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Online Orientation: Making the Most of New Student Orientation


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Title: Online Orientation: Making the Most of New Student Orientation

Online OrientationMaking the Most of New
Student Orientation
  • A. Craig Dixon
  • Cathy Vaughan
  • Madisonville Community College
  • Madisonville, KY
  • National Institute for Staff and Organizational
  • May 22, 2007

Madisonville Community College
  • Founded in 1968 as a part of the University of
    Kentucky Community College system
  • Located in rural, western Kentucky coal fields
  • 1997 Postsecondary Education Improvement Act-
    technical and community colleges merge
  • Today there are 16 community and technical
    college districts in Kentucky
  • Offer technical, health, and transfer degree,
    diploma and certificate programs

MCC Challenges
  • Coal hangovers
  • Low educational attainment levels
  • Unemployment
  • Lack of preparation for college courses
  • Low graduation rates
  • Low retention rates

Origins of the Project
  • Title III Strengthening Institutions Grant
  • Strengthen instructional programs and student
    services in order to improve student success.
  • Restructure new student orientation, advising,
    and registration process to address this problem.
  • Form an Advising Task Force consisting of general
    education faculty, developmental education
    faculty, and professional staff charged with
    developing the new model.
  • Online Orientation Subcommittee
  • First Semester Experience Session Subcommittee
  • Online Registration Subcommittee

The Challenge
  • The bulk of advising takes place during open
    registration sessions, in a public setting, as
    students make their way through long lines. The
    challenge is to develop an advising
    infrastructure that uses up-to-date information
    systems and technology to deliver accurate and
    timely information to both faculty and students
    when they most need it.
  • -MCC Title III Grant

The Traditional Model
The entire process could last 4 or more hours.
  • Orientation
  • Sessions occurred once a day over a 2-3 day
    period, 2 weeks prior to the start of a new
  • Each large-group (100 to 150) orientation session
    lasted approximately 2 hours.
  • Information about student support services was
    provided by a parade of talking heads.
  • Advising
  • Bullpen sessions were held in discipline
    specified rooms with 2-3 faculty assisting as
    many as 30 students on a walk-in basis in
    building a semester schedule.
  • Registration
  • Students stood in lengthy lines to have their
    schedules entered by Admissions staff.

Problems with the Traditional Model
  • Delivery of new student information is not
  • Large-group setting is not conducive to
  • Information delivered did not equip the student
    to understand academic plan, build his or her own
    schedule, etc.
  • No college contact person until program advisor
    is assigned mid-semester or later.
  • First contact encouraged for priority
    registration mid-term.
  • No guarantee contact would occur.
  • Prescriptive advising model scheduling

The Revised Model
The entire process completed in 3 hours.
  • Online Student Orientation
  • Students complete an online orientation at their
    own convenience prior to attending a first
    semester experience session.
  • First Semester Experience session
  • Students attend a small group (10-20) session
    with a trained faculty advisor who will serve as
    their advisor for the first semester.
  • The session details important information
    enabling students to build a semester schedule
    and lay out their academic plan.
  • Online Registration
  • Students meet with FSE Advisor for developmental
    advising schedule building.
  • Students register for term classes utilizing
    student online services self enrollment.

Benefits of Revised Model
  • Students come to FSE session with questions
  • Student has a point-of-contact immediately. FSE
    advisor becomes a resource for the student for
    their entire first semester.
  • FSE advisor maintains contact with his or her
    advisees throughout the semester to monitor
    progress and build a supportive relationship.
  • Students are equipped with the tools to build
    their own schedule in subsequent semesters
    consistent with their academic plan.
  • Students reassigned to program advisor at close
    of semester.

Goals of the Project
  • Eliminate the parade of talking heads delivery
    of important new student information.
  • Create an self-paced, easy-to-use Online Student
    Orientation that contains pertinent information
    for a student attending their first semester of
  • Ensure the student has this information prior to
    participating in an FSE advising session.
  • Monitor student completion of orientation
    utilizing exit email.
  • Collect information on new students via entering
    student survey.

