[Technology 1139] Re: pre assessments for online learning

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Melinda Hefner mhefner at cccti.edu
Wed Jun 27 12:54:35 EDT 2007


You have described precisely one of the problems my department's literacy students encounter. Can you imagine an adult student whose only computer experience has been working with educational software or web-based programs in an ABE/GED class, completing his/her GED, going on to take college level classes, and enrolling in a DL course? We offer our adult literacy students computer literacy training, and we also offer them transition to college classes, but it is beyond our scope and, quite honestly, the capability of most of our instructors (this is not meant to be critical of our instructors) to teach them about using various content delivery systems, web portals, online advising systems, etc.

Blackboard, WebCT, Campus Cruiser, homegrown content and learning delivery systems , etc. generally offer tutorial information, but all too often educational institutions merely regurgitate the tutorial information. Presenting information does not mean that learning has taken place. I've heard too many times from the IT folks, "Why don't they know how to use Blackboard? We offer workshops each semester."

Educational providers need to be knowledgeable, savvy, and willing to spend some money to get systems that allow for superior online teaching and learning, not just to act as repositories for materials, electronic portfolios, or as databases for grades. It's an upfront investment that I think has tremendous benefits for learners, educators, and institutions. Those schools that are doing it well have fabulous results with student learning.

Melinda M. Hefner
Director, Literacy Support Services

Basic Skills Department
Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute
2855 Hickory Blvd.
Hudson, North Carolina 28638
Office: (828) 726-2245
FAX: (828) 726-2266







>>> "Lissa probus" <joyess1 at gmail.com> 06/26/07 6:47 PM >>>


Melinda -

I want to respond to your statement:
"We've found that students often think that the computer skills they have are sufficient for a DL course, when they aren't. (They may e-mail and use the internet, but not know how to save files, upload files, use discussion boards, use digital drop boxes, use virtual classrooms, etc., etc.)."

The problem with assessing for these skills seems to me to be that they are course and interface specific. As a doc student, I have used several versions of blackboard, three university email systems and programmed web sites to accept user content. I still have to learn how to save files, upload files, use discussion boards, use digital drop boxes, use virtual classrooms, etc., etc anew with every new system I encounter. I know many ways this CAN work, but it is essential that technical support for the specific interface be included in the instruction and targeted at the learning group expected to use the interface. This is not like climbing the stairs to enter the building - its as if new ways of building stairs were being invented every day - sometimes at the same building! Interestingly enough, this is occasionally an exercise in internet history, while many commecial websites make this interface seamless and intuitive - many educational providers are either at the mercy of an antiquated system or buying an interface that is not consistently applied.


On 6/26/07, Silver-Pacuilla, Heidi <HSilver-Pacuilla at air.org> wrote:
Hi everyone – great to see the conversation keeping up at such a robust level! I just wanted to raise a point from my research review as well as my personal work and research with students. I would caution against pre-assessments that screen people out of classes. Pre assessments in our literacy and ESOL world should screen people *into* the right environments for their skills, otherwise we will lose them - again. Students who responded to evaluations of their online learning experience unanimously say that they learned computer skills AND self-directed learning habits *by* participating. This is a very fine line in service delivery, I know, but I think the key is to encourage students to try and then have supports on hand as/when they need them. We also have to keep pushing to produce and use better, more responsive instructional materials that teach the skills necessary to learn from them.
Good luck to all of us!

Heidi Silver-Pacuilla, Ph.D.
American Institutes for Research
1000 Thomas Jefferson Street NW
Washington, DC 20007
202.403.5218 (Phone)
202.403.5454 (Fax)



From: technology-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto: technology-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf Of Melinda Hefner
Sent: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 12:27 PM
To: The Technology and Literacy Discussion List
Subject: [Technology 1126] Re: Tryout periods

I'm so glad to hear that your students' computer literacy skills are assessed. We've found that students often think that the computer skills they have are sufficient for a DL course, when they aren't. (They may e-mail and use the internet, but not know how to save files, upload files, use discussion boards, use digital drop boxes, use virtual classrooms, etc., etc.).

