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Assessing Student Readiness for Online Instruction

written by: James Ballou•edited by: Heather Marie Kosur•updated: 9/10/2010

Student readiness is based on skills and personality traits. Assessing students properly helps to reveal performance gaps and missing abilities that will have a negative impact on classroom development. Identifying skill gaps of incoming student populations allow for appropriate class enrollment.

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    What Makes an Online Student Successful

    The assessment of student readiness for online instruction is important for online students to meet their goals. The daily requirements, challenging curriculum, and independent nature of online learning require some specific skills and abilities. Personality traits are key factors in assessing an individual's readiness to participate in online instruction while technical skills are the manifestation of those traits. Schools intent on helping students succeed use assessment tools that identify skill levels and implement plans for strategically addressing the wide variety of results.

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    Personality Traits

    Personality traits essential for student success include self-motivation, time management, and the ability to read and follow instructions with exactness. Students that lack one or more of these characteristics have difficult keeping up with the workload and often fail to turn assignments in on time. Online instruction also requires that students understand what they are reading and that they are capable of converting those words into actions. Student readiness assessments determine if a participant lacks the reading comprehension necessary for carrying out those actions.

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    Performance Abilities

    Writing and basic computer proficiency are important factors in assessing student readiness but in many cases individuals without these skills jump into online training without realizing the study pace. Students must be able to use word processing applications, Internet browsing tools, and understand how to upload and download files. Because these skills are so prevalent in society, it is easy to forget that many people lack those essential skills. Students that are weak in these areas are unlikely to be able to complete their assignments and may have a detrimental effect on classmates because instructors will need to spend time teaching rudimentary skills rather than the core concepts of the class.

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    Evaluating the readiness of any individual to participate in online instruction can be challenging but is essential. Failing to assess student readiness can be an especially challenging issue for schools with open enrollment policies but lack the requisite systems to address skill gaps. Schools can deal these issues in a variety of ways. Some schools build systems into the curriculum so that students are able to gradually develop their skills during a set program that all students must complete. Other schools provide workshops that run parallel to the student's other classes. Another approach involves a readiness assessment that directs students to complete remedial courses as necessary.

    Assessing students involves subjecting them to a small battery of tests to validate the minimum level of readiness. The tests are designed to allow students to demonstrate the writing, technical, and personality traits that lead to success in online instruction. Such testing systems are not designed to determine enrollment eligibility but are useful for mapping out a proper set of introductory courses as needed. Implementing these fairly simple assessments can make the difference between success and failure for a student and is likely to have a dramatic impact on retention.

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    The Outcome of Effective Assessments

    When schools are careful in performing an assessment of student readiness for online instruction of incoming student populations, they are able to increase the overall quality of the education they offer. Instructors at these schools are capable of spending more time on course concepts and less time dealing with students that require remedial help. This aids in the development of a highly dynamic instructional environment wherein online instruction flourishes and students complete the entirety of their programs.