Online Induction: What happened?

I wrote the post “Online Induction: What can possibly go wrong?” as I was getting myself and the materials ready for a week of induction activities for new students to the online degree programme at Bournemouth University.

This, in itself, was a follow-up to the “Online Induction: Icebreaker Activities“, where I was working through some ideas on what I would deploy for the students.

So, with a week to recover, reflect, and collect the stragglers, how did it go?

With one week set aside for their Online Induction, the students were asked to do the following (this was based on instructions given in a letter and a supporting website, with an introduction to the VLE / Blackboard):

NB: these are mature students, often in full-time employment, and with family and social commitments.

  1. Introduce Yourself: Using a wiki, the students created a page and placed a bi0 (about 200 words) about themselves and why they have just started an undergraduate degree in International Business & Management. They then linked this page to the wiki home page, so other students could find it and leave a comment on it.
    [Wiki support video]
  2. Send an email: In order that we can confirm the students have successfully accessed the University webmail system and their account, they send me an email. This also means we will stop using their private email; we cannot manage mail lists of some uni, some private emails; they must all use their uni email address and account for communication.
  3. Point of Contact: Online test (Blackboard) with about 6-8 questions where we outline a typical question – the answer being “who do you go to in the following situation?”. This introduces them to the team and the type of problem each of us can help with (mitigating circumstances, technical, library, etc).
    [Test/MCQ support video]
  4. Spending Spree: What would you spend $50,000 on, guilt-free? Enter a response in a blog, and comment on another student’s idea.
    [Blog support video]
  5. Lonely Hearts column: Some fictitious lonely hearts adverts are discussed in a discussion board. Which one (3 male, 3 female) would make you find out more, and which one makes you crawl?
    [Discussion Forum support video]

What else did we do during the Induction week, besides guiding/following them through the activities:

  • Announcements: important announcements about their studies, the programme, the Library, the University, the first Unit of study, Technical support, etc.
  • Introductions: emails from the programme and administrative team (as well as participating in the first activity).
  • Support Website: In case they were unable to access the VLE, we had a set of flat HTML files that replicated the instructions for the activities, but not the activities themselves. This is really just so they have something to read until we can sort out their access issues!

So, these were the activities. How did they do? Well, firstly, what was the engagement like?

  • One or two students did everything on the first day, never to be seen or heard from again.
  • One or two students appeared on day 7, right at the last possible moment and did the absolute minimum.
  • The majority of students dipped in and out during the week, completing the first 2 or 3 activities, but not the last one.
  • A few questions about how they would complete the wiki/blog activities. The students were directed to the already advertised support videos for each tool, where the tool was demonstrated in a real-world example.
  • Those that were active at the beginning of the week missed out on the ‘community feel’ at the end of the week.
  • Those who were active at the end of the week were more likely to just read what other students said than to enter into the activity.
  • Activity from students who logged on a few times during the week was better; they made more comments and generally acted like they were in the two-way community instead of just ‘publishing’ to the community.

So, the activities:

  1. Introduce Yourself: 80% of the students completed this; the other 20% did not do this, but they also didn’t do any of the other activities either! On the whole they all were able to create the page and enter their details (some with pictures and links), but not all were able (or remembered) to create the link from the home page.
  2. Email: All but one student could access their email account, and that one student was easily sorted (password typo?).
  3. Point of Contact: A simple multiple-choice test (MCQ), most students completed it. What we now need to do is go back and report on the results.
  4. Spending Spree: All those who have completed other activities completed this too. The results are more indicative of the times we live in; most would spend some or all on the mortgage, holiday, or car (in that order).
  5. Lonely Hearts: As the last activity, this was predictably the one with the least number of students active, whether it was the subject matter, the tool (DF), or just because they felt they’d already done enough.

How do you measure success? I prefer looking at the number of students (or lack of) who had issues and needed to contact me (as the Learning Technologist) to find solutions rather than measure the success of the activities completed. This year was good; few students had more than the basic “forgotten password” issues, and only one with broadband/connection problems (out of my control).

I’m already planning next year, so between now and then, I’ll be hunting around for some new and exciting ways to get them working together online. Any suggestions are welcome, please let me know by commenting below …