Deep Learning & Authentic Assessment: Interview with Paul Crockett, CEO of Authess

A Boston-based edtech startup created out of MIT, Authess focuses on changing the way knowledge and performance are assessed, using machine learning and data analytics. CEO Paul Crockett states that they have “a conviction to make a meaningful contribution to education using the novel application of advanced technologies” and deep learning on both a human and a technological level.

One of Authess’s objectives is to address the gap between academic knowledge and jobs by validating whether a candidate can apply their knowledge and skills to solving real world problems in the workplace. Crockett emphasizes that employers want people with creative problem-solving skills who can readily adapt to change.

Traditional assessment techniques tend to offer a more limited view of a candidate, as they primarily focus on what the individual already knows. Rather than judging a learner or candidate using a system that encourages memorization, Authess aims to measure a full range of knowledge, skills, and abilities, including critical thinking, organization of knowledge, and the like.

“We’re talking about deep, meaningful learning—synthesis and creation, innovation, application,” says Crockett.

The focus, then, is not only on committing material to memory, but on knowing how to implement that material in a way that is both conducive to the individual’s learning style, and optimized for career building, so that the learner is better prepared for job opportunities.

One of Authess’s first customers is Jigsaw Academy, an online education service that offers courses on big data and analytics. Jigsaw Academy caters to academic institutions and businesses, providing a number of online professional training courses for people who are looking to hone and sharpen their skills.

However, Jigsaw has previously relied on multiple choice testing, and feels that they need to change their process. So, Jigsaw has teamed up with Authess to develop Authess assessments into their curriculum.

According to Crockett, the goal is to “expose [Jigsaw’s] learners to the types of skills needed in particular fields that use data analytics.”

Using the Authess assessments, Jigsaw users will experience scenario-based, real-world problems that require them to apply their learned skills and think creatively. Authess’s analytics and reporting will reveal just how that learner approached solving the problem, and how they compare to a range of novices and experts from the field.

While the technical aspects of Authess’s software are their main selling point, the combined experience of the people behind the company are likely its most effective tool.

CEO Paul Crockett has more than twenty years’ worth of experience in the edtech industry. Improving education through learning is his passion, and before he co-founded Authess, he spent more than ten years at Pearson developing online and mobile education apps.

Chris Kaiser, an Authess co-founder, is currently a Biology professor with a focus on biology and genetics, and former Provost of MIT.

“Chris’s teaching and thought leadership was very instrumental in why we started Authess,” said Crockett.

Kaiser’s problem-based teaching methods and his time spent as co-chair of the Board of edX, offer an informed perspective on how the convergence of authentic assessment and advanced technologies can impact online education.

While the company is still fairly new, it will be interesting to see how the Authess team leverages their unique insight and experience to develop more accurate assessments in the future.

Listen to the full interview with CEO Paul Crockett:

Sarah Samel

Sarah Samel

Sarah Samel is an Emerson College senior Writing, Literature and Publishing student focusing on young adult fiction. When she’s not browsing bookstores, she’s blogging or jotting down ideas for new poems and stories.