As community colleges address concerning trends in enrollment and retention, online orientation programming will only grow in importance. Here are some trends to look for this year:
- Flexibility. When envisioning online orientation programming, administrators should consider using teaching and learning theories and methods that provide students with opportunities to access information and expertise, contribute ideas and opinions, and correspond with other learners to increase student engagement.
- Multiple Delivery Options. In conjunction with needing to be flexible, online orientation programming allows for institutions to deliver content in multiple formats. Online orientation can be offered in a flipped classroom model, where students learn about policies, procedures, and processes before they come to campus.
- Accessibility. With one in five students reporting a disability, all online orientation content must be accessible. Universal Design for Learning offers an important framework to guide the creation of online orientation materials, ensuring that they are accessible to all participants. It is critical that all videos have closed captions, images have alt tags, and content is available to screen readers. Accessibility also means removing barriers so that students can easily get to and navigate the online orientation.
- Meaningful Interactions and Engagement. Online orientation programming provides an important initial opportunity for students to begin to make connections with their new campus community. Whether students are getting to know faculty or staff through introductory exercises or emails or having online discussions with orientation leaders or other current students, online orientation allows for meaningful online community building.
- Current Student Involvement. Current students help to humanize online orientation programming by being the face of an institution. In 2022, orientation leaders should interact with new students via email, including targeted messaging that can nudge students through the enrollment process to help facilitate matriculation. Involving student leaders in the creation of orientation content is an excellent way to develop material that new students will find relevant. Current students are also an excellent test audience and can evaluate orientation materials before they are released to incoming students.
- Enrollment Management. Online orientations are a critical component of strategic plans to admit, register, and enroll incoming students. They also play a key function in ameliorating summer melt. Leaders need to envision an online orientation that is informative, engaging, and welcoming to incoming students.
- Data. Using data gleaned from online orientation will expand in 2022. Examining the results of quizzes or surveys or other gamification activities like matching exercises will help to ensure that students are learning and meeting objectives. Online orientation data can also be used to identify students who will need extra support at the start of the semester.
- Ongoing Resource Center and First-Year Experience Foundation. Online orientation programming will continue to expand in 2022, giving students a platform to return to for success resources. Creating content that facilitates student learning and support throughout a student’s first year can have a positive impact on retention. In the coming year, online orientation platforms will grow to be a pillar of support for student success that is integrated into first-year experience programs and used in conjunction with tutoring, coaching, and peer mentoring efforts.
- Mixed Media. The most successful orientation content in 2022 will be platforms that utilize multiple methods to share information with students. Animation, videos, and gamification will allow students to recall orientation material. Using discussion boards, matching exercises, and checklists are different ways institutions can leverage design to create content that is both engaging and capable of being recalled.
- Instructional Design. In 2022, orientation content must strive to be informational, motivational, and instructional, addressing the question of what is being taught as well as the question of how it is being taught. Resources such as the Online Learning Consortium and Quality Matters provide frameworks for creating online learning content that meets national standards.
As colleges plan for orientation in 2022, online components will continue to provide critical information and opportunities to connect students and facilitate community building.
For nearly 20 years, Innovative Educators has assisted college leaders to build foundations of success for their students. Grounded in best practices for online learning, Innovative Educators’ student support tools are engaging, interactive, and community-building.
Innovative Educators was an Innovations 2022 sponsor and exhibitor.