Creating Self-Sufficient Online Learners Through the Use of Orientations

 A Panel Discussion with LIM College from NYC

History:

  • Significant gap in initial student preparation for learning online
  • There were short training sessions run by Student Orientation Leaders – this proved to be less than effective.
  • Additionally, there is a manpower shortage
  • Lack of in-house Bb student support staff
  • Some faculty who are unable or unwilling to provide help to their students
  • While the majority of the students are straight from high school, 2% are non-traditional.
  • 90% of the online students are continuing education students and degree completion students.

There is also the issue of

no-read-anosis

The solution at LIM College was to Build Online Orientations.

Building the Orientation:

  1. Examine your situation
  2. Perform a Needs Analysis
  3. Do Your Homework – LIM performed a literature review to further identify the skills students needed to approach online learning, use the tools in the LMS, and what hardware/software are required. Then, LIM checked other institutions to see what they used.
  4. Their Approach – An Online Orientation in a Learning Module in Blackboard with How to Screenshots, Videos, Narratives, and Assessments

Launching the Orientation: Issues to Consider

  1. How will the students access it?
  2. Should the orientation be in all courses?
  3. What about students in hybrid courses or multiple online courses?
  4. Should this be a requirement for students multiple times/semesters? (Like being on an airplane, everytime you get on a plane you have to listen to the safety procedures!)
  5. Can adaptive release be used?

In the end, LIM decided to create a separate course which is added to Blackboard courses under a Start Here item on the navigation. The number of Blackboard support tickets has gone down; however, the orientation is entirely voluntary. There are some professors who use Adaptive Release to force their students to go through the orientation and take the assessment at the beginning of the course, and these professors find they have far fewer questions from their students. On the other hand, there are other faculty who do not and they get many more questions from their students.

graph

The blue bars are the Blackboard support tickets in 2010-11, and the red line are the number of Blackboard support tickets in 2011-12.

The college is hosted, and has a fairly locked down template which requires their professors to use a standard navigation. If professors make any changes to their course, the course is not released to students. Anecdotally, there are fewer frustrated students and faculty.

The orientation is mass enrolled and students can always access it for review, even from their MyBb page. As long as a student is registered at the institution, there remain in the orientation course. The shell is refreshed regularly.

At this point, all instructors are enrolled in the orientation as a student. If the instructor wants to set up adaptive release then they use the Mark Reviewed functionality in their Blackboard course and require students to mark it after they have gone through the orientation system. It runs on the honor system, but if a faculty member does have an issue later on they can get specific information on how their student performed by asking the Blackboard administrator or Director of Distance Learning. All in all, the orientations at LIM are in their infancy, being only used for one year, and this set-up works perfectly for their student base.

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About Meegan
Meegan has over ten years experience working in higher education. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Statistics from Western Michigan University and a Master of Education with an emphasis on Instructional Technology from American InterContinental University Online. She is currently the Instructional Technologist/Designer at Grand Rapids Community College where her main focus is helping faculty to develop and deliver quality online and hybrid courses.

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