The last part of this week’s assignment is to create this scrapbook, which I have done and to post something new that I’d like to try. There is a tool that I’d like to find or (as I’m doing) develop that is fairly specific to community colleges: an online orientation module.
I believe that students drop out of online classes (specifically the older returning students in community colleges) because they are unprepared for the environment. It used to be that “if you can surf the internet, you can take an online class”, but this is no longer true. As we have discovered during this course, there are TONS of tech tools out there available for instructors to add to their courses and with each of these tools comes a learning curve, not just for the instructor, but more so for the student.
Students need to know how to upload a file to a drop box, how to post to a discussion forum and reply to other posts, how to do an online survey or quiz – even timed ones, and how to send/receive emails with attachments. This can be very overwhelming to a student who has few computer skills and is pursuing a vocational degree or certificate in an area that will not require computers in the job field.
To me the ideal orientation will start while students are doing placement/assessment testing, to determine the skill level that they have with computers and the online environment. This can be added to their student profile so that advisors can better place students in classes where they can succeed.
The ideal second phase of this orientation is online modules that can be taken to improve these skills. It can be set up within the LMS as a course in which they are given simple tasks to do repeatedly until they are comfortable with the system and participating in an online environment. Upon successful completion of the orientation process (which may or may not include module trainings), they can enroll in online courses.
I believe that an institution’s commitment to this type of orientation is promoting the educational success of its students and thus resulting in higher retention and lower withdrawal rates.
Currently, there is such an orientation-type tool on the web, ILCCO’s OASIS but it is a voluntary program, not particularly associated with any single institution. Additionally, ILCCO has, I believe, plans on the horizon to modify or replace this system as most institutions are moving toward their own online orientation programs. However, most programs are still voluntary for students. Personally, as online course enrollments and offerings grow, I believe that such orientation programs need to become mandatory and part of placement/assessment testing in order to ensure the continued success of online programs.