[Technology 1067] online learning and student skills and dispositions

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Silver-Pacuilla, Heidi HSilver-Pacuilla at air.org
Fri Jun 15 09:41:46 EDT 2007

Hello and Happy Friday! Here is the final edition of my preliminary
findings. David Rosen posted a good segue question about try-out
periods for online options. Today I am sharing some findings about the
skills and dispositions that have been found to correlate with student
success with online and supplemental computer-based instruction.

So the key question to the list may be:
How are you involving learners new to technology or independent learning

To recap, I am posting preliminary findings (and not my full methodology
or bibliography since both are currently incomplete) from the published
and posted literature on adult online literacy and language learning. I
hope you find them validating or provocative (or both!) and can join in
a lively discussion of what's actually happening in your school or

This is the third of three main areas I am sharing with the listserv:
program implementation issues, evidence of improvements of basic
literacy and language skills, and student skills and dispositions
associated with successful computer-assisted and online learning.

What follows are some key findings from the review of studies reporting
student skills and dispositions that are associated with successful
computer-assisted and online learning. This area includes a few studies
of pilot programs closer to the target inquiry into independent online
learning that looked specifically at students' performance and skills
and dispositions. Self-directedness and active learning are repeatedly
emphasized as the hallmarks of successful online learning in the program
evaluations and descriptions, no matter the literacy and language
proficiency levels of the students.

Most studies' findings converge to the following list of defining skills
and dispositions of successful independent online students published by
Askov et al. (2003: Expanding Access to Adult Literacy with Online
Distance Education. Askov, Eunice N.; Johnston, Jerome; Petty, Leslie
I.; Cambridge, Massachusetts, National Center for the Study of Adult
Learning and Literacy, p. 34):
* "They were employed or actively seeking employment.
* They had a clear goal for their participating in the program.
* They read at a seventh grade level or higher.
* They had the ability to organize their time and work
* They either had a computer at home or easy access to a computer
at a place they felt comfortable.
* They had computer skills that allowed them to navigate the site
and the Internet."
These skills and dispositions reappear in other descriptions of
successful online learners, including those in Australia (2002:
Flexibility through online learning: At a glance,
http://www.flexiblelearning.net.au/flx/go) and the United Kingdom (see
Selwyn, N., Gorard, S. and Furlong, J (2006). Adult Learning in the
Digital Age, London, Routledge).

Also, a reciprocal relationship seems to emerge: technology-based
learning environments foster the very skills necessary for success (you
learn by doing it). From the program evaluations come the documentation
of gains in personal growth (mainly self-reported or teacher-observed)
in the following dimensions:
* self-confidence
* motivation-retention-persistence
* independence and self-directedness
* goal directedness
* real-world transfer and reinforcement of skill acquisition.
Additionally, assisting learners to meet their goal to become more
computer literate help adult literacy and language learners feel a part
of the mainstream digital and information age.

How do these findings correlate with your experience and knowledge? Can
you share an example that confirms or challenges them? How are you
involving learners new to technology or independent learning situations?

Thanks - Heidi

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