ETCPS 2019

The ACTNext Education Technology and Computational Psychometrics Symposium

October 9 & 10 | Coralville, Iowa

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About ETCPS '19

*Update Sept. 25, 2019

Leaders from the State of Iowa and business & technology communities will announce the findings of the Iowa Economic Development Authority's study into the economic potential for the edtech sector in Iowa at 9:30am on October 10 at ETCPS ‘19. This press conference will be open to registered ETCPS attendees and credentialed members of the press.

The annual ACT Education Technology and Computational Psychometrics Symposium, hosted by ACTNext, brings industry leaders across multiple disciplines together for two days of challenging assumptions, exploring research insights, and experiencing the bleeding-edge technologies shaping the future of learning, measurement and navigation.

In conjunction with ETCPS '19, ACT's Center for Equity in Learning and ACTNext have co-organized a pre-conference panel and round table discussion, free and open to the public. Geared toward educators, topics will focus on bridging the gap in the digital divide, both in the classroom and in education policy.

ETCPS 2019 will be held at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center at the Iowa River Landing. We've secured a block or rooms with a discounted rate, but space is limited, so please book your room soon. Full details are available via the registration portal.

Come explore how emerging research and technologies are breaking down barriers in education and assessment - network with experts and decision makers - and have impact on the issues and challenges you care about. Lend your voice to the conversation and join us for ETCPS 2019!







Blast from the Past

Have a look at ETCPS 2018 😎

Confirmed Speakers


Betsy Corcoran

Co-Founder & CEO - EdSurge

Eric Engelmann

Executive Director, NewBoCo
Dee Kanejiya

Dee Kanejiya

CEO, Cognii

Saad Khan

Director, ACTNext

Ruitao Liu

Sr. Research Scientist, ACTNext

Irini Moustaki

Prof., London School of Economics

Lu Ou

Research Scientist I, ACTNext

Laurel Ozersky

Learning Solutions Designer II, ACTNext

Steve Polyak

Sr. Director, ACTNext
Ashish Rangnekar

Ashish Rangnekar

Co-Founder & CEO, BenchPrep

James Sprengelmeyer

Sr. Director, ACTNext

Kristin Stoeffler

Sr. Learning Solutions Designer, ACTNext
John Whitmer

John Whitmer

Sr. Director, ACTNext

Become a Sponsor

ETCPS is a great opportunity to build your brand with the leaders who are focusing the discussion on the difference between edtech fads versus the actual research and products that should be leveraged for learner success.

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Elite Sponsor

Reception Sponsor

Lunch Sponsor

Supporting Sponsors

ETCPS '19 Schedule

09 October, 2019

10 : 30 AM - 12 : 00 PM

The Digital Divide, Education Technology & Education Equity. A Pre-Conference Workshop Hosted by ACTNext and ACT's Center for Equity in Learning.

The Center for Equity in Learning's research on the digital divide, released in August 2018, showed a need for students from underserved backgrounds to gain access to technology at home. Our panelists will examine the digital divide, ed tech (and other) solutions that may present themselves, and obstacles & opportunities for use.This session is free and open to the public, but attendees will need to register to attend via the registration portal. For more information, please visit the pre-conference information page.

On-site registration available, starting 9:30 AM

09 October, 2019

1 : 00 PM - 5 : 00 PM

ETCPS '19 Day One

Followed by Research Reception, 5 : 00 PM - 7 : 00 PM

On-site registration available, starting 9:30 AM

1 : 00 PM - 1 : 10 PM

Welcome to ETCPS '19

Opening Remarks Delivered by ACT CEO Marten Roorda.

1 : 15 PM - 1 : 55 PM

Perspectives on Edtech: Trends, Teachers’ Role, and Partnerships

Context matters. Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed an explosion of technology and data applied to both formal and informal learning. We’ve also more rigorously assessed our understanding of how students learn, including the factors that shape their ability to learn. Before diving into the complexities of research and the opportunities created by using the latest technology to advance learning, let’s ground ourselves in the experiences of our contemporary education experience. This talk will give an overview of salient trends in formal education and learning, the experience of educators and how education technology both fits -- and at times, does not fit -- into the work of students and learners. We’ll explore both the need for measures of efficacy in edtech products -- and what it will take to give educators the confidence and encouragement they need to use the evolving measures.

By Betsy Corcoran

2 : 00 PM - 2 : 30 PM

Tackling Heterogeneity and Phase Transitions in Learning Processes

Learning processes often exhibit continuous dynamics interspersed with regime-switching discontinuities. It is often at the center of quest to identify individual and group-based differences in learning trajectories when dealing with educational multimodal time series data with potential phase transitions. In this presentation, we present advanced statistical models along with efficient software tools to address the issue, and showcase applications of these models and algorithms to understand learning processes in various environments. We will discuss the usefulness of the methods in providing instructional support in teaching and self-learning.

