Measuring College Students’ Readiness for Online Learning

In the article by Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010), Learner Readiness for Online Learning: Scale Development and Student Perceptions, they attempt to identify what factors are good indicators for determining college students’ readiness for online learning. Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) develop and validate an instrument for measuring college student readiness, the Online Learning Readiness Scale (OLRS). Gender is also explored as a potential factor impacting college student readiness for online learning. Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) cite research that Tsai and Lin (2004) conducted on “…636 high school students and found that females were more likely than males to perceive the Internet as pragmatic and that males’ enjoyment of the Internet was greater than females’ corresponding enjoyment” (p. 1083). Obviously male and females approach the Internet differently, but it does not prove that gender is an indicator of readiness for online learning. The research questions explored by Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) are below.

  • Could an OLRS model be constructed and validated through CFA (confirmatory factor analysis)?
  • What is college students’ readiness for online learning?
  • Does the gender of college students make any difference in their readiness for online learning?
  • Does the grade (i.e., level of accumulated academic credits) of college students make any difference in their readiness for online learning?

The study conducted by Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) included 1,051 college students enrolled in three universities in Taiwan that answered a questionnaire using a 5-point Likert-type scale. The questionnaire had five parts: self-directed learning, learner control, motivation for learning, computer/Internet self-efficacy, and online communication self-efficacy. The response rate was high at 87.6% and reasonably varied in the respondents’ characteristics. The make up of the participant population included 589 females, 462 males, 648 seniors, 321 juniors, and 82 freshmen and sophomores. The college students were enrolled in a variety of online asynchronous courses that included life chemistry (658 students), calculus (169 students), statistics (80 students), Taiwan ecology (79 students), and introduction to environmental protections (65 students) (Hung, Chou, Chen, & Own 2010).

What was surprising about the results of the study is that gender was not found to be an indicator or influence of readiness for online learning. Both the male and female college students responded to the questionnaire’s five dimensions similarly enough that there was no significant difference between the two (Hung, Chou, Chen, & Own 2010). What is interesting though is that women still seem more drawn to the online learning environment then men. There might be a learning preference difference among the genders that does not affect readiness, but affects the populations of online learning environments. The higher number of female respondents might also be attributed to the fact that females are more likely to respond to a questionnaire than males. This is something else to look into and consider in future research.

On the other hand what did affect learner readiness for online learning was grade level. Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) found that juniors and seniors exhibited more readiness for online learning than freshmen and sophomores. This is attributed to the older students having more maturity and experience than the younger students. The junior and seniors were better at self-directed learning, learner control, motivation for learning, and online communication self-efficacy. This means the juniors and seniors could manage and organize their time, were more motivated perhaps because they were closer to graduation, and were more comfortable with communicating online with their peers and instructors. The only factor that was equal was computer/Internet self-efficacy, which is not surprising in this day and age. All the students regardless of grade level were comfortable with their computer and Internet skills and knowledge (Hung, Chou, Chen, & Own 2010). What is curious about these findings is that no ages of the students are mentioned. All that is known is that they are enrolled in a Taiwan university. Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) assume that the juniors and seniors are older than the freshmen and sophomores. Does older mean mid to upper twenties for juniors and seniors? Maybe in Taiwan it is less typical to have students older than twenty something, but from my own experience in the United States it is common, especially in online classes to have students above the twenty something age. I think it is less about age and more about years of experience with the online learning environment that is important to consider. It would be interesting to know how many online classes the students had taken before being surveyed for this research. This seems to be a missing factor in the research. Prior experience should always be considered, especially when creating a tool to measure students’ readiness for online learning

Self-directed learning seems to be a key factor in determining readiness for online learning, especially among freshmen and sophomores (Hung, Chou, Chen, & Own 2010). Even though not even a tenth of the participants were freshmen and sophomores it is common sense that they would need more guidance from teachers how to manage their learning and how to develop self-discipline. Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) make this statement about freshmen that it is difficult for them “…to adjust their high school learning patterns to college ones, and even tougher to make the adjustment from their high school classrooms to virtual college classrooms” (p. 1088). If an incoming college student does not know how to manage their study time and lacks self-discipline online learning may not be the best choice until these basic skills are developed with the help of the physical education systems. Online learning requires more internal and individual motivation than do face-to-face classes where there are more social and peer pressures to help motivate the student because they are more visible.

After all that is said and done the OLRS (Online Learning Readiness Scale) was designed and tested to help further the research in the area of determining student readiness for online learning. As Hung, Chou, Chen, and Own (2010) point out their research includes a decent sample size, but more research needs to be conducted to include a variety of online classes with varying subjects. Also more needs to be done to look into how grade level, age, maturity, and prior experience plays a role in readiness in online learning. What else is highlighted about the research is that freshmen may be coming to college without the online learning experience they need to be successful and ready for such a learning environment. K-12 schools need to consider incorporating more of the online learning environment characteristics into the classroom because it is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the college learning experience. Maybe high schools need to offer an introductory course to online learning, something short and sweet. Many colleges require a similar course, but maybe it would be beneficial to start at the high school level. It could become a new requirement for graduation. All in all interesting ideas about how to gauge students’ readiness for online learning, but more needs to be done to improve the OLRS before it can be reliably used by anyone.

References

Hung, M., Chou, C., Chen, C., & Own, Z. (2010). Learner readiness for online learning: Scale development and student perceptions. Computers & Education, 55(3), 1080-1090.

9 thoughts on “Measuring College Students’ Readiness for Online Learning

  1. Owen

    “Many colleges require a similar course, but maybe it would be beneficial to start at the high school level. It could become a new requirement for graduation.”

    Great idea. I am not generally for adding new graduation requirements, but I think this is inevitable, whether required or not. High School students, especially Juniors and Seniors, will begin taking more and more completely online and hybrid courses.

    Reply
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