‘Understanding Learners’ Needs’ is the topic for this week, which is really important in general but especially for distance learners. The ‘if you only do one thing this week do this’ activity for week 2 is to look at some online readiness assessment questionnaires provided by a number of American colleges and universities:
- Penn State University: Online Readiness Assessment
- San Diego Community College: Online Learning Readiness Assessment
- Illinois Online Network: Self Evaluation for Potential Online Students
- University of Houston: Test of Online Learning Success
I’m really interested in this as I’d never come across this kind of thing before, and it seems potentially very useful so I took them all. Luckily it seems I am ‘online ready’!
Whilst the questionnaires varied in terms of how much detail they went into, there were lots of similarities – generally speaking they all asked about:
- technical skills (computer literacy: email, internet browsing, word processing, file management, installing software)
- time management and organisation
- lifestyle: suitability / need for online learning
- attitudes to learning / learning styles
- awareness of how demanding online learning can be
The questionnaires that provide detailed feedback (San Diego Community College) are much more helpful than those that just provide a score (Illinois Online Network). The feedback helps to separate out the different aspects that are being examined, which is important, since someone may have an excellent attitude towards online learning, excellent organisational skills and so on, but be very challenged by the technical aspects of learning online, and receive a medium score which tells them very little. The detailed feedback enables them to assess areas of strength and weakness, and importantly, do something about it.
I’d definitely consider directing our applicants to these questionnaires, or perhaps developing one of our own. I think it’s a really useful way of getting them thinking about what online learning involves, and is a chance to highlight potential problem areas early, when there is time to do something about them. Feedback linked to solutions such as guidance on organisation and technical skills training would be really helpful.