You didn't mention this, but I assume that the assessments also measure sefl-management skills, learning styles, lifestyle considerations, hardware and software requirements, etc. Measuring students' perceptions of DL courses is also helpful since many first-time DL students think that DL courses are easier than seated or hybrid courses.

I've seen lots of DL readiness assessments, but often they only address computer skills rather than also addressing the areas I mentioned above. As DL courses become more and more common and as student learning and student satisfaction data are analyzed, I believe that the importance of comprehensive distance learning readiness will emerge.


Melinda M. Hefner
Director, Literacy Support Services

Basic Skills Department
Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute
2855 Hickory Blvd.
Hudson, North Carolina 28638
Office: (828) 726-2245
FAX: (828) 726-2266







>>> "Susan Jones" <SUJones at parkland.edu> 06/26/07 11:09 AM >>>

I have seen exactly such readiness assessments. I'm pretty sure I had to take one before I took an online course here in 2000... but it wasn't a grad program. Starting recently, *all* our students have to take a "computer competency" assessment and course placement is recommended from that. (We have several levels of basic computer competency classes.)

Susan Jones
Academic Development Specialist
Academic Development Center
Parkland College
Champaign, IL 61821
sujones at parkland.edu
Webmastress,
http://www.resourceroom.net
http://bicyclecu.blogspot.com



>>> Melinda Hefner <mhefner at cccti.edu> 6/25/2007 2:41 PM >>>

I'm jumping in here mid-stream so this may have been discussed previously.

I have rarely seen in DL courses, especially for DL literacy courses, any kind of distance learning readiness assessment. You're so right when you say that "...it seems reasonable that we help them find the instructional method or class that best fits their needs and learning styles." I'm in a 100% online grad program and several of the folks have dropped out because their technical skills simply weren't adequate. I've found too many educators who have discounted the DL readiness piece and go on to blame the students for not being successful.

Melinda M. Hefner
Director, Literacy Support Services

Basic Skills Department
Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute
2855 Hickory Blvd.
Hudson, North Carolina 28638
Office: (828) 726-2245
FAX: (828) 726-2266







>>> Leslie Petty <lpetty at twmi.rr.com> 06/25/07 10:40 AM >>>


I agree. Some of the states in Project IDEAL have found that students who have an extensive orientation to the distance material - including plenty of time to "play" and get a feel for this instructional approach - tend to persist longer. If we want students to be successful, it seems reasonable that we help them find the instructional method or class that best fits their needs and learning styles. It's hard for them to make an informed decision about distance if they're unfamiliar with it, so the idea of try-out periods makes a great deal of sense.

Leslie Petty

Wendy Quinones wrote:
I'm a little late getting back to this, but I love the point you made,
Nancy, about the try-out being a learning experience even if the course
isn't completed. I've found that to be the case with PD online as well,
with teachers trying out the online experience and deciding they definitely
don't like it and leaving; others finding that the material or the
participant interaction to be so valuable that they persist in the face of
all kinds of technical and personal difficulties. Not too different from
our students, I think. In this age of accountability we focus perhaps to
much on outcomes and not enough on process and what can be learned from it,
regardless of outcome.

Wendy Quinones
----- Original Message -----
From: <nancy.friday at alphaplus.ca>
To: "The Technology and Literacy Discussion List" <technology at nifl.gov>
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2007 2:03 PM
Subject: [Technology 1073] Re: Tryout periods



Hi,

Nancy from Toronto here again in response to the issue of learner
retention.
Recruitment and retention have been the focus of much discussion during
the
distance delivery research we have been engaged in at the AlphaPlus Centre
with
the four sites that have been exploring distance delivery.

