The Personalized College Orientation
By John Janso, Learning Services Coordinator
Who directs your educational experience? As an adult learner, chances are your answer is “I do.” Self-directed learning isn’t a new concept in the field of adult education, especially in the online forum. Having the responsibility of controlling the pace and manner in which you research, write and submit your assignments is a large part of taking classes online. Because of this, self-directed learning has become synonymous with the adult learner’s approach to taking classes. But does the same concept apply to your orientation to a university?
What is Self-Directed Learning?
With adult learners, there’s a certain level of assumptions made toward how you would absorb, retain and express learned material. Adult learners base education off past experience and personality, along with other factors. These characteristics of learning can apply to those of an online classroom.
- Problem-based learning. Assignments in a traditional class are based on scenarios; a problem is given to you and, using the materials and references provided, you solve the problem. Think of when you did the same back in high school with subject-based courses like social studies, physics and history.
- Availability of material. In an online classroom, some information is given to you, while other is gathered on your own. The responsibility to take that information and apply it to address or resolve a problem is what identifies a self-directed learner.
Reading over these characteristics, this might sound like the type of learner you are. Imagine, however, applying these to a university orientation. Can a facilitator use the concept of problem-based learning to introduce you to school policy via your computer on your own time?
Just as with self-directed learning for a course, there’s the assumption that you will voluntarily review instructional material and campus tours made available to you. While self-directed learning might seem more difficult to frame a university orientation within, consider the following ways to combine the concept with instructor-directed learning:
- Extending access. Many institutions’ orientations take place within confines of 1-2 days. An open house period that spans several weeks, however, would allow students to take the acclimation process more slowly and absorb information better. This makes the introduction to a lot of new information less overwhelming.
- Expanding facilitation. A single instructor presenting numerous lectures can get boring. Having a number of various lecturers, instructors or facilitators gives you a wider wealth of knowledge from a variety of areas. In addition to a primary facilitator, digitized teaching assistants, guest speakers, development activities and fellow student mentors acting as tour guides to the university can provide a more engaging electronic atmosphere.
- Gameifying. Would you be inclined to follow a tour guide surveying a university’s resources, or participating in a scavenger hunt where the speed and accuracy of your submission is compared against your classmates? Activities like these examples can allow students to work toward a directed goal utilizing gameified assignments while still letting you finish in your own time.
Orientation to a university is about becoming acquainted with the space and resources around you, and understanding how you’re able to use them. The personalized orientation is another more efficient, and perhaps more effective way to individualize the education experience and personalize it to students’ needs.
John Janso is a Coordinator in the Learning Services department, overseeing the development of the University Orientation program, and facilitating the classroom for all levels of student enrollments. He received his Bachelor of Liberal Arts in English at the University of Iowa.
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Image credit: Flickr/kevin dooley