Methodology - Context of adult education site and online program
One southeastern adult education site was selected to participate in this study. At this time approximately 2500 students ages 16 and older enroll in one of 12 on-campus GED preparation classes with options for morning, afternoon or evening attendance, 11 off-campus daytime and evening classes, or one online GED option. About 75 of the 2500 students enroll in the online program.
Students may enroll in the online option when they come to campus to register for their GED program. Each student initially meets his/her online GED teacher in person for approximately 15 minutes. The teacher takes the results of the student’s Test of Adult Basic Education (hereafter TABE) scores and places him/her in one of the three appropriate programs. After the student is registered, the teacher may go over the requirement and direction handouts to see if the student has any questions, and then the student is dismissed to go home to work independently.
The three online programs are Online GED by McGraw-Hill/Contemporary, Instruction Targeted to TABE Success (ITTS) by McGraw-Hill/Contemporary, and Skills Tutor by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. For example, students with lower TABE scores are typically assigned the ITTS program where they can work on their basic skills. Students with higher scores are placed in either the Online GED program or Skills Tutor. The Online GED site is for students with reading level averages of 9.0 or higher on the TABE Test and who are ready to focus on passing the GED rather than improving TABE scores. The Skills Tutor program is used for intermediate and higher levels. The majority of students are enrolled in Skills Tutor because of the limited number of seats in the other programs.
All three software based programs (Online GED, ITTS or Skills Tutor) provide modules targeting students’ customized study plans in the five GED content areas. When they enroll, the students are shown how to read their TABE score sheet for the five content areas. If they receive any score below 80, they are instructed to work on lessons in that content area. The three software programs differ in their modules, but they all provide content information, practice exercises, critical thinking, and pre-post quizzes and tests. If students score above an 80% on the pre-test, they do not need to complete the lesson. Students are allowed to move around the unit or module, they may repeat lessons as necessary, and they do not have to proceed through the lessons in any specific order. They can see the mistakes they make on the quizzes/tests and review their errors for further understanding.
A sample Skills Tutor comprehension module is as follows. First is a pre-test of 20 questions. On the pre-test, there are at least 4-5 passages with several questions for each. When finished with the quiz, the student can see what questions were missed and the correct answers. Then the student is ready to view the comprehension lessons. The lessons present information on the screen in a simple way with explanation and some embedded practice. The first lessons are main idea, cause and effect, and character analysis. After these lessons, a quiz with a passage and questions targeting main idea, cause/effect and character analysis are given to students. Next are lessons on prediction, author bias/viewpoint, and techniques of persuasion, followed by a quiz on those skills. Finally, an error analysis on a passage is given and a comprehension post-test is taken by students. As previously mentioned, students can repeat lessons and quizzes as needed.