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Developing Tomorrow's Assessment: How Technology is Changing Item Authoring

November 30, 2023

Developing Tomorrow's Assessment: How Technology is Changing Item Authoring


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Today, in the field of educational assessment, whether we look at it from the perspective of assessment organizations or within the school context, we observe an active shift towards digitalization, coupled with an effort to enhance the precision of assessments. Innovation is at the center of this digitalization wave and promotes competitive advantage in business processes, as in the Gartner Hype Cycle's exploration of AI's trajectory. Digitalization demands its thorough integration into every aspect of the assessment cycle, responding to the increasing demand for digital services. This includes everything from test delivery to student reporting, and calls for a continuous adaptation to effectively incorporate digital advancements throughout the assessment process.

One area profoundly impacted by this shift is question writing, which is pivotal in the digital transformation of assessments. The decision to adopt digital methods influences both the initial stages of the assessment cycle and the final experience of the end users. Therefore, implementing digital practices in item writing is crucial for developing a modern assessment culture within organizations. Additionally, the move towards digitized services is likely to be emphasized in governmental initiatives, as it acts as a clear marker of an organization's progression towards digitalization and modernization. 

In this article, we will delve into the historical evolution of item development, explore the shift towards personalized and adaptive assessments, and examine the diversification and integration of various item types along with their interoperability. We will also discuss the emerging trends in collaborative item authoring, outline practical cases, and analyze the extensive role of AI in these developments.

Item Authoring: Understanding and Navigating Technological Evolution

The 21st century has indeed seen a profound integration of technology into education, transforming everything from teaching methods to assessment practices. Alongside these changes, the need for clear differentiation of certain terms has emerged, particularly with terms like 'item authoring’, the area of work within the assessment cycle which is greatly influenced by digitalization, among others that represent different aspects of the assessment cycle and may also require a comparative look. The following table contains a brief overview of these terms, provided to elucidate the concept of 'Item Authoring' in the educational assessment process:

For clarity, this article will focus on 'item authoring,' given its comprehensive nature and its integration with technology. 

Historically, question authoring was predominantly manual, limited to formats like multiple-choice or true/false questions. Today's digital revolution, however, has broadened the scope of possibilities in assessment design. The integration of technology in educational assessment introduces innovative question types, streamlines the authoring process, and fosters collaboration. Modern authoring platforms enable the creation, review, and metadata management of items and test forms, meeting the evolving demands of modern learning and assessment. As we progress through this article, we will explore how technology is revolutionizing item authoring to better meet the evolving demands of modern learning and assessment. 

Shift to Personalization: The Rise of Adaptive Assessments

The evolution of item authoring in educational assessments has been significantly influenced by the adaptive nature of assessments and technological advancements, leading to a new era in assessment cultures. This shift is particularly evident in regions at the forefront of assessment reforms. As assessment bodies evolve, there is a growing focus on developing adaptive and personalized assessment items, with advanced item authoring techniques becoming a key indicator of innovative reforms. Traditional item authoring, once limited to creating uniform questions, has transformed into a dynamic process where assessments adjust in real-time to a student’s responses, ensuring that questions align with the student's current abilities. This adaptability is made possible through sophisticated algorithms that analyze responses to determine the most appropriate next item. Additionally, modern item authoring tools enable educators to create questions that are not only adaptive but also tailored to individual learning styles, cultural contexts, and interests, leading to more engaging and resonant assessments. As we delve deeper into modern assessment, the increasing variety and complexity of item types highlight the importance of diversity in assessment design and the need for technological interoperability.

Diversification and Integration: Item Types and Interoperability

The Impact of Item Types and Interoperability on Assessment Quality

The nature of any assessment is intricately linked to the diversity of its item types and the extent of their interoperability within various educational contexts. Relying solely on traditional or monotonous item formats limits the ability to capture rich, multifaceted data on student performance. Similarly, restricted interoperability can constrain the adaptability of assessments in different learning environments. In this section, we explore the broad range of item types and the critical role of interoperability, unraveling how they collectively enhance the depth and effectiveness of the assessment process. Here is a list of common item types with their key features and impact:

  • Selected-response Items: These items require students to select the correct answer(s) from a set of options, including multiple-choice, true/false, drag and drop, and matching questions.

    • Advantages: Efficient for scoring, reduces bias, and covers diverse topics quickly.

    • Challenges: May encourage rote learning and are limited in assessing complex skills.

  • Constructed-response Items: These item types require students to construct their answers, encompassing formats like short-answer, essays, and problem-solving tasks.

    • Advantages: Assess critical thinking and understanding, offer insight into knowledge application.

    • Challenges: Time-consuming to mark and carries a risk of subjectivity, though the use of clear rubrics can help mitigate this.

  • Technology-enhanced Items (TEIs): TEIs utilize interactive formats such as simulations and hotspots, enhancing the digital assessment experience.

    • Advantages: Increase engagement and assess a broader range of skills with in-depth analytics.

    • Challenges: May require interoperability adjustments and expertise in complex item creation.

Interoperability. Interoperability refers to the capacity of different assessment platforms and technologies to seamlessly share and interpret items and assessment data. 

