Information Item # 8: Submitted by Center for Instruction and Research Technology          (2013-2014/April)


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UNF’s Student Online Learning Orientation (SOLO) Overview


The University 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.

The Distance 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:

  • Troubleshoot technology issues
  • Demonstrate Word processing skills
  • Construct a personal planner
  • Upload assignments
  • Create a wiki page and a journal
  • Post to a discussion forum
  • View announcements

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.

Faculty can 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.



Bozarth, J., Chapman, D. D., & LaMonica, L. (2004). Preparing for distance learning: Designing an online student orientation course. Educational Technology & Society, 7 (1), 87-106.

Jones, K. (2013). Developing and implementing a mandatory online student orientation. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 43-45.

Mensch, S. (2009). Improving distance education through student online orientation classes. Presented at the Academic and Business Research Institute Conference, Orlando, FL.