Retention has also been a noted interest in what happens in short online
courses
that we have developed and delivered as part of AlphaRoute for the past
three
years. Our emerging and currently only form of new content for AlphaRoute
this
year is online courses. Our courses are four weeks long. For the first
two
years they were delivered in a discussion forum - Web Board (supported by
an
external course web site) as part of AlphaRoute. This year we are
offering the
courses in Moodle. You can take a look at the course topic list and
external
course web sites at:
www.resources.alpharoute.org > Resources > Online courses for adult
literacy
students

What we have found in terms of retention is that for the first two weeks,
students are gung-ho, and then we see a drop-off in week three that is
sustained
through week four. Generally we have found that a third of the students
that
enroll in a course complete it and receive a course certificate of
participation.

Interesting what you share David about a two-week period being perhaps the
right
amount to try-out time.

I should note that we acknowledge there is a continuum of learning for us
all,
and so for a student to take the step and enroll in an AlphaRoute online
course
is in fact a learning step. Trying it out for a week or two to see how it
works
and then not continuing is also learning. Committing to take the course
and
complete the work to achieve the certificate at the end (and learning some
cool
stuff along the way) is a goal for us. And in the world of demonstrating
literacy learning and a range of skills, can make for a great
demonstration.
But we would like to think that our courses are so valuable to learners
and
engaging that they will all move from start to finish. It isn't realistic
that
they will though - because of that continuum of learning.


>From the stats and knowledge of the programs that the students enrolled in


the

courses come from, the highest retention rates come from students whose
instructor has included the AlphaRoute online course within their
instruction
and where students are in a computer lab at the same time taking the
course. So
motivation and support (instructor and peer) are onsite. However, the
course
facilitator is at a distance and does contribute to a motivating and
retention
aspect of student support. The development of online courses in
AlphaRoute has
not been done within a research project or model. We are learning as we
go and
writing articles and sharing information as we learn. Our challenge at
this
point is to focus on that three week drop-off reality and see what we can
do
from the course content and development side to attempt to support
learners in
sustaining their involvement past that drop-off point.

Any suggestions or ideas from the range of instructors and researchers
participating in this discussion are more than welcome!

Nancy Friday









"David J. Rosen" <djrosen at comcast.net> on 06/15/2007 09:01:41 AM

Please respond to The Technology and Literacy Discussion List
<technology at nifl.gov>








To: The Technology and Literacy Discussion List
<technology at nifl.gov>

cc: (bcc: Nancy Friday)



Subject: [Technology 1064] Tryout periods








Distance Learning Technology Colleagues,

Earlier this week, in response to a message Heidi Silver-Pacuilla had
posted, Holly Dilatush wrote:

"too many learners register, show up one week, then drop before/
without completing 12 hours/first episode. Follow-up (to attempt to
determine WHY) has been challenging -- guesswork more than documented
responses. There
are SO many extenuating circumstances."

For many adult learners, especially those who choose online options,
and for many reasons, we need to design/include/expect a "tryout
period" a short online learning experience -- perhaps two weeks --
sampling the material, process and technology used in the longer,
online learning. At the end of the tryout, participants can stop (if
they were experimenting with the medium, are not happy with the
content, can't make the longer commitment, or for any other reason).
Those who are ready to commit, can do so, and at that point begin to
be counted in the DOE-funded system.

Does an example of this already exist somewhere? If so, how is the
tryout period funded? (State and local funders and private funders
need to pick up the costs of this "tryout")

I believe we need the same sort of tryout period for teachers doing
online professional development. Does a model of this exist somewhere?

Your thoughts?


David J. Rosen
djrosen at comcast.net



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===========================================================
Nancy Friday
AlphaRoute Coordinator
AlphaPlus Centre (http://alphaplus.ca)
Telephone: (416) 322-1012 x.305
Fax: 1-800-788-1417
TTY: 1-800-788-1912
nancy.friday at alphaplus.ca
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--
*********************************
Leslie Petty
Associate Director, Project IDEAL
University of Michigan
Institute for Social Research
734-425-0748
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