History of TAO

TAO started in late 2002 as a joint project between the public research center Henri Tudor and the University of Luxembourg.

In late 2002, The Henri Tudor Research Center- which is now the Luxembourg Institute for Science and Technology (LIST) and the University of Luxembourg were beginning to develop practical applications for their Semantic web research. The Center conceived of a project to develop a highly flexible and customizable computer-based assessment (CBA) platform that would be 100% web-based. This platform would then be freely available to the education community worldwide. The final result — the TAO platform — made it possible for test developers to define their own ontologies and data models for the first time. TAO’s Open-Source philosophy enabled communities of users to contribute to the numerous functionalities required by such an advanced multi-purpose assessment platform. The Open-Source philosophy and the flexibility it allows remain the core elements of TAO’s technological and business strategy.

TAO’s first prototype was released in 2004, followed by a second prototype in 2005, and a workflow engine in 2008.

In 2007, TAO was selected to deliver the first Electronic Reading Assessment (ERA) option for the PISA 2009 cycle, thereby breaking into the international market.

In 2008, after a series of successful deployments, TAO received a large investment in by DIPF, the German Institute for International Educational Research. This enabled TAO to re-factor the code for version 2.0, improving software quality and paving the way for a public release of the platform under the GPL-2 license.

OECD selected TAO as the core platform to deliver both the background questionnaire and the cognitive assessment test. Since then, the use of TAO has been expanded to provide advanced scenario-based items such as complex problem-solving in technology-rich environments, including fully automatic scoring of these items based on user action log analysis.

The participation in the PIAAC study enabled TAO to extensively test the platform in a large-scale multi-lingual environment, spanning 27 countries and 35 languages.

TAO’s value in PISA was further demonstrated in 2012 with ERA, Mathematics and Complex Problem-Solving tests delivered electronically, including the on-line school questionnaire. More recently, ETS and LIST have been awarded the PISA 2015-CORE2 contract to develop the global management and assessment platform for OECD.  In addition, OECD decided to extend the PIAAC survey to an additional 10 countries.

Over the years, TAO has benefited from the University of Luxembourg’s expertise in Applied Cognitive Science, educational measurement and software usability. LIST, meanwhile, has been injecting an applied research angle through its Knowledge-Intensive Systems and Services unit.  By exploiting the synergies between research in knowledge technology and its application in large-scale international studies, LIST’s TAO team has gained worldwide recognition in developing and deploying computer-based assessment solutions that are grounded in scientific validity.

Thanks to the growing international adoption, in 2013 LIST decided to spin-off TAO-related software development activities by co-founding Open Assessment Technologies S.A. Launch capital for the new company was provided not only by LIST, but also by Cito International who became the company’s latest shareholder. This has enabled the team to accelerate product development, deliver several new product releases, and win high profile projects such as NCSC in the United States.

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