Research Topic Post – Online Learning Readiness Assessments

Dray, B. J., Lowenthal, P. K., Miskiewicz, M. J., Ruiz-Primo, M., & Marczynski, K. (2011). Developing and instrament to assess student readiness for online learning: A validation study. Distance Education, 32(1), 29-47.

With the dramatic increase in online learning deliverables seen within K-20 environment, researchers have begun to examine not only the validity of this mode of education, but also the student’s preparedness for web-based learning, and success for the online learning environment. Using Kerr, Kerr, and Rynearson’s (2006) framework for assessing online learning readiness, the author’s found that students felt they were indeed ready for online learning, but, that their self-assessment was based on their own experiences with technology leaving room for additional variables to be examined.

The authors of this article were familiar with previously conducted survey findings presenting information on student readiness for web-based learning; however, the results of those surveys provided limited information and translating that information into tangible data was challenging as stated by the researcher. Therefore, the authors of this article conducted a study to develop a more detailed tool to determine student readiness for online learning through a three-phase study: the survey development phase in which faculty/experts reviewed questions for clarity, the item analysis phase where the content of the tool and research questions were refined through focus groups and interviews, and finally, the survey validation phase in which questions from previous surveys were combined with new questions to cover topics relating to student demographic, learner characteristics, and technological ability (Dray, Lowenthal, Miskiewicz, Ruiz-Primo, & Marczynski, 2011).

The participants in their study were comprised of 26 graduate students pursuing a degree in educational computing. The results of the study showed that many of the students were scored as ”ready” for online learning, yet, the implications of study were direly impacted by the lack of sub-groups based on age, sex, or socioeconomic influences on their preparedness. This has importance because results may show that certain ages, genders, or socioeconomic factors play a role in determining whether the student is prepared for web-based learning. For example, if a student is under the age of thirty, they may rank as being prepared for online learning because it is reasonably assumed that students in this age group use online communication daily through social networking. Researchers also determined that the term “readiness” needed further clarification for the study’s purpose, as oddities were discovered as to whether readiness was determined by one’s technical ability or by their use and engagement of web-based tools, equipment, and material (Dray, Lowenthal, Miskiewicz, Ruiz-Primo, & Marczynski, 2011).

This article proves beneficial to my study in that the literature review coherently presented previous research done on the topic along with critiques of the strengths and weaknesses of each article reviewed.  The authors found  literature gave information on general learner characteristics, interpersonal communication abilities,  and technological skils(word processing, using spread sheets, use of search engines, etc.). However, noticeably absent was information on the student’s work schedules, access to technology, and the expectations for being successful in an online course. I found it interesting that the authors found an unexplored angle of questioning based on self- concept, esteem, and efficacy which could lead to quite different results of surveys proving to be an excellent contribution to the field. The authors of this article likened their study to that of Kerr, Kerr and Rynearson (2006) whose article, “Student Characteristics for Online Learning Success” also discussed student esteem, efficacy, and self-confidence as a means to determine success in online learning.

The authors create a stimulating argument, showing that readiness is a complex term, and must be defined as more than general characteristics. I found the first phase of their survey to have the strongest argument where skills regarded as being part of traditional learning can be easily carried over into online learning. Such skills include writing and expression, time management, and responsibility. Additionally, the authors were diligent enough to alter questionnaires where inconsistencies were present. For example, during the first phase of their study, it was found that students were answering questions based on their personal experience with web-based tools, rather than within the education context as expected. Therefore, the authors revised the prompts to require the students to answer the questions from their educational experience.

The article presented the questionnaire through its various stages of reconstruction showing how questions were revised during each phase of the study. However, the article lacked a clear definition of how the surveys were administered. Was the survey an in-person sheet where students entered answers long-hand? Was the survey administered online through a course management software program, or was the survey collected in focus group setting in a qualitative manner? These are questions that presented areas of concern as the setting in which the survey was administered could possibility present differing data results. While the authors presented information the ages, ethnicities, and major of study for the participants, the study failed to present information on the whether participants were taking an online course for the first time, and what distance learning model was used for this specific course in which the survey was given (completely online, hybrid, etc.). Additional areas of study could examine  the comparison between undergraduate student online learning preparedness, and graduate student preparedness in online learning environments to see if results of the study vary between the two populations. Another area of exploration could be centered on how the level of social media experience of the participants  impacts online learning success. Finally, the study could be extended to present data on minority student success in online learning environment, including information on whether one’s socioeconomic status has an impact on online learning. The further study, as suggested, would prove to as an effective analysis for researchers and teacher-educators to examine underrepresented populations.

This article can be compared to Lau and Shaikh’s (2012) article, “The Impacts of Personal Qualities on Online Learning Readiness at Curtin Sarawak Malaysi” in which the authors of the article developed a questionnaire to gather information on student’s personality characteristics as diagnostic tool for both faculty and instructional designers (Lau & Shaikh, 2012). Where Lau and Shaikh’s study shows a higher level of evidence is that they surveyed over 350 participants in their study as compared to Dray, Lowenthal, Miskiewicz, Ruiz-Primo, and Marczynski’s study in which only 26 graduate students were surveyed. The findings of Lau and Shaikh’s (2012) study were that students were less satisfied with online learning in comparison to traditional learning environments and felt less prepared for the objectives of the course. Both articles support my research in different by equally necessary ways: Lau and Shaikh’s (2012) article presents compelling statistical data on online learning readiness, while Dray et al (2011) article provides information on how to compose efficient survey questionnaires.


Dray, B. J., Lowenthal, P. K., Miskiewicz, M. J., Ruiz-Primo, M., & Marczynski, K. (2011). Developing and instrament to assess student readiness for online learning: A validation study. Distance Education, 32(1), 29-47. Retrieved from

Kerr, M., Rynearson, K., & Kerr, M. (2006). Student characteristics for online learning success. The Internet and Higher Education, 9(2), 91-105.

Lau, C. Y., & Shaikh, J. M. (2012, July). The impacts of personal qualities on online learning readiness at Curtin Sarawak Malaysia. Educational Research and Reviews, 7(20), 430-444.