The Orientation course improves learning effectiveness because the content is geared towards learning important course navigation skills, practising online collaboration, and building student confidence for new graduate students. We are able to address student concerns and anxieties up front, before they start their academic courses, and we are able to ensure that students are set up properly in terms of the technology, so that they can start their first academic course (Strategic Management) and "hit the ground running."
The results from the 2004 Orientation courses (n=102) using pre- and post-orientation survey questions indicated that the Orientation course increased student confidence, academic skill development, effective time management skills, and the development of technology skill sets that promote and support successful participation in online learning environments. This was most evident in the results to the survey question where 98/102 students (96.1%) strongly agreed that "Having completed the Orientation week, I feel more comfortable starting the MBA program than I would have without the orientation."
learning effectiveness Students complete a one-week online MBA Orientation course immediately before they start the Executive MBA program and their required academic courses. Students interact with each other and their academic "coach" using the learning platform and tools they are expected to use during their academic courses. By mirroring the structure of the Orientation course to that of an online MBA academic course, students can not only practice and familiarize themselves with the learning platform and tools, but can also pace their readings and assignments during the week as they would for an eight-week course. Students learn how to participate in asynchronous online discussions by reading a short article on the merit of case study analysis (an important aspect of the MBA program) and they then discuss the merits and disadvantages of learning from case studies with their academic coach and fellow students. Students practice writing and submitting assignments by reading a short article on Lotus Notes®, summarizing a 100-word response on it, and submitting their assignment to their academic coach. Students also read an Internet article on time management and submit the appropriate American Psychological Association (APA) reference for the article. Although the assignments are not graded, students do receive generalized feedback on their submissions. The Orientation course also introduces students to some key university policies (such as academic conduct) and students learn how to navigate library databases. By completing the orientation, students are ready to concentrate on learning the content of their courses instead of having to divide their attention between learning the mechanics (expectations as well as interface) and learning the content.
The cost is low because we have one MBA graduate function as the Orientation coach for each intake. The cost to students is also low because we do not charge students for the Orientation course and yet it saves them considerable time while reducing their anxieties and concerns about the program.
Hansen, D., Maushak, N. J., Schlosser, C. A., Anderson, M. L., Sorenson, C., & Simonson, M. (1997) Distance Education: Review of the Literature (2nd ed) (Washington, D.C.: Association for Educational Communications and Technology)