Information Item # 8: Submitted by Center for Instruction and Research Technology (2013-2014/April)
Student Online Learning Orientation (SOLO) Overview
of North Florida will implement SOLO beginning with the Summer 2014 term.
Purpose: SOLO is designed to prepare students with some of the
challenges associated with distance learning. The course specifically addresses
effective learning strategies for an online student and orients the student to
the technologies used in an online course.
Rationale: Research has shown that requiring
students to complete training before participating in a fully online course
improves retention in those courses (Bozarth, Chapman, & La Monica, 2004;
Jones, 2013; Mensch, 2009). This requirement also frees faculty from having to
individually provide orientations in each course, allowing more time for course
content and learning activities.
Learning Committee (DLC) of the University of North Florida, charged to support the development of distance
learning that meets the needs of our students in a manner that is consistent
with the University’s mission, developed UNF’s 2012-2017 Strategic Plan for
Distance Learning addresses overall goals as well as priorities relative to DL
and operational guidelines for implementation and oversight. One action item
under goal 12, “Student Support
Services,” to “develop an orientation/success course for all online students to
take as a prerequisite to online learning.”
Development: The Center
for Instruction & Research Technology (CIRT) began development on SOLO in
Summer 2012, based on feedback from faculty teaching distance learning courses
at UNF. Undergraduate Studies, the Graduate School, the Visitor’s Center, and
the Military & Veteran’s Resource Center were all consulted in gathering
requirements. The orientation was pilot tested in live courses over three
semesters and continuously improved during that time based on student
feedback. Staff from the Academic Center
for Excellence (ACE) and CIRT’s instructional design team also reviewed the
course. It is important to note that the
content derived from not only evidence-based practices but also from feedback
from what faculty have traditionally required their students do in the first
week of an online course to orient them to the online learning
environment. By using SOLO to fulfill
this purpose, faculty will not need to use valuable instructional time to
orient students in every course. Once the
project moved to implementation planning, Enrollment Services, the Registrar,
and Academic Affairs were consulted on deployment.
Orientation Objectives: The course
is self-paced and can be completed by students in five hours or less. Objectives include:
Word processing skills
a personal planner
a wiki page and a journal
to a discussion forum
Logistics: Students are placed in SOLO at the time
they register for their first distance learning course at UNF. Until they
complete the orientation, they are prevented from viewing their Blackboard distance
learning courses (assuming the Bb course is available). Within three hours of successful completion of
the orientation, they are able to access their Blackboard Distance Learning
courses. Students receive emails about the orientation and reminders to
complete. Faculty are able to see a SOLO status roster for each of their
distance learning courses in Faculty Self-Service.
choose to enforce completion of the orientation, by requesting, utilizing the
department’s current procedure, an administrative drop for students who have
not completed SOLO by the end of drop/add. At the end of drop/add, all students
will have access to their Blackboard Distance Learning courses, regardless of
completion of SOLO. Once the orientation is completed, that credential remains
valid for five years and students will not have to repeat the orientation each
time they register for a distance learning course.
J., Chapman, D. D., & LaMonica, L. (2004). Preparing for distance learning:
Designing an online student orientation course. Educational Technology & Society, 7 (1), 87-106.
K. (2013). Developing and implementing a mandatory online student orientation. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks,
S. (2009). Improving distance education
through student online orientation classes. Presented at the Academic and
Business Research Institute Conference, Orlando, FL.