Accrediting agencies as well as other educational oversight groups have recognized the importance of measuring learner readiness for studying online and in technology rich environments. Several accrediting agencies require their member schools to document how they determine learner readiness and how they then provide the remediation and support necessary to help the learner succeed.
ACCSCT - Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology
"The school must establish admission requirements for distance education programs and courses of study that assess whether students have the skills, competencies, and access to technology necessary to succeed in a distance education environment prior to their enrollment in the program or course of study."
Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
3-1-111. INSTITUTIONAL EFFECTIVENESS PLAN
"Examples of data may include, but are not limited to, course grades, GPA, CGPA, pre- and post-tests, entrance assessments, portfolios, standardized tests, professional licensure examinations, and other measures of skill and competency attainment. Placement data should not be used exclusively to validate student learning outcomes."
3-1-441 STUDENT SERVICES - Counseling and Guidance
"(b) Institutions shall emphasize retention and program completion for all students through activities that take into account their academic and socioeconomic characteristics."
3-1-400 RELATIONS WITH STUDENTS
"Each institution should strive to ensure that its relations with students always reflect the highest ethical standards and conform to all applicable laws and regulations. Each institution also is required to develop a program of student services that is consistent with its stated mission, including services provided for students attending branch campuses and learning sites. Such services should support the educational program and reflect the institution's concern for the welfare of the student."
3-1-410 ADMISSIONS AND RECRUITMENT
"An institution may not delegate without supervision these activities to anyone whose economic incentives are to recruit prospects through means that are unethical or subject to public criticism or to admit ill-prepared applicants."
CREAD - Inter-American Non-Profit Distance Education Consortium
The Standards for OLC Quality Scorecard
Before starting an online program, students are advised about the program to determine if they possess the self-motivation and commitment to learn online.
Before starting an online program, students are advised about the program to determine if they have access to the minimum technology skills and equipment required by the course design.
DETC - Distance Education and Training Council
The Standards for Accreditation (two of the 12 standards below)
- "Provide adequate examination services and attention to individual student differences"
- "Enroll only students who can be expected to benefit from the instruction"
3.D. The institution provides support for student learning and effective teaching.
- The institution provides student support services suited to the needs of its student populations. (SmarterMeasure helps determine what those needs are.)
- The institution provides for learning support and preparatory instruction to address the academic needs of its students. It has a process for directing entering students to courses and programs for which the students are adequately prepared. (The math and writing components of SmarterMeasure are designed to measure academic needs.)
- The institution provides academic advising suited to its programs and the needs of its students. (One of the strongest uses of SmarterMeasure is to enrich the conversations between advisors and students about areas in which the student can focus/improve.)
4.C. The institution demonstrates a commitment to educational improvement through ongoing attention to retention, persistence, and completion rates in its degree and certificate programs. (Schools frequently compute the correlation between the factors we are measuring and retention/persistence patterns. Findings from this analysis can then be used to improve retention/persistence.)
- The institution has defined goals for student retention, persistence, and completion that are ambitious but attainable and appropriate to its mission, student populations, and educational offerings.
- The institution collects and analyzes information on student retention, persistence, and completion of its programs.
- The institution uses information on student retention, persistence, and completion of programs to make improvements as warranted by the data. (If you are simply computing drop out rates how could you use that information to make improvements? But when you have data showing that certain types of students are more likely to drop out and then you provide interventions for those types of students, that is when you are making improvements.)
NACOL (North American Council for Online Learning)
Standards of Quality for Online Teaching
The NACOL Standards for Quality Online Teaching contain the following two standards:
- "Employs ways to assess student readiness for course content and method of delivery"
- "Employs ways for students to effectively evaluate and assess their own readiness for course content and method of delivery."
NEA (National Education Association)
Policy on Distance Education
NEA has recognized the enormous potential of online learning -- as well as some of the potential pitfalls. In 2002, the Association adopted a comprehensive policy for online learning. Some key points include:
- "Students who take distance education courses should receive the preparation and support necessary to enable them to function effectively in an online environment"
SACS - Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Distance and Correspondence Education - Policy Statement (Published June 2010)
- “Students enrolled in distance education courses are able to use the technology employed, have the equipment necessary to succeed, and are provided assistance in using the technology employed.” Schools use the Technology Competency and Technical Literacy components of SmarterMeasure to determine the degree to which students are able to use the technology employed in an online or technology rich course.
- "The technology used is appropriate to the nature and objectives of the programs and courses and expectations concerning the use of such technology are clearly communicated to students." When a school reviews a student's SmarterMeasure scores with them this is an appropriate opportunity to have a discussion with the student about the expectations of the use of technology. The conversation will be enriched by discussing the student's technology competency scores as measured by SmarterMeasure with them.
- "Academic support services are appropriate and specifically related to distance and correspondence education." One of the academic support services required for all students, including distance education students, is advising. Many schools implement a process in which an academic advisor explores a student's SmarterMeasure scores with them as a part of the overall advising process.
- "Faculty who teach in distance and correspondence education programs and courses receive appropriate training." Many schools also administer SmarterMeasure to their prospective or new online faculty because the traits, attributes and skills which make one a good fit for being a distance learning student would also make one a good fit for teaching online.
Best Practices for Electronically Offered Degree and Certificate Programs
- "Assists the prospective student in understanding independent learning expectations as well as the nature and potential challenges of learning in the program's technology based environment." This best practice is exactly what the SmarterMeasure Learning Readiness Indicator is designed to do – foster a dialogue between the student and their school about the realities of distance education and their own personal levels of readiness to study online.
- "Informs the prospective student concerning required access to technologies used in the program." Schools have the capability to customize the text of the technology section score report to inform students about required access to technologies.
- "Informs the prospective student concerning technical competence required of students in the program." The Technical Competency of SmarterMeasure is designed specificially to measure the student’s technical competencies and then direct them to resources for support as appropriate.
- "Informs the prospective student of library and other learning services available to support learning and the skills necessary to access them." Schools have the ability to customize the score report to include school specific information such as library and other learning services.