Early Intervention! New Student Orientation to Foster Student Comfort and Success

Concurrent Session 3

Brief Abstract

Online learning can feel overwhelming. Mastering the environment early creates success. Our 2-week orientation teaches students to navigate the LMS, use technology tools, be successful online learners, and learn the policies of their new school. Facilitators are able to spot and help struggling students and connect with each student in a low-stakes environment.


Combining an Instructional Design background with many years of online teaching and extensive experience in managing remote employees and faculty, I managed the first large-scale online program at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, California. Our online Family Nurse Practitioner program launched in 2015. We now have over 250 students in the program with an 85% retention rate, and a reliable adjunct pool who teach most of the classes online, under the guidance of lead faculty.

Additional Authors

Adriane has been an Instructional Technologist at Samuel Merritt University for 7 1/2 years, working mostly with online programs. She holds an MS in Education, with a heavy educational technology background. She enjoys setting students up for success in their program.

Extended Abstract

  • Background/History - who are our students? How did we design orientation?

  • What do we teach? Online etiquette, strategies for success, library and APA skills, technical skills:  collaboration tools, navigation, video skills, using Turnitin, YouSeeU, Big Blue Button, Respondus Monitor, time management, university compliance activities, an intro to plagiarism and academic integrity.

  • Iterative - why and when do we change?

    • As new tech is added, training and practice is  necessary

    • Continual Quality Improvement: Students are surveyed at the end of each orientation and the course is often  adjusted based on student feedback

  • What are the benefits?

    • Get to know each other--fosters community

    • Allows us to connect, introduce ourselves (instructional technologists), and create presence

    • Helps students feel less isolated,

    • Helps them solve tech problems in a low-stakes environment.

    • Takes care of paperwork and other compliance materials they need to submit.

    • Helps them feel comfortable with tools

    • Teaches students how to access help 24/7

    • Allows us to intervene and direct struggling students to the writing center if needed

    • Allows students to get a taste of what an online program is like-dispels the myth that it’s easier

    • Creates an opportunity for early introduction to clinical placements, a key component of the program

  • Future opportunities: we have a strong hunch that performance in orientation is an indicator of future success in the program.

    • Some students self select out ot the program during orientation when they realize the commitment.

    • Writing intervention and direct student to writing center

    • If they fail to complete orientation, they must remediate before they can take classes

    • If students don’t show up in orientation, turn in work late, or plagiarize, these tend to be the same students who struggle or drop out later. We can flag them so that the student success managers can to be extra vigilant,  intervene and let students know what the expectations are for their courses.

    • But can we do more?