By Lu Ou

2 : 30 PM - 2 : 50 PM

Networking Break

2 : 55 PM - 3 : 25 PM

Innovating at the Intersection of Research & Development and Business Needs, or What Batman’s Villains Can Teach Us About Collaboration

While innovation can be energizing for some, it can be a source of anxiety for others. Advances in artificial intelligence may open the door to more efficiencies and greater scalability, but they can also be perceived as threats to the status quo and to those accustomed to established practices. Expertise in natural language processing and machine learning, fluency with regular expressions, and skill with JavaScript and Python, for example, can break new ground and transform capabilities, but unless the innovative methods and applications attend to the needs and insights of subject matter experts, forward thinking and adoption of new processes and tools can stall. Using recent ACT projects sitting at the intersection of research & development and business needs, this presentation will emphasize the critical role of collaboration and how to encourage it. Short clips from thirty years of Batman films will illustrate cautionary tales of collaboration.

By James Sprengelmeyer

3 : 30 PM - 4 : 10 PM

Hybrid Models and Their Uses for Modelling Heterogeneous Populations, Detecting Aberrant Responses and Cheating Behaviour.

In this talk I will discuss how models with discrete and continuous latent variables provide a general and flexible framework for modelling populations that consists of multiple groups but also detecting outliers and cheating. Responses are usually test outcomes or answers to questionnaire items and can be of any type such as categorical, continuous or mixed. Similarly latent variables that explain the inter-relationships among the observed variables can be either continuous or discrete. In the hybrid case a combination of continuous and discrete latent variables can accommodate flexible distributions for the latent variables (e.g. mixtures of normals), model zero-inflated data through a degenerate class, detect alternative response strategies and detect cheating behaviour and compromised items. The methods will be illustrated using data from education and social surveys.

By Irini Moustaki

4 : 15 PM - 4 : 45 PM

Building an EdTech Ecosystem

There's no rule book for creating and growing innovative new companies. But in this session, we'll explore lessons learned while attempting to do just that, including aligning corporate partners, investment capital, entrepreneurial support, research resources, and governmental entities around a key goal to grow an Education Technology ecosystem that can thrive.

By Eric Engelmann

09 October, 2019

5 : 00 PM - 7 : 00 PM

Research and Tech Demo Reception

Get a firsthand look at nearly 40 research posters and demonstrations presented by technologists and researchers from institutions including ACT,, Duolingo, Edmentum, Florida State University, HCL, Kidaptive, Nepris, Delta V Coding School, Princeton University, Shaking Earth Digital, Starrmatica, the University of Georgia, and the University of Iowa.

Sponsored By Corridor Business Journal.

10 October, 2019

8 : 45 AM - 4 : 15 PM

ETCPS '19 Day Two

On-site registration available, starting 8:00 AM

8 : 30 AM - 8 : 40 AM


Day Two Opening Remarks Delivered by ACT Senior Vice President and Head of ACTNext, Alina von Davier.

8 : 40 AM - 9 : 20 AM

My Proposal to You: Let’s Get Learners Engaged!

If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? We’re seeing a similar conundrum with today’s self-assessment and learning programs. While the industry is developing modernized assessment strategies with new learning science findings, that great work is all for naught if it doesn’t make its way all the way down to our candidates. To have a real impact, design and learner engagement are the key drivers all of us must prioritize and focus on. If self-assessments and learning programs are not keeping learners engaged, we’re likely to see increased drop out rates that result in less candidates taking exams and benefiting from new learning strategies.

Tools like gamification, social learning, push notification, and digital badging are now top of mind, but are they actually being applied effectively? In this session, BenchPrep CEO & Co-Founder Ashish Rangnekar will detail three ways to engage candidates, how to best incorporate those examples into learning programs, and what you must consider when designing self-assessments to meet the needs of your organizations.

By Ashish Rangnekar

9 : 30 AM - 10 : 30 AM

Iowa EdTech Roadmap: Press Conference and Q & A

Officials from the State of Iowa, along with leaders from business and technology sectors, will deliver the executive summary of an environmental scan commissioned by the Iowa Economic Development Authority on the economic potential for education technology in the state. This press conference will be open to registered ETCPS attendees and credentialed members of the press.

10 : 35 AM - 11 : 05 AM

Predicting Student Social and Emotional Skills using Learning Analytics

Clickstream data from Learning Management Systems (and other educational technologies) has been repeatedly demonstrated to predict course-level student success; but why are these predictions accurate? What underlying psychological constructs or learning strategies might be latent in this behavioral data? In this presentation, we will present results from a research project conducted with five courses (n=927) at the University of Maryland Baltimore County to evaluate the relationship between social and emotional skills (e.g. grit, tenacity, curiosity) assessed in the ACT Tessera, student activity in the Blackboard Learn LMS and use of Vitalsource eTextbooks. There were significant relationships between SE skills and activity patterns that demonstrate strong relationship between SE skills and student learning strategies and practices.

