Student involvement should take place with the help of appropriate conditions promoted for the effective assimilation of knowledge. Incoming learners entering a new environment for them need support to socialize successfully and gain access to all the necessary information. This work is aimed at presenting and evaluating the effectiveness of a student orientation program based on a blended learning approach designed to combine traditional teaching methods with modern educational practices. Providing new students with an opportunity to socialize through relevant learning principles is one of the main goals of this program.
Objectives for the Orientation Program
As an objective related to introducing the orientation program in question, one can mention learning about the educational opportunities that the university faculty gives to newcomers. For the first month, involved tutors should provide students with information about all learning facilities, the dynamics of the educational process, and useful resources to apply throughout the entire period of study. As McPhee and Pickren note, geographic orientation is an important attribute of orientation programs, especially for those students who come from other regions (426). Therefore, as a rational criterion for assessing the success of this stage of the program, learners’ confident orientation in the educational buildings and facilities must be achieved. This can be measured through the speed of finding the right classrooms and laboratories.
Another essential objective to implement within the framework of the program under consideration is the training of newly arrived students to combine educational practices using different teaching tools. In the educational process, distinctive techniques and technologies can be applied, including both traditional methods through manuals and practical exercises and innovative mechanisms for mastering knowledge achieved through digital applications. Weitzel mentions various engagement tools that can help students not only learn new topics but also connect with peers. The ability to quickly and effectively apply various information retrieval technologies can be a criterion for evaluating the effectiveness of this objective.
Based on the previous objective, team performance is another valuable perspective to realize in the context of the considered orientation program. A blended learning algorithm involves utilizing various educational tools and strategies when much attention is paid to students’ activities in a team. According to Mornata and Cassar, in such a learning environment, indirect guidance is a common practice, and interacting with peers is a natural and even forced decision to internalize all the topics involved (567). As a result, coping with the set educational tasks collectively within the framework of the educational process is a factor confirming the success of the orientation program.
Critical Elements of the Program
When analyzing the orientation program under consideration, it is crucial to highlight the key elements that form its content. One of the main components is online exercises designed in accordance with the planned topics to be studied. McPhee and Pickren state that finding a balance between the effective application of self-guided digital learning and face-to-face meetings with tutors is a challenge of a blended learning approach (420). Therefore, the appropriate digital base must be adequate to help students achieve their educational goals individually.
Consequently, when taking into account the idea of combination, face-to-face classes are another integral component of the program. In addition to the fact that students should discuss the material covered, they must prove that their self-study algorithms justify themselves. At such lectures and seminars, different interaction practices can be utilized, for instance, team discussions. The main purpose of this element of training is to hone the skills of working in groups. In addition, as Mornata and Cassar remark, socialization support is an important determinant of the value of face-to-face activities (565). Thus, this practice is included in the orientation program under consideration.
Finally, proper testing is another critical element of the program. At the end of the adaptation mode for newly arrived students, responsible tutors should evaluate the effectiveness of the work done and the productivity of the practice of combining digital and traditional teaching methods. According to Bowyer and Chambers, formative tests are a common form of evaluating the effectiveness of such projects (23). At the same time, students themselves should demonstrate how successfully the blended learning mechanism has helped them acquire the necessary skills and knowledge. In this case, feedback is a mandatory component of the orientation program in question.
Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
Upon completion of participation in the orientation program, newly arrived students will acquire a certain set of skills and knowledge. Due to a blended learning approach, one of the main achievements to accomplish in the process of educational practice is the ability to apply different methods of searching and processing information, thereby enhancing autonomy. As Weitzel notes, student autonomy is an important perspective to realize within this teaching method. Adapting to new conditions and communication environments requires quick orientation and the ability to effectively use all available information channels. By utilizing digital tools and traditional teaching techniques, the involved tutors can train students and encourage them to take responsibility for their decisions, thereby developing critical thinking skills. In other words, the more ways a student can use to search and process information, the higher the likelihood of successful learning both within the university program and outside it. Therefore, the ability to work with different data sources increases learning autonomy.
Another valuable skill that the program in question can train in students is engagement. The ability to work in teams is a critical attainment that demonstrates the potential to be a team member and contribute to overall success. Accordingly, it is crucial to train involvement in work to rely on the help of peers and apply different communication approaches, thereby increasing personal authority in groups. According to Weitzel, student engagement is largely associated with blended learning because tutors use distinctive tools to engage the target audience. Face-to-face interaction is interspersed with remote communication, and students are trained in different ways of gaining knowledge through active involvement. As a result, in the future, they will become valuable members of the employment market and can successfully realize their potential in distinctive activities.
