Assessment Future Scenario – Personalised assessments

I have taken some of the ideas from the Assessment Futures workshop and written an assessment future scenario. Many thanks to the workshop participants for their ideas and apologies if I have misinterpreted them. The future scenario is meant to provoke and challenge what we do now, and help us to identify what would be needed to make it happen. So I’d welcome critical feedback.


In 2024, universities are facing increasing financial pressures and a need to improve institutional efficiencies. The move to more remote assessments has been derailed by academic integrity concerns around the use of generative AI, increased students collusion using readily available social media apps and wide availability of essay mills.

Student numbers have continued to increase with more mature, and international students applying. The impact of global warming is only just beginning, but increasing temperatures, extensive flooding and new environmental sustainability policies are about to put even more pressures on universities, both through increased risk to the physical campus estate, and increased climate migration.

In-person exams, both digital and analogue became increasingly complex and difficult to scale.  A lack of suitable rooms, intermittent power supplies, wifi and student timetabling challenges. Increasing numbers of students are being identified as neurodivergent and requiring reasonable adjustments.

Employers increasingly demand better employability skills from graduates. A growth in higher level apprenticeships and employer led qualifications starts to threaten the university market.

The future – 2035

A trend towards block teaching and large credit modules had already started in some universities in 2024, in part to reduce the complexity of degree level courses and the growing administrative burden on institutions. Legacy student management systems were moving to the cloud and improved data integration was opening up new opportunities.

By 2035 stackable degrees and micro-credentials have become a reality across the education sector. Students can transfer seamlessly between courses and institutions.

A big enabler was a change in assessment in university courses. Large modules allowed a reduction in the number of high stakes assessments. Although some institutions had moved away from exams completely it proved more difficult for large courses especially where they were regulated by professional bodies.

At the University of Banford (a fictional institution Bryant, Lanclos, Phipps, 2023) a new assessment approach has emerged characterised by the assessment of the process alongside product to demonstrate learning, skills and address issues of academic integrity.

The approach uses personalised and adaptive learning and individual final assessments created for each learner. This has been made possible due to the availability of learning activity and performance data, gathered from students as they undertake tasks throughout their large modules. The in-module learning is assessed using a range of approaches from automated AI marking, peer assessment and some by tutors. There is no formal checking of student work for academic integrity for the tasks undertaken during the module although they can get feedback using automated tools.  They could in theory collude, use generative AI or even buy an essay to meet the formative tasks throughout their module – their choice.

However at the end of the module students are required to demonstrate what they have learned and show they are able to apply their learning. Every student receives a personalised AI generated adaptive learning assessment that checks their learning and level based on the work they have submitted during the course. A sort of viva but delivered digitally. The idea is if the work they have submitted is genuinely their own, and the exam is used to verify the level and skills from course work. If they have taken “short-cuts” during the year whether using AI to automatically generate answers, purchased ready made answers or products from others then they will struggle to pass the personalised assessment. Students can be credited with micro-credentials for the learning they can demonstrate. They are also able to re-take the assessment after reviewing the gaps in their existing learning. The personalised assessment will provide a level of attainment and student may undertake further student to “raise” their level of attainment if they so desire.

Some subjects at Bamford are using a continuous assessment approach with an e-portfolio and individual tasks are verified at each stage. This removes the stress of high stakes exams and spreads the assessment administrative burden across the year.

Another department creates authentic assessments the student needs to take at the end of the year.  These are scenarios or roleplays generated using AI, where the students are assessed on their ability to respond to situations, solve problems or undertake tasks within immersive or real environment.


So let’s imagine this future of assessment scenario was possible in the next few years. The idea was generated in response to a challenge to personalise assessment and address issues such as generative AI and academic integrity.

What would the student experience look like? There seems to be a lot of assessment still but this could be framed as assessment for learning, where undertaking tasks and getting feedback was part of the learning experience.

Could it really reduce the administrative burden? There seems to be a tendency with digital that as we automate tasks we just end up doing more. Being able to generate assessments and automate marking could enable scaling of assessment for more students. We should be using the technology to find ways to reduce the number of assessments to a minimum.

It would require good data around the learning criteria and the student performance as well as software that was capable of creating personalised assessments and delivering them to large numbers of learners. Products exist today that mean it is technically already possible to deliver assessment in this way.

However the cultural change required by leaders and staff could be the greatest barrier to any transformation in assessment in the future.

We’d welcome further thoughts and feedback, so please contact

By Paul Bailey

Head of co-design, part of a research and development team

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