How will English language exams change in the next five years?
“As specific IELTS and Trinity exams are linked to visa applications it is unlikely a fully online provision will be deemed secure enough in the next five years. However, this doesn’t mean that for other purposes, English Language provision and exams will change significantly.”
With online English language courses gaining in popularity, Pat Moores, director and co-founder of UK Education Guide, looks at whether English tests will increasingly be offered online. Specific exams are linked to visa applications, but does that mean provisions cannot change significantly for other purposes?
There is also deepening interest in online delivery of English language courses. For example in May 2015, FutureLearn launched its free course ‘Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language tests’.
Over 2 million learners have now signed up for the IELTS course across multiple runs.
But what is the broader picture?
“This modularised approach allows learners to better understand what to expect before they decide to embark on an undergraduate qualification”
Currently, while online learning via IELTS and Trinity College is well established, the exam itself has to be sat at an approved test centre. If the IELTS exam forms part of a Tier 4 visa application, the test must be taken at a centre specifically authorised by UK Visas and Immigration for this purpose.
As specific IELTS and Trinity exams are linked to visa applications it is unlikely a fully online provision will be deemed secure enough in the next five years.
But more generally English Language provision and exams will change significantly.
Providers like Babbel already offer certificates for online language courses and have more than one million active subscribers worldwide.
While Babbel is a paid model of learning after a free first lesson, other providers like Duolingo offer a free learning model.
It also offers to ‘certify your English proficiency on demand, anywhere, for only $49’. The test can be taken from a computer in under an hour, and results shared with an unlimited number of institutions.
Additionally it offers colleges, schools and employers the opportunity to ‘get a picture of an applicant’s English ability through a certified proficiency score, video interview, and writing sample, available within 48 hours’.
These developments are particularly relevant as employers start to truly embrace ‘micro-credentials’ and starts to log these in secure sites using blockchain technology. These secure sites allow learners to keep their credentials ‘locked in’ and secure whilst allowing potential employers and institutions to access the qualifications.
Leading academic institutions on both sides of the Atlantic are already pioneering the work in secure logging of micro-credentials and also are offering micro-credentials themselves.
With institutions and providers working on micro-credentials very seriously, it is hard to see how this will not move forward in the coming months and years, especially with major employers supporting the work.
“Over 2 million learners have now signed up for the IELTS course across multiple runs”
“Last year, we introduced collections of credit-bearing courses with The Open University and the University of Leeds, with the option for learners to progress onto an undergraduate degree from these institutions,” said Simon Nelson, CEO at FutureLearn.
“This modularised approach allows learners to better understand what to expect before they decide to embark on an undergraduate qualification. In the case of the model we have created with the University of Leeds, learners that have completed specific courses via FutureLearn will be able to secure credits before they’ve even embarked on the degree with the institution.”
Will the day come when these micro-credentials, including the English language proficiency certificates being offered by Duolingo, Babbel and a version of the FutureLearn IELTS course, will become accepted qualifications for purposes that are not directly linked to visa applications?
It is hard to imagine that they won’t…