Posted on 25-Feb-16

Smarter Measure Non-Cognitive SkillsKnowledge is not static. Things change. A person who possesses a high level of competency today could possibly be incompetent within a short period of time in some fields of work.

Through continuing education we strive to maintain a corpus of professionals who possess the knowledge, skills and attributes necessary to properly serve their constituents. However, why is it that some persons seem to “learn more” from the same continuing education experience than other participants in the same course? Could it be that the learner’s own traits, attributes and dispositions toward learning influence their propensity to learn?

 Over the past fourteen years the SmarterMeasure Learning Readiness Indicator ( has been used to quantify levels of learner readiness based on non-cognitive indicators of success. The assessment has been taken by over 3.5 million learners. The assessment is primary used by higher education institutions in the United States. However some corporations and K12 institutions utilize it as well. Each year we analyze the data in aggregate to look for trends among learners. Results of the most recent analysis areavailable here.

An analysis of the data from 319,952 learners from 367 institutions revealed the following observations:

• Age Matters – Over the past six years of the analysis learners older than 45 had the highest mean scores for individual attributes including persistence, time management, control over procrastination, and help seeking.

 Gender is an Influencer – Females were found to have statistically significant higher means on the constructs of individual attributes, keyboarding and life factors. Males were found to have statistically significant higher means on the constructs of reading rate and technical knowledge. However, it should be noted that for many learners a high reading rate could be interpreted as a negative attribute since it may indicate that the learner skimmed the reading passage.

• Experience Matters – When continuing education is being provided online the number of prior online learning experiences makes a difference. Learners who had taken five or more prior online courses had statistically significant higher means for the constructs of Individual Attributes, Keyboarding Rate, Technical Knowledge, Technical Competency, and Life Factors.

• Learning Styles can impact one’s learning experience – Students learn using a variety of learning styles. Most persons are able to adapt their preferred learning style(s) to the content. The most common dominant learning style is Social. The least common dominant learning style was Visual.

• Reading Rate should be considered – The average reading rate for this analysis was 184 words per minute. The average words per minute for an American when reading for comprehension is about 200 words per minute.

As providers of continuing education what are the take aways from this information?


  1. When appropriate collect demographic and behavioral data from/about your students and use it to foster student engagement and success. If you are teaching a course with many persons under 45 consider structuring milestones into the experience to foster early participation and discourage procrastination. Recognize that younger students may be less willing to ask the instructor for help so supplement the course content with frequently asked questions and other guides to success.
  2. Encourage participants of both genders to assess the other time constraints that could limit their active participation in the course. In some way determine the level of experience that the learners have with online education. Communicate to those with lesser amounts of experience the avenues through which they can attain assistance with the course when needed.
  3. Have a conversation with the person(s) who designs the online course to make sure that principles of universal design are integrated into the instructional design of the course to accommodate the tendencies across all learning styles. When possible integrate experiential learning exercises into online courses to prompt students to step away from the keyboard for some learning activities.
  4. Especially emphasize to males that they need to slow down and focus when reading course content. Share that all of the information that is typically shared orally in a lecture course is being presented on screen and not being spoon fed to them.

 About The Author

Dr. Mac Adkins from SmarterSolutionsDr. Mac Adkins is the founder and President of SmarterServices. Since 2002 he has lead the company as it has grown to serve over three million students and twelve thousand faculty from over five hundred educational institutions. He has been a higher education administrator for over twenty years and served as a Director/Dean of Distance Education for ten of those years. During his administrative career in higher education he has also served as a Director of Enrollment Management, Director of Student Services, Director of Instructional Design, and Data Analyst in the Department of Institutional Research. He taught in the online doctoral program of Capella University for eleven. years.

He also serves as a course reviewer for the International Distance Education Certification Center. For IDECC he authored, designed and delivers the Certified Distance Education Instructor (CDEI) program. He was instrumental in the founding of two distance learning programs at Troy University and Amridge University.

Dr. Adkins received his Doctor of Education degree from Auburn University in 1998. His major for the degree was Educational Leadership with a minor in Instructional Technology. He is a frequent speaker at educational conferences and serves on the review board for the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration.


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