Client Intro

The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) is the national voice of education in Canada, representing Ministers of Education across all provinces and territories. The CMEC is an intergovernmental body founded in 1967 by Canadian ministers of education. Ministers of education work through CMEC on a variety of activities, projects and initiatives, such as consulting and acting on a variety of issues in elementary, secondary and postsecondary education, developing and reporting on education indicators, and assessing the skills and competencies of Canadian students.

The Challenge

A multi-stage, Pan-Canadian initiative, funded by Human Resources & Development Canada (HRDC) and driven by the CMEC, required the development, deployment and ongoing management of an Online Language Assessment tool. This fully secure, online tool would effectively assist provincial/territorial teacher certification registrars in testing the language proficiency of internationally educated teachers. Assessment results would effectively determine whether or not internationally educated teacher candidates met the language requirements for teacher certifications within the various Canadian jurisdictions.

Certification registrars in most Canadian jurisdictions maintained limited means of assessing the language competencies of internationally trained teacher candidates, however the mechanisms used were not designed for assessment language competencies that are essential for practitioners in the teaching profession. In addition, commonly used language tests provided inconsistent and unreliable assessment results.

A fully web-based solution would successfully determine listening, reading, writing and speaking comprehension using built-in multimedia tools such as audio recordings and playbacks. Using a secure, web-based platform, Registrars and test item writers in various Canadian jurisdictions would require access to the application in order to create and deliver language proficiency tests. The application would also be responsible for recording assessments results and participant data within a highly secure and fully encrypted database.

The ability to access, review and evaluated completed assessments and well as create user-generated reports were also key challenges. In addition, as a large scale Pan-Canadian initiative, this project involved a large number of diverse stakeholders as well as user types. In order to ensure success, each stakeholder would have to play an active and collaborative role throughout the development process. National beta testing would be required in order to capture user and administrator feedback across the Canadian provinces.

The Solution

Acting as the lead technology consultant for the entire CMEC initiative, Wired Solutions developed a custom application powered by XpressLab, our proprietary high-stakes language proficiency assessment and course delivery platform. The Online Language Assessment tool was fully customized to suit the needs of the CMEC and their stakeholders, with built-in tools specifically designed to test the language proficiencies applicable to the teaching profession.

Working closely with a team of education representatives from various ministries across the country, Wired Solutions leveraged XpressLab’s slide-based authoring environment, which allows for audio and video elements to be added directly within the testing environment. The slide-based authoring environment is similar to the commonly used Microsoft PowerPoint software. Language assessment questions are created using slides, and a rich activity editor allows test writers to create interactive content that includes formatted text, pictures, voice recordings and video. Audio clips could be added by simply dragging and dropping audio widgets directly into the question slide. Audio question prompts could be recorded at the click of a button, while teacher candidates could record their own audio responses. The application of interactive testing simuli, as well as the system’s ability to store audio files and assessment results in a fully secure database, ensures that the required proficiency metrics were captured and retained. The entire platform was also fully skinned and branded to reflect the CMEC.

The fully integrated and customized Evaluation and Reporting engine, allowed registrars, evaluators and essential administrators to effectively listen to each candidate’s recorded answers, in addition to reviewing all written responses, making proficiency evaluation much more streamlined, authentic, consistent and reliable. Built-in evaluation and feedback components allow for the application of context-based feedback on candidate responses.

While the core XpressLab platform is fully bilingual, Wired Solutions provided addition integration with multilingual support for French and English candidates. Language assessments could be effectively displayed in either English or French depending on the user’s preference, while also ensuring that language preferences could be changed in real-time.

In addition, Wired Solutions provided central hosting and management for the application. The system was distributed to testing centres across Canada over an internet connection that used the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol. In order to adhere to strict high stakes data security protocol, all candidate test data was stored centrally in a fully encrypted format.

The system was also customized to include an e-commerce component to support remitting payments from teacher candidates.

In order to ensure that objectives were met for each stakeholder, Wired Solutions worked closely with CMEC team leaders, as well as the entire Language Competency subcommittee. We participated in national beta testing, during which time we traveled to each Canadian province, gathering feedback from recently certified teachers, and implementing vetted change requests. The involvement and feedback from all major stakeholders allowed us to ensure that the final solution met the needs of all user groups, prior to project launch.

Supporting Technologies

  • C#
  • Javascript
  • Adobe Flash for audio playback and recording
  • SQL Server and SQL Server Agent