Oh, The Places You’ll Go - Creating Connections to Campus Through Online Orientation

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Is eighty percent of success just showing up? How can we create community and resource connections to a physical campus through an online venue? Discover how the University of Alaska Fairbanks created an open and interactive online orientation program to not only connect online students to campus resources and support services, but also provides new students an online option if they can’t attend a welcome week New Student Orientation in Fairbanks. Participants might find inspiration for what orientation components they might try at their institution.



The University of Alaska Fairbanks is the flagship institution of the University of Alaska.
Sean is an instructional designer at the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a background in foreign language education and motion graphics. Sean holds a BA in linguistics from UAF and an MA in applied linguistics from UMass Boston and is a Google for Education Certified Trainer. Sean spent eight years living and teaching in Hokkaido, Japan at rural schools, making frequent use of technology to enhance instruction and broaden students’ cultural horizons. Himself a graduate of an online graduate degree program, Sean is eager to help faculty and students get the most out of their online teaching and learning experiences and lower barriers to access through efficient and accessible design.

Extended Abstract

The Instructional Technology Council’s 2016 Annual National eLearning report indicates the top three student challenges are: 1) Student Performance and Assessment; 2) Orientation and Readiness; and 3) Completion Rates. The focus of this effort by the University of Alaska Fairbanks eLearning & Distance Education is online student Orientation and Readiness.

In the past, the eLearning & Distance Education office has focused efforts in the Orientation and Readiness area. Our Student Success Lab allows students new to online learning the ability to view how a course is delivered in the Blackboard Learning Management System. Our Student Success Guide offers tips on getting started, knowing your learning style, a student’s tech fluency expectations and the student support resources available for online students. Additionally, we provide an Early Alert program designed to identify students who are slow out of the “starting box” - to get them back on track to a successful course.  

This new online orientation project brought together designers and staff from UAF’s eLearning & Distance Education and UAF’s Transition Programs. The goal was to provide information common to all online and campus students of the institution in a comprehensive online format. The initial focus was on students who couldn’t come to campus for the traditional New Student Orientation, but the project team soon realized the information extends to all online students or anyone who wants to refer back to the online student support resources.  The team initially set a plan for several learning modules which would address academic preparation and success, financial wellness, campus policies and procedures, campus resources and services and to set clear expectations for coursework, accessing support services, as well as addressing many of the challenges students might face as they transition to college.

The project team did not want to create another static site with text and images. It was determined the team needed engaging videos where students help students, interactive games and quizzes and other interactive components to keep interest.  Additionally, the team wanted to provide incentives and once all modules are completed a student is mailed a UAF t-shirt and certificate. Our overall goal has been accomplished as we provide relevant information for students to effectively transition to our campus or be retained as part of our online community.

Participants will “test drive” the online orientation modules and have a chance to win a University of Alaska Fairbanks t-shirt by completing an online activity. This open online orientation might provide the inspiration needed to create a similar product at the participant’s own institution.