Training Delivery Methods
Based on a blended learning approach, distinctive training delivery methods can be applied within the stated orientation program. By following the recommendations by Baragash and Al-Samarraie, three key approaches are planned to be applied – face-to-face learning, online education, and learning management system-based training (2082). Each of these training practices has individual merits and spheres of applications, thus contributing to the achievement of distinctive educational outcomes.
Face-to-face interaction is planned to be used as a traditional approach to teaching. This mechanism allows for involving students in the learning process and motivating them to work actively both in the classroom and individually. This form of communication is the most familiar to most of the audience, and periodically, group meetings should be held to practice teamwork skills and provide peer support among students. Therefore, such a delivery mode is universal and can help solve various educational tasks.
Online learning is an educational form that provides for students’ autonomous activities based on the independent study of relevant topics. Tutors may recommend using various digital tools and applications, but it is up to students to search and process the information on their own. This practice is useful as an approach to enhancing critical thinking and research skills. Periodic supervision by teaching staff is a way to help students learn a wide range of modern technologies utilized in the educational field.
Finally, learning management system-based training is another practice that can be applied within the framework of this program. Such an educational mode is a transitional link between the previous two and involves the fulfillment of tasks assigned by tutors. Regular checks on the work performed and communication between peers are the ways way to keep the interest in such activities. Teaching instructions are offered online, allowing one to complete the necessary tests and exercises individually. This learning form is a convenient way to stimulate student motivation for self-learning and strengthening autonomy.
To assess the orientation program’s success, a few relevant approaches may be applied. Bowyer and Chambers suggest several criteria to use to determine the effectiveness of a blended learning approach, which they refer to as the measures of course outcomes, learner satisfaction, and student engagement (19). For each of these factors, appropriate assessment tools are applied. At the same time, when analyzing the orientation program under consideration, learner satisfaction and student engagement are the most important indicators to evaluate in the context of the task of enhancing information and socialization opportunities.
To assess learner satisfaction, some means of communication with the target students can be used, for instance, self-report questionnaires. It is the task of the responsible tutors to analyze how satisfied the participants in the program are with the proposed conditions for adapting to the new learning environment. Given the feedback from the students, appropriate conclusions can be drawn regarding the productivity of the applied practices and the benefits of a blending learning approach in general. Regarding the criterion of engagement, it is important to analyze some related factors to have an idea of the quality of the work done. According to Bowyer and Chambers, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive aspects need to be taken into account when evaluating engagement outcomes (20). Questionnaires and interviews may be useful tools for assessing these criteria. In general, open interaction with target students is one of the few effective ways to get valid assessment results and an objective picture of the success of the orientation program in question.
The considered orientation program, designed to offer information and socialization opportunities to newly arrived students, is characterized by several relevant objectives to implement. A blended learning approach, which is the core of this project, is designed to combine traditional face-to-face meetings and self-paced online learning. Among the skills to develop through participation in the program, autonomy, critical thinking, and engagement are crucial to mention. Performance evaluation methods include obtaining individual feedback from the target students through questionnaires and interviews.
Baragash, Reem Sualiman, and Hosam Al-Samarraie. “Blended Learning: Investigating the Influence of Engagement in Multiple Learning Delivery Modes on Students’ Performance.” Telematics and Informatics, vol. 35, no. 7, 2018, pp. 2082-2098.
Bowyer, Jessica, and Lucy Chambers. “Evaluating Blended Learning: Bringing the Elements Together.” Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment Publication, vol. 23, no. 1, 2017, pp. 17-26.
McPhee, Siobhán, and Graham Pickren. “Blended Learning with International Students: A Multiliteracies Approach.” Journal of Geography in Higher Education, vol. 41, no. 3, 2017, pp. 418-433.
Mornata, Cecilia, and Iolanda Cassar. “The Role of Insiders and Organizational Support in the Learning Process of Newcomers During Organizational Socialization.” Journal of Workplace Learning, vol. 30, no. 7, 2018, pp. 562-575.
Weitzel, Alex. “8 Advantages of Blended Learning Programs.” Course Key, 2021.