First Term Success Course for All

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

Every online program aims to engage new students early and often, creating a learning community that connects students to their new institution and increases their persistence and academic success. What if doing so were done with an intention to engage students throughout their life cycle as opposed to focusing solely on their transition into the university? LMS course sites can be a promising and dynamic solution to help students build community and find success long-term.

Sponsored By


Marleigh provides leadership to the OSU Ecampus Student Success team to ensure that students have full access to services and tools that can help them achieve their goals. Most of her career in higher education has focused on providing access to and support for diverse students populations. She has a B.S. in Management & Marketing from Oregon Tech, an M.Ed. in College Student Services Administration from Oregon State University, and is currently pursuing an Ed.D in Educational Leadership and Policy from Portland State University.

Additional Authors

Kyle Whitehouse is the Assistant Director for Student Success at Oregon State University Ecampus. She leads the student success coaching team and grows OSU Ecampus initiatives through partnerships across campus and institutions. Prior to her work with Ecampus, Kyle’s roles have included career counselor, instructor, and academic advisor working with students actively exploring majors and careers.

Extended Abstract

Engaging newly enrolled students beyond required orientation and registration steps seems to be a lofty goal.  But Oregon State Ecampus has successfully done exactly that with its First Term Success Course designed to foster a community of online learning for newly enrolled students.

The First Term Success Course is a free, non-credit bearing course that delivers an academic success curriculum to each term’s cohort of students who are new to online learning at Oregon State. Enrollment in this course is invitation based (the nature of a non-credit Canvas course site), nevertheless, at Oregon State, we consistently engage 96% of all new online students each term.

The course model includes a weekly overview of just-in-time success strategies, a framework for organizing first-term deadlines, due dates, and virtual campus events, as well as an active discussion board for both student-to-student and student-to-success counselor interaction.  Scaffolded content allows students to personalize their learning by choosing to gain high-level understanding of each topic or dive deeper into effective practices that can be applied to individual academic success plans.

Course evaluations reflect student improvement across a number of metrics including confidence and knowledge indicators evaluated through student self-report measures as well as performance (GPA, persistence, etc.) indicators. Course analytics have allowed us to peek into student engagement patterns, providing insight that helps us align topics with the greatest student need across the academic life cycle.  One of the most valuable and rewarding features in First Term Success course is its discussion forum which opens prior to the start of a term and hosts some the most lively student-to-student interactions. Truly, this student-focused experience is creating a genuine and active community of learners. 

In this Discovery Session, we will share a live, sample course site for colleagues to explore. Through interactive discussion with participants, we will share our trials, errors, and successes across all phases of course development;  evaluation of student success metrics during the initial 2 years; and exciting re-developments designed to increase student engagement and extend support beyond the first term.