Project Development
  • Develop outline of content to be covered in
    orienting new students to college.
  • Solicit information from the appropriate college
  • Structure the material into modules and order
  • Create module quizzes to verify mastery of

Online Orientation Content
  • Module 1
  • Getting Started
  • Student Email
  • Selecting Classes
  • Managing the Class Load
  • Your Advisor
  • Quiz Instructions
  • Quiz
  • Module 2Paying for College
  • Financial Aid Assistance
  • Business Office
  • Barnes Noble Bookstore
  • Quiz

Online Orientation Content
  • Module 4
  • Serving Students
  • Academic Counseling Services
  • Job Services Cooperative Education
  • Ready to Work
  • Disability Resources
  • The Learning Center
  • Library Services
  • TRIO Student Support Services
  • Registrar/Admissions
  • Quiz
  • Module 3
  • Being Prepared Academically
  • Role of Class Instructor
  • Your Role as a Student
  • Quiz

Online Orientation Content
  • Module 5Student Activities - Career-Oriented
    Activities - Service-Oriented Activities -
    Academic Activities
  • - Social Activities - Quiz
  • Module 6Policies Procedures that Students Need
    to Know
  • Student Right-to-Know Policy
  • Drug-Free Policy
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Student Records FERPA
  • Student Code of Conduct
  • Compliance Statement
  • Quiz

Project Implementation
  • Fall 2005 applicant correspondence included
    Online Orientation information.
  • At completion of orientation, the student was
    asked to provide information that was emailed to
    a designated email box.
  • Student completions monitored by Student Success
    Coordinator and forwarded to appropriate FSE
  • FSE advisors assisted students in completing
    registration process upon notice of student

Technical Considerations
  • Originally used client-side Javascript to ensure
    a linear progression through the orientation.
  • Students browser configuration could allow this
    mechanism to be bypassed.
  • Restructured orientation in Spring 2006 to
    utilize server-side code.

Project Evaluation
  • Students (approximately 625 responses from Fall
  • 97 agreed or strongly agreed that the
    orientation answered many of their questions
    about MCC.
  • 96.5 agreed or strongly agreed that the
    orientation information would be relevant to them
    during their college career.

Project Evaluation - Quotes
How to register for classes was the most
helpful section because no one in my family has
been to college and we are all clueless to
anything pertaining to college.
All sections were very helpful for my future
with Madisonville Community College. The
information presented was vital to my success in
the coming years.
The whole thing was very helpful, even if I
thought I knew all about it, it still helped me
learn something new.
Most and Least Helpful Sections
  • Most helpful
  • Financial aid (96)
  • Programs/registration (54)
  • Bookstore (29)
  • Advising/CAP Center (22) College units
    contacts and operating hours (22)
  • Policies (16)
  • Tutoring and support services (11)
  • Least helpful
  • Policies (36)
  • Financial aid (29)
  • Student activities (27)
  • Sexual harassment (25)
  • Disability (14)
  • The parts that didnt apply to me/The parts I
    already knew/The things everybody already
    knows (10)

281 students said there was no least helpful
Least Helpful Section Student Rationale
I would say the least helpful section for me was
the financial aid because I have already taken
care of that before completing this orientation.
The section on FAFSA was not helpful because Im
not going to receive that type of government aid.
The student organizations (were least helpful).
It was very informative, but with working
possibly two full-time jobs and being a full-time
student, Im not going to have the time to
participate in any organizations.
Technical Considerations
  • 99.5 agreed or strongly agreed that the
    orientation was easy to use and navigate.
  • 94.2 agreed or strongly agreed that the
    orientation instructions were clear and easy to
  • Reported problems
  • Local computing problem (14)
  • Redirect problem (13)
  • External link problem (2)
  • Script error (2)

Questions Remain AfterOrientation Completed
  • When?
  • Registration (8)
  • Choose a major
  • Letter of acceptance
  • Financial aid
  • Where?
  • Class locations (2)
  • Obtain Student ID number
  • Satellite campuses
  • How?
  • Advisors selected (2)
  • Access financial aid info
  • What?
  • Placement exams (2)
  • Part-time jobs
  • Transfer
  • Tutoring
  • Tuition
  • Class attendance

And our personal favorite What do I do when I
go to college and have forgot (sic) all of this
Project Improvements
  • Deleted entering student survey since information
    is being captured in another way.
  • Student issued a Certificate of Completion rather
    than tracking student completion by email.
  • Removed student activities module to decrease
    size of content and decrease time needed to
    complete quiz.

Planned Retooling
  • Add a graphical timeline of the orientation,
    advising, and registration process.
  • Include overlooked factual information (tuition,
  • Add information about distance learning courses
    and delivery media (ITV, online, telecourse,
  • Streamline module quizzes to reduce programming
    complexity and shorten time needed to complete

For More Information
  • Online Student Orientation
  • http//
  • OLO Slides available
  • http//