BUILDING EFFECTIVE ORIENTATION PROGRAMS

Orientation Development Tips and Tricks

The following are lessons we've learned over 20 years of producing community college orientations and other online matriculation programs. They are presented here in an effort to help you in your own content development efforts.


Blue round button displays Tips and Tricks.

01

CLARIFY YOUR PROGRAM PURPOSE

In a simplistic view, campus websites are inherently designed to inform on the "where and when" of college-life (location of classrooms, available student services, hours of operation, contact information, and the like). 

Orientations, on the other hand, should serve to inform viewers on the "why and how" of college life.

02

CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT

One can work their way through the instructional design process in textbook fashion but still fail to achieve success. Likewise, a layperson can skip all the pertinent steps and still come up with a pretty good training program. The difference rests in the content.

While "what the content is" is important, often successful training hinges more on "how the content is presented."
Flexibility in the model can leverage time and budgets allowing developers a greater opportunity for content definition and presentation creativity.

03

USE OF VIDEO

We can all agree that video is a great instructional tool. It is the perfect medium for courses that require behavior modeling or demonstration. Video production will likely be the biggest expense in the budget, so it requires thoughtful consideration of when to use video, how much to use, and how places can we use it.

  • Produce for maximum use. Try to think of alternative uses for this video or how other desired video production work can be leveraged together. The cost of video production services are typically based in day-rates. It makes sense then to make use of those resources as much as possible for that day.
  • Produce without temporal references. Videos that announce the future of some program or event have an incredibly short shelf life and rarely justify their expense.
  • A little video goes a long way. Having video on every screen dilutes the learning motivation. Instead, use video selectively as needed for a testimonial, introduction, or welcome presentation. The live-action and audio gets the brain energized and motivated to learn, improving retention of material throughout the course.
  • You don't always need the pros. But it helps - a lot! Using professional production services lends value to your project well beyond the cost. With experience, producers can reduce production service budgets by making greater use of campus or other available services.
  • Volunteer student talent is preferred. Using student volunteers instead of paying professional actors does more than save money. Students are anxious to help and benefit from the experience. It provides a sense of inclusion for students, an air of excitement on campus, and perfectly good video. It's the imperfections in the performances of these volunteer students that polls better in the, "that student is just like me" department. This "believability" establisshes a connection between learner and content, known in parlance of Emotionally Charged Learning, to improve student performance

04

USE OF EMBEDDED HYPERLINKS

Visualize your course like cars in a lane of traffic. The cars, of course, are your students. Traffic signals are the menus, questions, and other interactions programmed into your course. Finally, there are the curbs or street barriers that keep the traffic, students, flowing in the right direction. The curbs represent your instructional objectives, upon which all content, testing, questions, and quizzes are based.

Casual use of embedded links is an invitation for cars in your traffic lane to jump the curb and go into any "unknown" direction. It's the unknown that's the problem.

Programs are painstakingly developed for the successful accomplishment of the stated objectives. Therefore, any "unknown" content the student might encounter after deviating from the course via an embedded link can/will result in a dilution of the relevant content and decreased retention.

Well-designed courses try to control access to content to only that required to achieve the objectives.

  • If designers can't control the content when linking out, they should invesitgate ways of bringing the web-referenced content into their design. Capturing the desired information and including into your course materials confines the instructional content to the course/topic objectives. Citing the source with a hyperlink in a manner that disassociates it from the instructional content is a better approach.
  • Abundent use of embedded hyperlinks is problematic of course maintenance. Hyperlinks are prone to "breakage," termed broken links, that then need to be identified, updated, or removed.
  • Some broken hyperlinks could require a major update to a course. Based on the degree course content obtained via hyperlink is relied upon throughout the course, significant design changes may be necessary.

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