Taking online college courses can be frightening if you are not prepared. Do you remember the first time that you filled out an important form or application online? The feeling of wanting to go back and double check your answers can be overwhelming and cause you undue stress and anxiety. Now just imagine paying thousands of dollars for college courses online with new things to learn and you are unsure where to click, find help or even to start your course. Please understand that I am a 100% believer in online education, but it is 21st Century Learning and all students should be prepared by taking a well-designed online orientation course as a prerequisite. An ingenious online orientation course could look like an adventure in utilizing the course software (LMS-learning management system), creating good online habits (like login to your courses everyday just to look around), implementing a system to organize your course files and assignment due dates.
In a recent article by Renee Jones, “Developing and implementing a mandatory online student orientation”, she discusses her findings based on the ADDIE model of Instructional Design for analyzing and evaluating online student learning outcomes. She suggests that both online and hybrid (part online/part face-to-face) first time students should take a mandatory online orientation course. Not only is she reporting that online students feel better prepared for the course, she notes an increased retention rate for these students.
It is not uncommon for a first time online college student to have an unrealistic, space age expectation of learning online. These students can get a cold dose of reality when they find out that they are expected to read and adsorb far more material than in a face-to-face class. In my opinion, online students should also be expected to perform at a higher academic level in all facets of their work product. This is because the online learner should have more time for reflection and digestion of the subject matter. Of course, the ability to perform at a high academic level is a learned art that could have its beginnings in the mandatory online orientation course.
Author Renee Jones also notes that a mandatory online orientation course could provide the students with extra practice and time to resolve possible technology hurdles. “Based on anecdotal and empirical data, it appears that a well designed and implemented online orientation that includes exposure to both technology and soft skills can effectively prepare first time online/hybrid students to be successful in their online course and increase retention rates.”
Design Theories & Models (2014), Retrieved from, http://www.learning-theories.com/addie-model.html
Jones, Kona Renee, Developing and implementing a mandatory online student orientation (2013), Retrieved from, http://sloanconsortium.org/jaln/v17n1/developing_and_implementing_mandat...