This study builds on several recent methodological and conceptual advances in the Learning Analytics field. We take an evidence-centered design approach that maps the available data to pedagogically relevant concepts and activities in the courses under investigation. This addresses the “clicks to constructs” issue noted by (Lang et. al 2018). Further, we employ sequential data mining techniques to group individual data elements into patterned sequences common between courses. Finally, we evaluate the impact of student demographic and educational preparedness factors into our results, ensuring that the findings can be generalized and any differences between student groups identified, if not fully explained through follow-on analyses.

By John Whitmer & Ruitao Liu

11 : 10 AM - 11 : 50 AM

Conversational Assessments and Tutoring with AI

Conversation is at the core of education, training, and workplace. Conversational assessments involve open-response questions, constructed response answers, and instant formative feedback - all expressed in natural language. It supports Benjamin Bloom’s seminal work on mastery learning and allows the measurement of active knowledge recall, critical thinking, and problem solving - skills that are important for succeeding in the 21st century work environment. Virtual Learning Assistant(VLA) is a new genre of AI based EdTech that supports the scalable implementation of conversational assessments and tutoring. VLA can improve students’ learning outcomes, teachers’ productivity, and schools’ scalability of high quality education. This session will introduce the pedagogy of conversational assessments along with the challenges, solutions, and efficacy studies, and a discussion on the future of educational assessments.

By Dee Kanejiya

11 : 50 AM - 1 : 00 PM


Lunch Sponsored by Ascend Learning

1 : 10 PM - 1 : 40 PM

From Conceptualization to Implementation: Enabling a Scalable Voice-Based Learning Assistant

In the lead up to taking the ACT, students will typically review skills through test preparation activities. It is beneficial to diagnose what the student appears to have mastered and identify specific areas needing more review based on prior assessment results and ongoing practice activity. This diagnosis can then be used to drive a recommendation engine that can formulate personalized lists of open educational resources. This enables a pathway for self-directed learning and review based on feedback and access to targeted instructional content.

It has been estimated that the worldwide smart speaker installed base will grow to more than 207 million units by the end of 2019. ACTNext, the innovation group within ACT, leveraged the capabilities of these devices by building a voice-driven learning solution. The learning assistant acts as a coach that can access a student’s mastery diagnostics and can provide ongoing advice on where the student should review next. The assistant also knows all about the ACT and enables conversations about what is on the test, when and where to take it and can also set reminders to ensure they are on track to complete the assessment.

In this presentation, I will describe how we took this concept of building a voice-based assistant and implemented a free solution that can scale to millions of students and homes. I will introduce the components that enabled the assistant, from the Holistic Framework, ACT Academy and the Recommendation and Diagnostics (RAD) API to the voice elements of the Alexa Skill.

By Steve Polyak

1 : 45 PM - 2 : 25 PM

EDU2050: Design and Development of Innovative Learning and Assessment Solutions

Higher-order skills such as, creativity, critical thinking, scientific inquiry, and computational thinking transform lives and drive economies. However, the learning and assessment of these skills using traditional methods is a challenging task. Recent advancements in technology, learning science, cognitive psychology, and educational assessment enable the development of innovative learning and assessment solutions for these higher-order skills. This presentation will highlight current constructs, concepts, and techniques facilitating the effective design and development of technology-enhanced assessments for higher-order skills at scale. We will also share prototypes being used to explore this space as part of our EDU2050 initiative.

Co-Presented by Kristin Stoeffler & Laurel Ozersky

2 : 25 PM - 2 : 35 PM

Networking Break

2 : 40 PM - 3 : 20 PM

Crisis in Space – A New Way to Measure Collaboration Skills Using Online Games

Games are everywhere, in fact it may be hard to keep up with whatever new game your friends or your kids may be playing. ACTNext has been doing work on collaborative problem solving in our own video game, and recently wrapped up their first pilot study in area schools. Using AI and Machine Learning techniques we are developing non-invasive methods of measuring social-emotional skills in an ecologically valid manner. Specifically, we will look at how team dynamics and team member task interactions are manifested as observable behaviors, and how these behaviors can be analyzed via passive collection such as video, audio, and eye tracking data streams. These data are merged with self- and peer-report measures to provide a holistic representation of individuals’ collaboration skills as they manifest in team settings. You may have heard of this project, or seen some coverage of it on the local news, but come hear from the researchers directly involved in this work to find out what it’s all about!

By Saad Khan

3 : 20 PM - 3 : 30 PM

Closing Remarks

Wrap-up Delivered by ACTNext Senior Director, Ada Woo

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