Finding Opportunity: Orientation and Learner Success Sites

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Learn how our online modules promote knowledge and skills that assist undergraduate learners in a campus-based program with the “work of being a student” and better positioned for academic success. Examples from first-year experiences include orientation, registration, technology, degree planning, as well as preparation for a first online course.


Jo Montie, MA (she/her/hers) is an Online Learning Systems Facilitator with the University of St. Thomas STELAR St. Thomas E-Learning and Research team. Jo develops, in collaboration with others, systems of support for students and faculty in their digital learning experiences. Jo's teaching experience in special education, MA in Educational Psychology (University of Minnesota, 1996), and more than 25 years of teaching and work in schools has informed her current focus on learner-centered teaching and accessibility practices in the online environment. Twelve of these years were spent teaching at the university level, including six years of creating and teaching online and blended courses as well as extensive work with faculty and staff at facilitating online course and program development. Jo is grateful to the many colleagues and students who help her to further develop her beliefs and practices to support sustainable, quality digital learning practices that promote greater access and equity for all learners and advance the common good.
Karin Brown is an Instructional Designer for the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. She has a B.A. in Math Education and Spanish Education from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN and a Master's in Educational Technology from Boise State University in Boise, ID. As a dedicated Instructional Designer and passionate education enthusiast, Karin's goal is to foster positive learning experiences for students by partnering with faculty to create engaging and motivating activities while incorporating sound educational pedagogy. Karin lives in Minneapolis, MN.

Extended Abstract


Student success sites are digital learning resources available to learners before, during and towards the end of their education program that contributes to student success. These electronic sites can be resources for any learner regardless of their program delivery model. Success sites may take the form of one learning module or consist of several modules within a site.

The higher education teaching and learning landscape is in the midst of a paradigm shift. The forms, formats, and tools continue to change at lightening-speed; however, there continues to be a need to support student success and relevant learning in these rapidly changing times. Digital student success sites and electronic learning activities are a way to reach students across delivery structures; students in fully online, blended or on-campus programs, as well as new mixes and blends yet to be named! We are experiencing disruption and with this comes opportunity!

Our session will demonstrate how we are finding opportunities in leveraging digital platforms for student success. Although our undergraduate program is a campus-based (face-to-face) program, there is growing interest around more blended and flipped experiences. By incorporating relevant design and learning activities in our university’s undergraduate digital orientation and success sites, we expand our capacity to proactively support student readiness for upcoming experiences.

We will share tools and learning activities that include self-assessments, scaffolded content, learning checks, applied practice activities, and learning activities in the LMS that communicates to our SIS in ways to help guide students in their experience. 

Success site design and learning activities were informed by ideas from the various best practices including the 2018 Educause ECAR Study of the Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, the Online Learning Consortium Administration of Online Programs Score Card, and several of our internal documents guiding our student success work.

In our presentation, we will show how recommendations from these various best practice sources help us to better understand and learn from our past experiences and help guide new iterations of work.

By attending this session participants will be able to: 

  • Understand ways that our site design features, tools, and learning activities support learner success goals;
  • Identify how principles and practices from our learner success frameworks can assist teams to reflect back and plan ahead for learner success modules;
  • Review some examples in our course sites including one of our self-assessment tools.


Engagement Strategies

During the sessions, reflection questions inspired by several internal documents/tools (name of documents changed to de-identify our proposal) will be asked (at times before an example and other times after the example) to further engage participants to make connections back to their own experiences and context. We will use technology to support this real-time pairing of technology and interaction. Participants will also be given access at the end of the session to spend further time in the site and be able to share additional input.

Featured Examples

Our success sites for undergraduate learners currently include a module completed prior to coming on campus for orientation and registration, a billing and financial aid module, an advising and degree planning module, and technology support (both initial start-up and preparation for a first online class); we are also working with university partners on a first-year experience course that will further incorporate areas of student success. In our presentation will pull examples and lessons from these initiatives.  

Lessons Learned

In reflecting upon our experiences and data thus far from these various learner success sites, we have created several documents about module/site development and also key features of the overall development, implementation, and continuous improvement process. These documents will be made available to conference attendees. These internally-created resources grew out of examining our experiences and data as we also considered the ECAR 2018 findings, the Online Learning Consortium Administration of Online Programs Score Card and other best practices around learner services and supports.