O Best Practices in Online Adult Student Orientation

Jennifer Schubert, MS
Student Services Coordinator
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
What is Orientation?
14 week semesters with two seven week sessions = accelerated
Asynchronous, but instructor lead
Online courses are convenient, not easy
Proper writing skills are a must
Many online resources exist
Must use university email
Must be an engaged student
Good time management skills are crucial; some days it will be challenging to
juggle work, class, family and other responsibilities
Good communication skills are also crucial
Executive Summary
Understanding the needs of adult, bachelor’s degree-seeking students in online
program is the most important aspect of online degree planning (Ignash, 2012).
After issuing a 13 question survey, the needs of the 152 students in the beta
group were more clearly defined.
While researching the best practices for online student orientation was
conducted, the theory of self-efficacy emerged as a key element in the design
of effective adult online student orientation.
Using the results of the survey, the research findings of the best practice and
the theory of self-efficacy as a guide, recommendations for effective online
student orientation are outlined in this presentation.
Why it Matters
So that we can find the most effective ways to enhance
orientation for online students at UWO
So that we know the most effective ways to measure the success
of online orientation
So that we understand the cost to us if we decide not to enhance
If just one student drops out because she feels uncomfortable in our online
learning environment, it can cost us $4,300 - $8,600 annually.
What Does More Effective Mean?
One could pursue many possibilities, but the following questions can
most effectively guide your investigation:
1. What specific improvements need to be made?
2. How will the success of the improvements be measured?
3. What are the costs associated with these improvements?
It’s All About the Base
For the least amount of treble, one needs to figure out where things
are right now. Establish a baseline:
Do we have an orientation? What kind?
Is it effective? (what does that mean?)
How do we know?
Survey Questions and Results
Qualtrics survey with combination of:
Single Select questions and answers
Open-ended comment questions
Likert Scale questions
Theory of Self-Efficacy
Self-efficacy explores the notion that the higher a person’s sense of
capability to perform certain tasks, the more confidence he or she
has and the more effort he or she will put forth (Robbins & Judge,
By building an orientation that appeals to different learning styles,
students will feel empowered to successfully navigate the course
management system and have the confidence to reach out to the
proper student services when assistance is needed.
Through enhanced orientation, a culture where the learning concepts
promote empowerment and self-efficacy can be created and thus
students will be motivated to and will succeed in their courses
On a side note…
While researching the Theory of Self-Efficacy, another concept that
appeared quite often is transformational learning.
Adults need to incorporate their emotions regarding what they are learning in
order to fully attach meaning to it and to apply it. Many scholars believe that
emotion is irrelevant, however transformational learning theorists believe it
plays a significant part. They believe it helps to enhance emotional intelligence.
(Cho, 2012).
A Deeper Look into the Adult Student
Research shows that adult learners tend not to "chunk or
organize information efficiently for recall" (Ke, 2009).
Adult students need the option of working 1:1 with a student
services professional
Adult students need a sense of community
Online Student Portal
One place in which to connect with all components of
the online student environment:
University email
Library Resources
Personal Financial Aid / Student Account information
Tutoring Services / Labs
APA Templates,
Unofficial Transcripts,
Advisor Contact Information
Course Add/Drop Dates
Online is Convenient, Not Easy
Online learning, while more convenient in many aspects, is
NOT easier for the following reasons:
Online learning changes the dynamic between student and
Students evolve from passive receivers to active participants
Professors switch from dispensers of expertise to facilitators/guides
What Does it all Mean?
Clearly define your online learning environment
Find out exactly where your student population struggles and what is
needed to be successful in your online learning environment
When considering the cost to create or enhance orientation, don’t forget
to factor the cost of doing nothing
Be sure your orientation is specific to your online learning environment
Be sure that orientation provides guidance as well as sense of control
(self-efficacy) for the student
Consider different learning styles
Be sure a sense of community exists
Design how you will measure effectiveness and how often
Discussion Time!
Have a question? Want to share what is working well for you?
Thank you for attending my breakout presentation
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Thank you!
Jennifer Schubert
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh