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Fanshawe participating in EASI skill-assessment pilot project

Credit: JESSICA THOMPSON

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario achieved a Canadian first by administering an international online test on literacy, numeracy and problem-solving to first year and graduating students.


Emily Stewart | Interrobang | News | October 11th, 2016




Fanshawe is one of the 11 Ontario schools participating in the Essential Adult Skills Initiative (EASI) run by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO).

The EASI assessment will be an online test that has a short background questionnaire, along with sections covering numeracy, literacy and problem solving in an environment filled with technology. The test will take the students about 90 to 120 minutes to finish.

Three hundred and fifty first year students from each of the colleges will be participating in the assessment until mid-October 2016. An additional 350 graduating students from each school will also take the EASI assessment in February 2017.

Other Ontario colleges participating include Conestoga, Centennial, George Brown, Fleming, St. Lawrence, Humber, Seneca, Sheridan and Sault.

Five Ontario universities, Queens, McMaster, Wilfred Laurier, York and Ryerson, will also take the EASI assessment in fall 2017. Quest University in B.C. will also participate.

HEQCO brought in the plan to see if graduates have the critical employment skills related to the EASI assessment.

“It’s not so much that employers feel that they are missing them, but they’re emphasizing them as the things that they’re looking for in new employees,” Greg Moran, the special projects director of HEQCO, explained. “What they are looking for are skills that are transferable to a variety of circumstances that will help employees cope with what is a changing workplace.”

Moran added that critical thinking is, “What people and employers usually talk about as being absolutely essential when they’re looking to fill jobs. Particularly higher level jobs in the workplace.”

HEQCO is also researching the differences in these skills, if any, between programs, and the practical implications of using strategies like EASI.

EASI registration codes will be given to college students based on the following program clusters:

• Health Sciences

• Technology

• Business/Commerce

• Applied Arts

Similarly, the participating Ontario university students will receive EASI registration codes from their program clusters:

• STEM

• Business/Commerce

• Social Sciences/Humanities

• Fanshawe’s Institutional Research (IR) department will also participate in the pilot project, by sending emails to the target and participating students. The IR staff is also responsible for managing and identifying the data from Fanshawe students before sending it to HEQCO for the overall report.

Robert Downie, the manager of IR at Fanshawe, said that EASI will be beneficial.

“This is the first good application that may allow colleges and universities to assess skill development over the length of the program,” he said. “It’s worth participating in.” Downie added that Gary Lima, the senior vice president academic, is the pilot project’s senior investigator.

Moran said Fanshawe “should be applauded” for their keen interest in the project. “There’s a real commitment at the college to make sure the quality of the programs are continually improved and the students do take away with their diplomas or degrees these skills.”

First year students participating in the fall assessment can take the test until Oct. 17. Moran added that students will receive feedback immediately after they finish the test. Downie explained that the students’ results will be ranked based on the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Moran said, “It’s the kind of thing that students will enjoy and find valuable.”

More than $250,000 has gone towards student incentives and test codes for HEQCO’s EASI project. HEQCO’s college final report will be available in the fall of 2017.
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