Test of Online Learning Success (TOOLS)

Administration Guidelines and Scoring Procedures

Guidelines for Use

  • Researchers do not need permission from the authors to use TOOLS for data collection.
  • To ensure that the newest version of TOOLS is used, researchers should contact Dr. Marcel Kerr at mskerr@txwes.edu
  • If TOOLS is used, the authors would appreciate notification and a brief description of how TOOLS will be used.
  • If TOOLS or any part of it are used, submitted for publication, and/or published in any manner, the authors must be cited/acknowledged.
  • If TOOLS is used, the authors would appreciate receiving a summary of findings.

Scoring Procedures


TOOLS consists of 45 items, which comprise five subscales:

  • Computer Skills (1 – 11)
  • Independent learning (12 – 21)
  • Dependent Learning (22- 27)
  • Need for Online Delivery (28 – 32)
  • Academic Skills (33 – 45)

Higher scores reflect higher skills. Thus lower scores on Dependent Learning denote more dependence (less independence).

The following nine items are reverse scored: 14, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 36, and 37.

The five subscales are created by computing means across the respective subscale items.

Total online learning success (OLS) is calculated by summing across all 45 items.


In order to calculate your overall learning success (OLS), simply reverse score the nine items mentioned above, and sum across all 45 items to obtain your OLS score. Then compare your OLS to others who have completed TOOLS using the table below. Use the color code at the bottom of this page to read a description of your OLS score range.

Total Online Learning Success (OLS)

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To obtain your individual student profile, you must calculate your subscale scores. To calculate subscale scores, again reverse score the nine items above; then calculate a mean (average) across the items associated with each scale (e.g., Computer Skills includes items 1 – 11). Then compare your subscale scores to others who have completed TOOLS using the respective tables below. Use the color code at the bottom of this page to read a description of your identified skill level for each subscale.

Computer Skills

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Independent Learning

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Dependent Learning

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Academic Skills

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Need for Online Delivery

Unlike the other subscales, this series of items identifies a need instead of a skill. If your Need for Online Learning mean (average) is 3.40 or higher, it indicates that your lifestyle (i.e., career, family structure, personal responsibilities, distance to higher education entities) may demand the flexibility and scheduling that the online classroom can provide. Scores below 3.40 suggest that you do not have a pressing need for online delivery of instruction at this time.

Individuals who score between 202 and 225 on OLS and/or in the green zone on any given subscale are more than prepared for online learning. Scores in these ranges indicate that the individual possesses the necessary personality traits, motivation, computer skills, and academic skills that predict successful achievement in the online classroom.


An OLS score between 190 and 201 indicates that the individual is in the top half (50th percentile) of learners. Individuals with an OLS score in this range are more prepared for online learning than 50-75 percent of their student peers. In order to increase one’s performance in the online class, she should examine her four subscale scores and Need for Online Delivery. If any subscale scores fall in the yellow, orange, or red zones, the individual should read up on the identified skills.


Individuals who score between 178 and 189 on OLS and/or in the orange zone on any subscale are encouraged to seek additional information and assistance. OLS scores in this range indicate that the individual falls in the lower half (50th percentile) of learners. Orange zone skills suggest that the individual lacks a few skills that have been identified as predictors of online achievement. To increase one’s skills in a subscale, the individual should review the requirements of online courses carefully prior to enrollment. The individual also should review the university’s policies and minimum skill requirements often posted on their webpage. Additionally, the individual should review the online links below for additional information and consult with the distance education staff or instructors of the course/program either via e-mail or phone. Once taken, these steps will allow the learner to make an informed and confident decision regarding online course or program enrollment.


Obtaining an OLS score between 0 and 177 suggests that the individual needs to acquire additional skills in order to succeed in the online environment. Similarly, subscale scores that fall in the red zones indicate skill deficits. These students are encouraged to enroll in face-to-face courses/programs as the online classroom may not fit one’s learning preferences and skills. However, if the individual has an identified Need for Online Delivery (i.e., score above 3.40), then the following steps are suggested.  In order to increase one’s chances of success online, 1) the individual should complete all recommendations described under the, Proceed with Caution section above. 2) The individual should access and complete the tutorials below that meet the respective deficit skill set. 3) If a Computer Skills deficiency is identified, completion of a basic computer applications course is recommended. 4) If an Academic Skills deficiency is identified, completion of an introductory English (composition and rhetoric) course is recommended), and 5) if the individual is identified as a dependent learner, one should consider using the following strategies once enrolled in an online course:

  •  Keep an electronic calendar of assignment due dates that sends audible reminders (alarms),
  • Establish rapport with a classmate quickly and obtain her feedback on assignments prior to submitting them for grading, and
  • Discuss the deficit area with the course instructor early to determine how impactful sh/e feels it will be given the course requirements.

Links to Online Tutorials


 Dr. Marcel S. Kerr, mskerr@txwes.edu

3 Responses to “Test of Online Learning Success (TOOLS)”
  1. Delbert Dyar says:

    I recently found TOOLS and am curious about its development and launch date. As a retired special education coordinator who last worked as a coordinator of special education for an online public school, I am interested in the application and use of TOOLS for assessment of students with disabilities who may be considering open enrollment in an online school program. Have there been any other versions with age/grade norms? I am also interested in the application of TOOLS or development of a similar assessment that may be used by IEP teams in public schools who need to consider blended learning opportunities for students with disabilities. Though “retired” I would like to help public school resources to address the “appropriate” enrollment of students with disabilities in online learning. Please direct me to any other contacts that may be engaged in similar or related areas of research. Thank you.

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  1. […] and Dr. Kimberly Rynearson of Tarleton State University. (For more information on using TOOLS visit Texas Wesleyan). Another way to assess students and for them to demonstrate competency in skills required for the […]

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The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Texas Wesleyan University (CETL) promotes a student-centered university by providing resources and professional growth opportunities to faculty on enhancing instructional practice, integrating technology, and promoting essential student skills.

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