Werklund’s orientation program supports students in online learning

Higher educational institutions across the country are expanding their online programs, and the Werklund School of Education is no exception. With rapid technology changes and evidence-informed practice, learning environments are shifting from being mostly text-based, to being rich with multimedia – supporting both synchronous and asynchronous communication. Given the changing nature of these programs, how are institutions supporting successful online learning?

As adult learners enroll in these online, technology-enabled learning environments, they need to be oriented to the tools and the pedagogical approach of online learning. In addition, they need to develop their self-regulation, problem solving, and collaboration skills in order to be successful in the online environment.

Learning Online

Designing for Success, Werklund’s new online orientation program, is the result of a two-year University of Calgary Teaching Grant. The project used a design-based research methodology to structure a 10-day online learning orientation for WSE students. This orientation program was trialed with both undergraduate and graduate students. Each iteration was studied, and the data informed the refinement of the program.

Designing for Success is grounded on four goals:

  • Familiarize students with online learning tools used in the program
  • Introduce students to best practices for online learning
  • Orient students to online learning
  • Provide students with various supports and resources to assist with learning online within a WSE context

This program provides opportunities for students to experience synchronous (e.g., Adobe Connect) and asynchronous communication using D2L (e.g., discussion forums, audio postings, video feedback, checklists). The goal is to provide students with access and opportunity to use various online elements of Adobe Connect and D2L in the ways they are used in their programs, as well as to learn strategies to be effective online learners. The nature of the experience provides ‘low-stakes’ learning opportunities to help adult students to develop the necessary knowledge, skills, and strategies to be successful online learners.

Designing for Success is designed to impact student success. Evidence-informed decisions are critical to customizing such an orientation program for our current student population. As this program transitions from being a pilot initiative, the effectiveness needs to be monitored to ensure it is meeting the learning needs of students entering our WSE online programs.


This project has positive implications for the Werklund School of Education. Given the continued expansion of our online WSE programs, this orientation initiative gives students an opportunity to develop their confidence and competence as online learners. In March 2018, the research team transitioned the program to each of the three units in the Werklund School of Education (undergraduate, graduate, and international foundations), providing a master D2L ‘shell’ of the orientation program to facilitate its full implementation.

See more from Dr. Jennifer Lock on her faculty profile

Connected Citations

Liu, Y., Hanson, J., Adlington, A., Lock, J. Johnson, C., Llewellyn, L., & Waisman, TC. (May, 2018). Traveling Together in Orienting Online Learners: Student Informed Design.  Presentation at the 2018 University of Calgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching, May 1 – 2, 2018, Calgary, AB.

Lock, J., Johnson, C., Liu, Y., Hanson, J., Adlington, A., & de Gannes Lange, S. (October, 2017). Are we designing for online learning success:  A study of an online orientation program. Presentation at COHERE (Canada’s Collaboration for Online Higher Education Research), October 20, 2017, Toronto, ON.

Johnson, C., Lock, J., Hanson, J., Liu, Y., & Adlington, A. (October, 2017). Connecting conversations: Listening so to inform the development an online student orientation program. Presented at issotl, International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Conference, October 11 – 14, 2017, Calgary, AB.

Lock, J., Johnson, C., Liu, Y., Hanson, J., & Baudais, A. (May, 2017).  Online student orientation programs:  Are we getting it right? Presentation at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education Conference, May 27-31, 2017, Toronto, ON.

Johnson, C., Lock, J., Liu, Y., Hanson, J., & Adlington, A. (May, 2017). Implementing a graduate student online orientation program: Using conversations to better student learning. Presentation at the 2017 University of Calgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching, May 2 – 3, 2017, Calgary, AB.

Lock, J., Johnson, C., Liu, Y., Hanson, J., & Adlington, A. (May, 2017).  Teaching them to fish: A study orienting graduate students for online learning. Presentation at the IDEAS 2017 Conference, May 4 – 5, 2017, Calgary, AB.