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Online and Distance Education Virtual Orientation Refresh

Screen capture of the Virtual Orientation home page
The Online and Distance Education Virtual Orientation was updated in Moodle to add interactive elements and increase engagement.

NC State values its commitment to inclusion of all students. With this in mind, the NC State DELTA team worked to update its Online and Distance Education Virtual Orientation to suit the needs of all students.

Equipped with interactive lessons, quizzes and a range of NC State resources, the revised Virtual Orientation gives students an impressive toolkit for success in their online courses.

The updated orientation was completed in May 2017 based on a need to refresh the static content and create a more interactive experience that would benefit students.

“We wanted to make students who are not here on campus feel like they are part of the Wolfpack family,” said University Program Specialist Tamara Watts.

With this in mind, the project team that included Watts, Director of Online and Distance Education Administrative Services Melissa Williford and project lead/Instructional Designer Taylor Dawson established a few goals:  

  • Improve overall organization, not only for the success of Online and Distance Education students but also to help students easily navigate to specific areas of the orientation when necessary.
  • Increase student engagement with orientation topics by providing more interactive learning opportunities.
  • Provide more step-by-step guidance to students on important “getting started” topics
  • Update and refresh information, messaging, visual design and layout, in order to ensure the orientation is up-to-date and in-line with the new Online and Distance Education website.

“We collaborated to reimagine the structure of this orientation based upon the course learning objectives and an analysis of our learners. We also created new interactive lessons that provided students with opportunities to complete knowledge checks and other engaging activities,” said Dawson.

To improve the organization of the content, the orientation is housed in Moodle, the enterprise learning management system used at NC State, in five modules: Welcome and Overview, The Essentials, Your Learning Experience, How to Get Help and Feedback.

“Moodle is great for the orientation because it allows first-hand familiarity in the learning management system, easy analytics and reporting and allows administrators to have ready access to modify and improve it,” said Williford.

The goal for the orientation is to provide an ongoing, accessible resource for students that is available at all times. Moodle also gives students the flexibility to easily navigate different modules.

In order to help students identify the sections they need to focus on, the pre-orientation quiz was created in the “Welcome and Overview” module to gauge their knowledge. “Students can choose what areas they are not familiar with so they don’t have to go through the orientation from start to finish,” said Watts.

In addition, Bill Stancill with DELTA’s Video Communication Services created a video featuring three NC State Online and Distance Education professors helping to welcome students. The three faculty included Teaching Assistant Professor Edwin Lindsay in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Lecturer Louise Dolan in the Department of Foreign Language and Literature, and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Jerome Lavelle in the College of Engineering.

“We felt it was important to establish a welcoming presence at the start of the orientation and appreciated the opportunity to feature three experienced online instructors, representing a variety of colleges and curriculums,” said Williford.

The “Essentials” module has a checklist of all the information needed to begin as an Online and Distance Education student, from applying for a Wolfpack One Card to using the Unity ID and password to familiarizing students with MyPack Portal.

The other main interactive portion of the orientation is the quiz using PlayPosit in the “Your Learning Experience” module. The quiz helped students find their syllabus and make a note of their first assignment and due date. In addition, the module contains information on how to be a successful student, time management resources and a forum to introduce yourself to other online students.

The responses from the updated orientation have been very positive so far, seeing an increase of 606 new users since January 2017. Additional student feedback includes, “The Virtual Orientation did not fail to answer any of my questions and has led me to resources necessary to answer any questions I may have in the future.”

Whether a student is taking an Online and Distance Education course on NC State’s campus or from another location, the updated Virtual Orientation is sure to answer vital questions and ensure all students feel welcome.