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Open Source Software Solves Testing and Assessment Dilemma: High Cost vs Poor Fit

TAO's technology community is bringing open source to e-testing
by Kate O'Connor, Business Development Manager, Fri, 4/12/2013

Educators, organizations and companies across the testing and assessment industry are seeing a dramatic rise in e-testing, or computer-based assessment, and with it a growing list of benefits – and some distinct drawbacks.

For educators, e-testing provides better results through enhanced question style; the capability to test for a broader range of skills; and more time for teaching instead of grading. E-testing helps educational and government policy makers meet the demands of various interest groups by demonstrating the effectiveness of education reforms; ensuring that public education meets career-readiness standards; and that they’re efficiently operating in diverse language and cultural settings.

And the drawbacks? Organizations that hope to build a customized e-testing system face tremendous start-up costs, usually in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus annual fees to maintain the system. The alternative is for users to buy an existing e-testing vender’s system – often a one-size-fits-all “solution” unlikely to meet an organization’s individualized needs.

Now there’s a third option. TAO, the world’s leading open source e-testing platform, is a free assessment solution that enables the creation and delivery of effective and engaging computer-based tests online. TAO supports a wide range of question types, from simple multiple-choice items to complex problem solving, and it can be easily deployed on any scale – whether within a classroom or across multiple continents.

Breakthrough Technologies has become TAO’s sole authorized partner for the U.S. and Canada. Specializing in software solutions and consulting for the education, certification and licensure markets, Breakthrough Technologies has more than 14 years of experience helping organizations create and implement complete testing systems.

“TAO answers what I hear so often voiced in the testing, assessment and accreditation communities – the need for a system that strikes the right balance between affordability and flexibility,” said Doug Wilson, co-founder and managing partner of Breakthrough Technologies. “With open source TAO, organizations get a core platform for free and only spend incrementally on customizations.”

Open source, defined simply, is software that’s available on the Web for anyone to use. Open source grants organizations access to versatile, inexpensive software – there are no licensing fees – and a huge, knowledgeable and evolving technology community.

Recognizing the value and advantages of open source software, the K-12 education market is making a strong push for its use. Educational consortiums funded through the Race to the Top initiative, such as Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) have made the use of open source software a requirement in the development and delivery of their new assessments.

Started in 2002, the TAO system is widely used internationally through the large-scale deployment of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams and for Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) exams.

Breakthrough Technologies can provide such services as hosting, migration and technical support, third-party tool integration, and feature customization for organizations that adopt the TAO platform.

About TAO

Begun as a joint project between the Public Research Centre Henri Tudor and the University of Luxembourg, today TAO is the world’s leading open source e-testing platform that empowers users to build, deliver and share innovative and engaging assessments online – in any language or subject matter. TAO supports a wide range of question types, from simple multiple-choice items to complex problem solving, and can be deployed easily on any scale – whether within a classroom or across multiple continents.