The results are in! We are pleased to share with you the findings of the National Means Report of the SmarterMeasure Learning Readiness Indicator.
This year’s report is especially insightful in that in addition to revealing the national scale and sub-scale score means, it also shares a four-year trend analysis to identify changes in learner readiness during the period of the quarantine of the COVID-19 pandemic (the academic year of 2019/2020).
Check out this video overview about the report's findings, or keep scrolling to read the blog summary.
About the SmarterMeasure Readiness Indicator
To provide context for persons consuming this blog who may not be as familiar with the assessment as others, here is some information about the SmarterMeasure Learning Readiness Indicator.
It is the most commonly used assessment to quantify levels of learner readiness based primarily on non-cognitive attributes and skills. Basically, it is measuring grit. Over the past twenty years, the assessment has been taken by over six million students from over one thousand institutions.
Scales and Subscales
The assessment begins by looking at the learner internally. We call this section individual attributes. It measures constructs such as motivation, control over procrastination, willingness to ask for help, locus of control, time management, persistence, and academic attributes. While we are analyzing the learner internally, we also identify their dominant learning preferences which are based on the multiple intelligences model.
After we have looked at the student internally, we then look at the student externally. This section is called Life Factors. It measures variables such as one's availability of time, support from family and employers, having an appropriate, dedicated place to study, and one's health and finances.
After looking at the learner internally and externally, we then measure several skill sets. We measure their on-screen reading rate and recall, technical competency, learning management system competency, general technical knowledge, and keyboarding rate and accuracy.
Finally, the assessment also measures two cognitive skills of math and writing readiness.
Summary of the National Means Report
Each year, SmarterServices publishes the National Means Report which provides the measures of central tendency for the scales and sub-scales measured by the SmarterMeasure assessment. One of the primary uses of this report is for institutions to compare the performance of their students to those of other students nationally.
Two caveats are for schools to recognize that the means provided in this report are from all students at all institution types nationwide. If schools are making decisions based on comparative data, we encourage them to request a custom report comparing means from their students to students from similar institutions.
The other detail to recognize is that for ease of interpretation in this report, the scale scores for several factors have been converted from raw scores to percentile scores. Scores reported to individual students on their score reports are typically in the raw scale format.
Scale Score Means for the Academic Year 2020/2021
The means for each of the scales measured by the assessment for the academic year 2020/2021 are provided in a table on page one. When presented in percentile format, the means for all but one scale are in the seventies ranging from 70.71 for Writing Readiness to Life Factors at 77.28.
Students tend to score higher on Technical Competency since it is measuring very basic computing information. Keyboarding skills are reported as adjusted words per minute and the mean was 26.64.
The number of prior online courses is measured on a scale of zero to five or more and the mean was 2.17. Starting on page four of the report are the sub-scale measures of central tendency followed by bar charts to visually illustrate that most scales scores are normally distributed on what approximates a bell curve.
The Impact of the Pandemic on Learner Readiness
The quarantine period of COVID-19 occurred mostly during the academic year of 2019/2020. The table on page one of the report visually illustrates that the mean score on half of the scales measured by the assessment declined during this time period.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many institutions closed their doors and moved much instruction online. This prompted many students for whom online learning was not their first choice to be constrained to learn by an online learning modality. This reduction in levels of learner readiness is demonstrated by the lowest mean on half of the scales we measure being experienced during the quarantine year of the academic year of 2019/2020. The following scales revealed the lowest means during that year:
- Reading Recall
- Technical Knowledge
- Technical Competency
It is also telling to note that during the quarantine year, more students with no prior online learning experience studied online than ever before. One positive note is that after the quarantine year, there are now a higher number of students who have experienced learning online.
During the quarantine year of the pandemic, more persons took the SmarterMeasure Learning Readiness Indicator than ever before. The diminished level of learner readiness reported by the assessment coupled with the inferior quality of emergency remote instruction when compared to traditional online learning is what prompted concern among many about the efficacy of academic continuity efforts during the pandemic.
Mean scores on the Life Factors and Individual Attributes scales have consistently declined over the past four years by about two percentage points. This is a substantial observation since these scales measure learner attributes, not skills.
As such, these measurements are not delivery system dependent, meaning that they are equally important for students studying online, hybrid, or face-to-face. It is paramount that institutions measure this data for all students and provide appropriate strategies for intervention and support since students are struggling more in these areas than in the past.
How Your Institution Should Respond to this Data
Given these trends in learner readiness over the past four years, how should schools respond?
In response to declining learner attributes, schools need to provide strong services such as admissions coaching, academic advising, and mental health services to support learners as they grapple with challenges such as:
- Weakened motivation
- Pandemic prompted procrastination
- Not knowing who to ask for help in a remote learning environment
- Feeling that they are in control in the midst of a world that seems out of control
- Having an appropriate place for students to study when home environments may be crowded
- Recovering from life-threatening illnesses
- And the financial toll of the current reality.
As a counter to declining technology skills, schools need to recognize that even though social media and video streaming may be dominant parts of learners’ lives, information technology skills are often lacking. Students need to recognize that texting and typing are two different skillsets and should plan for ample time to compose larger papers and projects. The skills of reading for academic comprehension also differ substantively from the habits of quickly scrolling social media. Learners need to be trained in digital literacy skills.
Finally, to train students to strengthen their online learning strategies, schools need to provide elements of their orientation courses and new student onboarding programs that are reflective of the fact that many learners now have prior online learning experiences. Elements of these programs need to be not only “how to learn online” but “how we do online learning at this institution.”
Get Started with SmarterMeasure
If you would like to learn more about the SmarterMeasure Learning Readiness Indicator and how it can be used to help your students as they emerge from the pandemic please reach out to us.
We also encourage you to check out these related blogs for more information about SmarterMeasure and how to help your students succeed:
- How to Support Your Students through the Use of Non-Cognitive Data
- How to Incorporate SmarterMeasure in a First-Year Experience Program
- How to Provide Targeted Support for First-Time Online Undergraduate Students
- 8 Factors Every Student Should Be Measured On
- 5 Things Your Institution Should Do After Measuring Your Students