Monday, September 24, 2012

Online Student Readiness Assessment

Open Universities Australia (OUA) offer online tools to help students with Career Advice  and Readiness Assessment for Study.

The readiness assessment asks students to rate themselves using a five point Likert scale (Strongly disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly agree).  The first eighteen questions, headed "Goals", address the student's attitude to studying online, level of  motivation and time available for study. A second fourteen questions ask if the student has suitable technology for on-line study.

Curiously, one question asks if the student has Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, or Mac OS X. Apparently students using Linux, Google Android or iOS on an Apple iPad are excluded from study. Having undertaken several online courses, I have had some difficulties using Linux and there would appear to be too small a user base to cater for. However, tablet computer and web appliance operating systems Google Android and Apple iOS would see a large enough potential market.

The student is also asked if they are using a dial-up internet connection and they have a high speed internet connection. Dial-up and 3G connections are apparently considered too slow. I found a 3G wireless connection more than adequate for most online courses (both as a student and tutor). For real time video and audio conferencing careful setting of the system to minimise bandwidth was needed, but most online courses will not require video.

The student is asked if they have a recent version of Microsoft Office. I found that OpenOffice/LibreOffice was an adequate alternative.

The third set of twelve questions asks about the student's approach to study and in particular their writing skills. One problem with the questions is that this is an opinion survey, that is the student is asked if they know what plagiarism is, there is no text of this knowledge administered.

The tool presents the student with an assessment (mine was "Almost Ready", which is curious given I have successfully passed online courses, as well as designing one) and then makes recommendations for first units. In my case PREP03 "Preparing for University Learning Intensive", was recommended. Also Bridging units are offered, which is particularly relevant for those who would not have previously considered university.

It would be interesting to apply this technique to higher degree and research students.

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