Resources and Resourcing for Orientation

We’ve looked at a number of different approaches to orientation and induction, and hopefully inspired some people to take a look at how they might change their whole process (I certainly am!). However, before we wrap up in the next post, one of the things we need to consider is how these changes and new processes are resourced.

We know that teaching online is a more time-intensive practice than classroom teaching, and the same goes for orienting estudents. In fact, if you’re moving to a long-form orientation, such as that described in my previous post, then you are going to need substantially more staff involved over a longer period than you currently have. Of course your cohort size will also determine this, as you would generally have a lower ratio of students to each staff member than you would face-to-face.

Its not just a question of time, either. Each staff member (whether that be a librarian, a technologist, an academic, an administrator or anyone else) will need to be fully briefed on the overall orientation – if your eLearning officer is to give a talk on using the VLE, they need to understand how that talk and its content is going to be used in activities within the academic modules, or by the librarian to set a research activity. It all becomes inter-dependent, and so every staff member involved is now a member of the programme teaching team. This can be a big ask in some cases, and your orientation programme team needs to meet regularly to assess updates in the different areas, share ideas and make sure each strand gels fluidly with the others. This can be another substantial time-sink for already busy staff, but hopefully will be ultimately rewarding.

As well as human resources, what else are you going to need? The programme team need to identify technological and monetary resources that they may require for their activities. Is the first academic activity going to involve a forum? Does the librarian want to get the students working with Twitter so they can follow important library updates? Is the administrator looking for suggestions for a programme day out? How will you achieve this?

Your local Learning Technologist is going to be a crucial member of the programme team, even if they aren’t directly involved in the delivery of any aspect of the programme. They can assist in helping the team to choose the correct tools, identify technology solutions to reward the students (and assist in how those rewards are recorded and subsequently affect other strands). To get you started, though, here are a few resources you might want to consider.

Padlet is a great tool to invite anonymous (or non-anonymous) feedback on anything you like. My current MSc course uses this to capture the end-of-module feedback, keeping the process free-form instead of giving the students a structured feedback form. (Make them think independently , instead of feeding them the direction you want them to take).

Nearpod is a fantastic interactive tool that allows you to run a live online session where you can display slides to your students, and have them take part in quizzes, polls etc. The students can access this via the web or through the dedicated NearPod app for all good smartphones and tablets.

Evernote is an online note-taking app. It allows you to create text notes, but also to embed audio, video, images and other content. Notes can be made public via a shared URL, and can link to other notes within your Evernote account (or indeed in someone else’s). Again, available via both web interface and app, Evernote is a great way to capture information quickly, particularly if you are on the move, and share it with your students.

Twitter is probably my favourite social media tool for education and professional use. Its content is publicly available without your students requiring to sign up for an account; you can save individual user accounts, search results, hashtags and many other permutations of content as a feed that can be presented to your students and updates automatically across the entire social network; those students who do sign up for an account can bookmark their favourite twitterers by following them or adding them to lists (allowing good categorisation), and most importantly all (most of!) the content is short, pointed and easily digestable. Twitter gives your students the opportunity to connect with people of interest within their area of study in a way that almost no other platform does – your entrepreneurs can pose a question to Richard Branson, your music students can find out who inspires Evelyn Glennie, your politics students can ask practically any politician about their policies (although don’t expect a straight answer there!).

Those are just a few (mostly free) examples to start you off, but there are nearly as many tools out there as there are stars in the sky, or books in your library! Spend some time figuring out how you want to make your programme work, and make sure it blends together nicely.

I recently heard of a quote from a student, as reported by Twitter user Maria O’Hara at the recent Talis Insight conference – “when things flow together it makes the institution seem professional to us”. (Talis Insight, 2016) It’s this blending of resources and effort, academic and professional services, that can create a really powerful orientation that can benefit our students greatly as they begin their studies.

References

O’Hara, M. [mohara3]. (2016, Apr 20). Student perspective: when things flow together it makes the institution seem professional to us #talisinsight [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/mohara3/status/722770817369706497

Image Licensing

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Judy O’Connell and is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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