A teacher beginning to develop a web-based learning experience would be better served by knowing the characteristics of the students enrolled in their class. In instructional design terms, they are known as entry-level features and consist of information such as general information, specific features, and learning styles. Research has shown that knowing these characteristics before the class is delivered can help the instructor tailor the class material to the student and increase learning outcomes.

General Entry Level Features

The general characteristics of the entry level student are the ones that most students have in common. These can be gender, age or education. Students may have different access points to the course, but they are still considered general characteristics because all students have them.

Entry-level specific features

The specific characteristics of the entry level focus on the skills that the student must have before participating in its educational offer. What this means is that students must have prior knowledge or experience to optimally participate in what will be delivered in the web-based learning experience. If, for example, a web-based course covered higher-level accounting skills, the prerequisite for the course might be training in developing and understanding spreadsheets.

These specific characteristics can be assessed through some type of inventory, such as a survey. Since you will be providing a web-based learning experience, it may be best to use an online survey to conduct this assessment. The derived knowledge would be that you will be able to assess how well potential students navigate and manage inventory.

Assessment of learning styles

Much research has been done regarding the effect of adapting materials to the student’s preferred learning style. A learning style is the participants’ preferred way of assimilating information. For example, they could be visual learners, kinesthetic learners, or learn better through exploration. With web-based learning, it is not always possible to meet the needs of specific learning styles, but ways can be developed to suit most styles.

How to Evaluate Entry-Level Features

One of the best ways to determine the characteristics of your students’ entry level into Web-based learning is to conduct a student assessment inventory. This evaluation inventory can be carried out through a computer or paper survey or even with personal interviews. These inventories should include a battery of questions that take students through all possible learning preferences. These assessment inventories should be thorough but not too exhaustive. Students should be able to complete them in ten minutes or less.

It is important to realize and communicate that while students have learning style preferences, not all learning styles can be reasonably accommodated. Web-based learning has its limitations, and it’s best to explain them up front to avoid misunderstandings.

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