Primary research about online orientation

Book with dense text in two columns and a lined notebook open on a desk

Taking Orientation Online is full of information about online orientation programs, and all of it is based on published research, or my own experience with UVic’s Pre-Arrival Program. However, sometimes you want to hear it straight from the source. While there isn’t a ton of research about online orientation programs available (especially if you’re interested in programs for students in on-campus, face-to-face programs), I’ve listed a few of the articles I’ve found useful below!

Development and evaluation of an online university readiness course furthered by capturing the lived experience of students during this transition: A multi-perspective understanding of the transition to university

Hanna-Benson, C. (2019). Doctoral dissertation, Western University

This doctoral dissertation describes the development and evaluation of LegUp, an online orientation program for new health sciences students at Western University. The dissertation describes the content of the program in depth, as well as the resources involved in creating the program and the impact of the program on students. Student who completed the program achieved higher grades and higher scores on the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (SACQ) as compared to non-participants.

The impact of an online orientation program on student success at a community college

Colucci, R.L. & Grebing, R.E. (2020). Journal of College Orientation, Transition, and Retention. 27(1), Article 1

As the title indicates, the article describes the impact of an online orientation program on student success at a community college in the U.S. The study found a statistically significant different in fall-to-spring retention and first semester GPA for student who completed the program versus students who did not complete or did not access the program at all. The article provides very little details about the program itself.

Have you been oriented? An analysis of New Student Orientation and E-Orientation programs at U.S. Community Colleges

Chan, M. (2017). College and University, 92(2), 12-25.

This study provides an overview of online orientation programs (which they refer to as e-orientation programs) at U.S. community colleges. By conducting an overview analysis of 100 programs, and a detailed analysis of 20 programs, the author offers insights on subjects covered in online orientation and major design features critical to student learning.

Assessing an online student orientation: Impacts on retention, satisfaction, and student learning

Watts, J. (2019). Technical Communication Quarterly, 28(3), 254-270.

This study looks at a course-embedded online orientation program that was created for students in an online master’s degree in technical and professional communication. The program was structured by the community of inquiry theory of online learning, and had a goal of helping students learn how to learn online. The paper describes the program, and indicates that students were satisfied with their experience and used the knowledge gained.

Student engagement with an online orientation resource: How learning analytics refines educational design principles

Wozniak, H. (2013). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, 941-950.

This paper took a learning analytics approach to examine student engagement within an online orientation for undergraduate nursing students. The paper reports on findings related to which student demographics have a higher rate of engagement, which content areas are visited most frequently, timing of access, and association between engagement and grades.

Innovative orientation leads to improved success in online courses

Taylor, J.M., Dunn, M., Winn, S.K. (2015). Online Learning, 19(4).

This study evaluated the impact of including a 10-minute orientation module explaining basic course navigation instructions at the beginning of an online course. The orientation consisted of videos with voice-over, and contained interactive tools that allowed students to check their learning. The brief orientation was favorably received by students, and four of the five courses involved in the study showed a reduction in the percentage of students who withdrew compared to the previous year.

Evaluating online learning orientation design with a readiness scale

Liu, J.C. (2019). Online Learning Journal, 23(4), 42-61

In this study, the author evaluated an online orientation program for online students using a student online learning readiness (SOLR) questionnaire. Students completed the questions both before and after participating in the online orientation program. Student readiness increased after completing the online orientation program.

Developing and implementing a mandatory online student orientation

K.R. Jones (2013). Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1)

This paper discusses a mandatory online orientation for online students at a rural community college in the U.S. The program is briefly described, and evaluation results are shared. Students who completed the program reported that they felt better prepared, faculty reported that students seemed more prepared for the online environment, and retention in online courses improved.

Online student orientation in higher education: A developmental study

Cho, M-H. (2012). Educational Technology Research and Development. 60(6)

This paper describes the process of developing an online orientation program for online students. They walk you through the four phases of their process (analysis, design, development, and evaluation) explaining their program goals, structure, content and evaluation results along the way.


Featured image by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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