is diverging, and it is NCFE’s goal to be at the forefront of sector-leading advancements, which will create great change for education as we know it. Bolton College’s FirstPass platform has shown promising results to date, and we hope this new pilot will further enhance this model.”

The funding from NCFE will build on work by Bolton College to further develop the FirstPass platform, which has already attracted funding from the Department for Education’s EdTech Innovation Fund in 2019 (when in the early stages of development) and from the Ufi VocTech Trust in 2020 to increase the scale of the solution.

Pheeba Baxendale, a teacher at Bolton College, said: “As a teacher, the biggest challenge is getting on top of your marking. FirstPass has resolved that because it does the marking for me, and it gives immediate feedback to my learners.”

Callum Bagot, a learner at Bolton College, said: “I like FirstPass because it gives me feedback straight away which lets me improve my work before I hand it to my teacher.”

A further round of funding for the Assessment Innovation Fund opens week commencing 8 August 2022.

Related Articles