  • Advantages: Ensures consistent assessment experiences, simplifies data sharing, and enhances integration with diverse educational tools.

  • Challenges: Risk of technical issues without precise implementation and need for continual updates to match evolving tech standards.

New Era of Collaboration: Real-time and Remote Authoring

Collaboration is a cornerstone of the assessment cycle, especially during its early stages when defining the assessment's construct and purpose. Traditionally, collaboration between item authors and senior experts occurred within the confined spaces of assessment organizations. This centralization often posed challenges for item authors from remote regions, limiting the diverse representation of an entire jurisdiction's item authoring culture. However, the rise of virtual collaboration tools has ushered in a new era for item authoring. These digital platforms enable real-time authoring and collaboration from any location, significantly enhancing the capabilities of technologically adept assessment bodies. On the other hand, institutions with limited technological resources might find themselves striving to catch up. Without a strategic approach to modern assessment adoption, these organizations risk lagging behind in an increasingly digital educational landscape. The article on Digitalization Review is useful while developing a strategic vision on this journey of modernization.

From Theory to Practice: Practical Applications of Modern Item Authoring

Modern assessment authoring platforms are equipped with a range of features designed to enhance and transform the educational assessment process. These platforms bring a new level of efficiency and effectiveness to item authoring, as demonstrated in the following areas:

1. Personalized and Interactive Assessment Design

The Item banking dashboard and filtering capabilities facilitate the creation of personalized learning experiences. With various account types - Read-only, Editor, Supervisor - users can tailor content to individual learning needs. The authoring view supports interactive content creation through templates, enabling the design of technology-enhanced items such as simulations and drag-and-drop activities.

2. Enhanced Feedback and Collaborative Review

Features like 'Simulate Submission' on the platform provides instant feedback on the accuracy of answers and the effectiveness of score weighting, aiding the learning process and enabling quick adjustments in teaching strategies. Furthermore, the authoring groups and commenting features in the Assessment Preview phase support a collaborative item review process, ensuring both the quality and fairness of assessments.

3. Technological Integration and Data-Driven Insights

The platform's integration of text-to-speech and multimedia elements within item blocks enhances the accessibility and depth of assessment content. Tools like auto-save, version history, and test form construction in the framework view contribute to a data-driven approach, enabling comprehensive tracking and analysis of item development and review processes.

4. Standardization and Scalability

The framework view of these platforms supports various assessment types and test designs, aiding in the standardization of assessments across different regions and cultures. Features such as Composite Assessments and the ability to manage items from multiple item banks demonstrate the scalability of these platforms, facilitating efficient administration of assessments to a wide audience.

Enhancing Efficiency: AI and Automation in Item Authoring

The integration of AI and automation into item authoring is significantly transforming the way educators create assessments. AI-driven tools, like authoring copilots, assist in the question authoring process by suggesting content, refining structures, and identifying potential student misconceptions. This innovation enhances efficiency, accuracy, and consistency in question creation, though it does raise concerns about over-reliance and the potential misalignment with educators' intentions.

Similarly, automated test form generation is reshaping test assembly. By using algorithms to curate personalized test forms based on criteria such as learning objectives and difficulty levels, this technology offers personalized, time-saving, and comprehensive test creation. However, challenges include possible technical issues and a lack of the nuanced judgment that educators provide.

Authoring Copilot:

  • Advantages: Increases efficiency, improves question accuracy, and ensures consistent quality.

  • Challenges: Risk of over-reliance on AI and occasional inaccuracies in content suggestion.

Automated Test Form Generation:

  • Advantages: Offers personalized tests, saves time, and ensures topic and difficulty balance.

  • Challenges: Requires rigorous quality assurance to align technology with educator insights.

In exploring these advancements, we delve into the broader implications of AI’s role in modernizing educational assessments, balancing its benefits against potential drawbacks.


Throughout this article, we have witnessed how digitalization is not just a trend but a fundamental shift in the assessment culture – from the traditional methods to more dynamic, adaptive, and personalized approaches. The integration of AI and automation in item authoring, the rise of real-time and remote collaboration, and the challenges and opportunities of interoperability and technology-enhanced items, all paint a vivid picture of an assessment ecosystem that is becoming increasingly sophisticated and tailored to the needs of the 21st-century learner. This journey into the modernization of item authoring reflects a larger narrative of education adapting to a digital era, where the fusion of technology and pedagogy promises to enhance the accuracy, fairness, and effectiveness of assessments. The insights gained here not only demonstrate the current state of educational technology but also provide guidance for future innovations in the domain of assessment and learning.

About the Author

Vali Huseyn is an educational assessment specialist with extensive experience in enhancing key phases of the assessment lifecycle, including item authoring (item banking), registration, administration, scoring, data analysis, and reporting. His work involves strategic collaboration with a range of assessment technology providers, certification authorities, and research institutions, contributing to the advancement of the assessment community. At The State Examination Centre of Azerbaijan, Vali played a crucial role in modernizing local large-scale assessments. As the Head of Strategic Partnerships and Project Management Unit Lead, he co-implemented several regional development projects focused on learning and assessment within the Post-Soviet region.

Feel free to connect with Vali on LinkedIn ( to learn more about the best practices in transitioning to an online assessment environment.

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