ORIENTING STUDENTS TO LEARNING ONLINE:
WHY THE EMPHASIS UPON LEARNING MATTERS
Ghazala Hashmi, PhD
Coordinator, Quality Enhancement Plan
Meg Foster, MA
Assistant Coordinator, Quality Enhancement Plan
J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
SmarterServices Summer Webinar Series July 24, 2013
Overview of the Session• Identifying the attributes vital for effective learning within the
• Broadening our concepts of “College Ready” within these new and emerging contexts of higher education
• Expanding our institutional approaches to student preparation with concepts built upon targeted assessments
• Implementing these findings directly within support resources for students and faculty
• Proposing some next steps
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Goals of the Session
To evaluate the ways in which student readiness must include – for all students – some degree of readiness for the new digital literacies of this century
To share one institution’s efforts in the area of improving student success within online learning
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Background: JSRCC’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)
Success in Distance Learning
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A Traditional, Operational Definition of “College Ready”
The level of preparation a student needs in order to enroll and succeed
—without remediation—in a credit-bearing, general education course at
a postsecondary institution that offers a baccalaureate degree or transfer
to a baccalaureate program.
“Succeed” is defined as completing entry level courses at a level of
understanding and proficiency that makes it possible for the student to
consider taking the next course in the sequence or the next level of
course in the subject area.
– David Conley
“Toward a Comprehensive View of College Readiness” (2007)
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An Initial Definition of Readiness for Online Learning
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Access to Technology
Ability to Manipulate and Manage Digital Environments
Most institutions began with the traditional concept of COLLEGE READY and then predicated “student readiness for online learning” upon essentially three additional factors:
What most institutions anticipated . . .
Success in Online
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The realities we faced . . .
Online courses are too often characterized by• Low persistence rates• Fewer successful students
Broader student and institutional impacts • Delays in college completion• Student attrition from courses or from college
altogether• Increase in college costs for students• Broader implications within the “time to degree” costs• Faculty engagement and preparation for online
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National Online Enrollments, as a Percentage of Total Enrollments, Continues to Increase
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“Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States,”
Babson Survey Research Group (2013)
The annual increase in the numbers of students taking at least one online course has not yet plateaued
0 2,000,000 4,000,000 6,000,000 8,000,000
Increase Over Previous YearStudents Taking at Least 1 Online Course
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“Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States,”
Babson Survey Research Group (2013)
JSRCC Data for Online Enrollments (2011-2012) Reflects National Trends
Downtown Suburban Rural Online0
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Online Enrollments Impacted Community Colleges Earlier and in Greater Numbers
According to a 2003 National Center for Education Statistics report, the largest share of distance education enrollments (48%) was in community colleges.
Community Colleges, in particular, have had to respond sooner and more deliberately to student demand for online learning opportunities
Even in the midst of the recession, distance education enrollments in community colleges increased 22%, up from 11% the previous year. (Miller, 2010)
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As educators, what should our responses be?
• Slow down the expansions of online learning?
• Divide student populations into categories for these different learning contexts, or create gatekeeping policies for student enrollment within online courses?
• Develop our understanding of and approaches to an adequate, appropriate preparation of all students for the new learning and teaching environments that we now face?
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Expanding the Essential Definitions of “College Ready” to Embrace Readiness for Online Learning
In the contemporary higher education environment,
academic success for ALL students is frequently predicated
upon the critical skills that are necessary for success within
digital learning environments.
Even students who never set a “virtual foot” within the
digital landscape are still called upon to navigate through
digital learning. In reality, increasing numbers of students are
completing some – if not most – of their academic work
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What are we doing to prepare and support our increasing numbers of online learners?
Online learning calls upon sets of skills that are often not
factored into the traditional evaluations of “college ready”:
• Discipline for independent learning
• Ability to navigate new and complex digital
• Personal attributes that support and sustain
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Essential Literacies of the 21st Century
Our very language itself is challenged as it attempts to keep apace
with the evolving dimensions of the materials and the information with
which we interact, and that we try to interpret and integrate into our
• New Media Literacy
• Information Literacy
• Digital Literacy
• Technology Literacies
These literacies are essential for all of our learners – not just our
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The example of Virginia’s recent legislative responses highlights the essential reality of redefining “College Ready”
In April 2012, Governor Bob McDonnell signed into law a bill requiring Virginia high school students to complete at least one virtual course to graduate with a standard or advanced diploma; the law goes into effect for the freshman class of 2013-2014. The measure’s argument suggests that students with online learning experiences are better prepared for the “job market of the 21st century.”
