ACHIEVING THE BIG “O”RIENTATION: GOING ONLINE FOR STUDENT ENGAGEMENT, SATISFACTION AND RETENTION
University of Southern Queensland (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Page: 6406 (abstract only)
Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:Students’ learning journey often begins with information-rich orientation sessions that overwhelm and confuse rather than support and direct. Central to student engagement at this critical time is the need for “just-in-time,” relevant information from key stakeholders that begins from the time a letter of offer is made through to the end of first semester. Added to this dynamic is the changing profile of learning as students choose distance, external and online education options that allow them to blend study with employment and family commitments. Given this complexity, learning institutions need to think more about what information students want and when they want it. This paper uses a case study of an Australian university’s strategy to re-develop its orientation processes by establishing an orientation community to engage, direct and support students at the beginning of their learning journey and achieve higher levels of student retention. The university’s 28,000 enrolled students reflect the changing profile of how people study today with more than 70% of students engaged in learning in online, external and distance modes. The paper draws data from students’ engagement with the online orientation website across two semesters and the results of online student satisfaction surveys conducted in 2010. Results of the website analysis indicate significant student engagement with online environment, which received 45,000 hits at its peak period. It also provides a rich picture of what information students preferred and when they preferred it by tracking and mapping their interaction with the website. Students predominantly accessed the “Preparing to Study” section, which provided critical information on support services, and “Your Orientation Planner” section to personalise their orientation experience. Results from the survey indicated the majority students strongly agreed or agreed that the information found on the “Preparing to Study” (87%) and “Meet My Support Team” (68.7%) was beneficial leading into their first semester of study. Specifically, students strongly agreed or agreed that the online “Checklist” (87%) was beneficial as they progressed through the first weeks of their studies. Overall, the survey revealed that 72.5% of students continued to use the online orientation site during their first semester. Together, these results provide a rich tapestry of data to support the need for a strategic approach to providing online, “just-in-time” information on orientation and thus enhancing student retention in the critical lead-up to, and first semester, of study.
Keywords: Online community, student engagement, retention, orientation.