Ramping Resources to New Fully Online Students

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This session will introduce The University of Arizona’s evolving strategy in new student support within online programs, bridging orientation with a semester-long first year experience (FYE) course. Presenter will review preliminary student engagement data from Orientation 1.0 and the institutional support strategies, assessments, and instructional design decisions borne thereafter.


Extended Abstract

In Fall 2015, The University of Arizona (UA) began offering fully online undergraduate degree programs, the first opportunity for Bachelors students of the university to earn an entire degree online. To support this new student population, an optional digital orientation was created to ensure this new population of students could acclimate to university policies, resources, and the learning management system (LMS) in a low-stakes, experiential environment. Featured components of the orientation consisted of student-voiced explanatory videos, hands-on engagement activities, and differentiated levels of instruction based on past learner experience.  In addition to the applications built into the LMS, a combination of emerging technology tools and open educational resources were utilized within the orientation to create a robust and engaging first look at the online learning environment.  

The student self-selection to participate created a wide range of activity and engagement; through analysis of grade data at the end of the term a correlation was found that students who participated in the activities of the orientation achieved a higher level of success in their first semester, at a rate of four times those who elected not to participate in the orientation. Through this observation, enhancements to the orientation were made in advance of the Spring 2016 term to include additional assessments to further research surrounding the potential for optional orientations to be predictive of student success. Additionally, through a needs analysis obtained by student feedback, UA Online developed additional support mechanisms to onboard students with limited prior college experience through a first semester course that bridges orientation content and allows for expanded discussion on best practice study habits for fully online learners.

This lively, interactive session will review initial research findings, intentional design decisions in developing a fully online orientation and first year experience course (in addition to bridging content to reinforce key practices and provide a “head start” to proactive students), inception and evolution of the orientation to further enhance predictive capabilities through assessment and analytics, and plans for further research in effective methods to onboard new students, culminating in interactive Q & A. Participants will be able to explore the evolving iterations of the online orientation, and will leave with approaches and technology tools to implement in their courses. Additionally, participants will receive a research brief of current findings and an opportunity to engage in discussion over approaches that they’ve implemented or are investigating at their home institutions.