Other states have adopted similar measures or are evaluating the need to adopt these measures.
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• How do we effectively prepare students for the new learning environments?
• How do we assess these new levels of college readiness?
• How do we orient and/or remediate for digital learning skills?
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What types of orientation activities are your institutions providing for online learners?
Self-directed ModulesFacilitated, Online SessionsFace-to-Face Orientations to TechnologyNo Distinct Orientations for Online LearnersOther
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Comevo online orientation software (comevo.com)
• Meet students where they are• Online convenience• Engaging content
• Student Success Tool• Access to content• Quiz, Test, Portal• Useful campus-wide
APPLICATIONS WITHIN ONE VIRGINIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE INSTITUTION
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Measuring Students’ Preparation for Learning Online & Preparing Students to Learn OnlineTwo steps taken by J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College:
1) Integration of SmarterMeasure – a web-based assessment tool – to evaluate students’ readiness skills for online learning
2) Development and implementation of an Orientation to Learning Online module that is facilitated and delivered through Blackboard, provides essential instruction for new online students, and models the core elements of quality course design
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SmarterMeasure: An Introduction
The SmarterMeasure assessment helps students determine their
readiness to succeed in an online learning environment.
Technology Competency & Knowledge
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SmarterMeasure Student Report
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SmarterMeasure and its Results for JSRCC Students
Assessments of SmarterMeasure data helped the institution to identify two central areas of weakness among its student population:
Life Factors: Availability of Time, Place, Reason, Resources & Skills
Personal Attributes: Time Management, Personal Responsibility, Willingness to Seek Assistance
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have about a 56% chance of succeeding in Distance Learning classes.
Conversely, students who do not struggle with “Life Factors” or who display high scores within Personal Attributes,
have about a 75% chance of succeeding in Distance Learning classes
Students who struggle with “Life Factors” or who display low scores within the Personal Attributes assessment,
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What SmarterMeasure Emphasizes for JSRCC Students
Non-cognitive skills are the essential ingredients for student success:
• study skills• metacognitive strategies• self-regulated learning• time management• goal-setting
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In addition to Personal
Attributes, the ability to
manage LIFE FACTORS
has a significant positive
effect upon student success
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BUILDING UPON SMARTERMEASURE ASSESSMENTS TOCREATE A SOLID ORIENTATION TO LEARNING ONLINESummer 2011 to the Present
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CDL 001: Orientation to Learning Online
Evaluated SmarterMeasure findings and other college assessments
Created a team to develop the orientation. Team was comprised of
volunteers who connected three vital areas: Academic Affairs,
Student Affairs, and Information Technology.
Critical to success was including faculty and staff who brought their
expertise/perspective as online teachers and students.
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CDL 001: An Overview• The orientation session takes approximately 4-6 total hours to
• It simulates the experience of being in an actual online class.
• The session is facilitated by trained faculty/staff member.
• It is housed in Blackboard.
• Six Learning Units, with activities, are designed to be completed within 4 to 5 days
• Assignments include 3 discussion board posts, 3 quizzes, 1 library research assignment, and a final self-reflection essay.
• Students also complete SmarterMeasure and submit their individual report to the facilitator.
• An exit survey captures students’ responses to the Orientation.
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The Learning Units of CDL001
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Success and Persistence Rates of CDL001 Completers
Summer 2011 – Fall 2012 completers and their Success Rates in Online Learning:
1123 students registered to take CDL 001
These students have enrolled in 4592 distance courses between Fall 2011 and Fall 2012.
Persistence rate: 93.7% for CDL Completers vs. 87.9% for Non-Completers
Successful completion (A,B, or C) rate: 83% for CDL Completers vs. 69% for Non-Completers
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If your institution has also integrated SmarterMeasure for
its students, how are the assessment results being used?
To advise students considering online coursesAs an assignment within certain coursesFor placement approval in online classesAs a self-assessment for studentsOtherMy institution is not using SmarterMeasure
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Proposals for Next Steps
Partnerships between secondary and post-secondary institutions to develop support and orientation activities for online learning
Increased training of faculty and teachers to meet the growing needs for both online learning and the new demands of emerging literacy expectations
Direct applications of assessment results towards the creation of products that effectively support and prepare students for the challenges of accessing information and learning in the digital landscapes
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ReferencesBabson Survey Research Group. (2013). Changing course: ten years of
tracking online education in the United States. Retrieved from http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/changingcourse.pdf
Conley, David T. (2007) Toward a comprehensive view of college readiness. [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from www.nebhe.org/wp-content/uploads/Conley.ppt
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