Course Orientation

Proactively familiarizing students with the course and the instructor.

On this page:

Benefits of a course orientation

When thinking of an orientation, one for a college or a program probably comes to mind. However, orientations are an important component for individual courses too. Most students take multiple classes in a semester and each have unique structures, requirements, policies and expectations. This can result in an initial overwhelming feeling as students acclimate to their courses. However, there are many options available to help students feel more comfortable, in the task of building a clear, concise and welcoming course orientation.

There are many benefits for instructors and students. A course orientation: 

  • Welcomes the students as they get to know the course and instructor
  • Establishes the course’s purpose, outcomes, major assignments and assessments
  • Reviews expectations and important policies
  • Answers common questions saving time for both the instructor and students
  • Gives students a chance to decide if the class is suitable for them
  • Provides resources for support and guidance
  • Helps students take ownership of their learning
  • Introduces students to modalities and technology tools

Building a course orientation

In most cases, courses have some form of online learning and technology integration regardless of the delivery mode. Online platforms allow you to build and share interactive course orientations. Often this is a student orientation module within your online course that can be repurposed and updated each semester making it an efficient resource. 

UB Learns: If using the UB Learns platform, having a student orientation tab on the course menu may be the way to go. This tab might be titled “Welcome,” “Start Here,” or “Course Information.” It sets the expectation for where students should start the course and what they need to know before day one, although this module can be referred to at any time.

Other formats: If not using UB Learns, creating a course orientation for students can still be done effectively by using a step-by-step guide in a different format such as a short document that is sent via email or posted on another course site.

Components of a course orientation

There are a variety of resources that can be included in a course orientation, below are some suggestions:

  • Welcome message: Create an instructor-made welcome video or write a welcome message with a photograph. This will begin to establish instructor-presence and the tone of the course.
  • Course navigation:  Explain to students how to navigate and interact with the course. If teaching online, it can be helpful to create this in a video format. Include how to use the course menu, where to access course content and how to submit assignments and review feedback. 
  • Required and suggested materials: List the texts, tools, software, and materials (digital and print) needed throughout the course. Additionally, provide links or resources for students to purchase, download and access these items (ex: Microsoft or Zoom through UBIT, professional journals through UB Libraries, Open Educational Resources (OER) through an open source).
  • Instructor availability: List office hours, contact information, and other forms of preferred communication. For example, if there is an open question forum in the course, give examples of the types of questions that would go there versus being emailed to the instructor.
  • Syllabus:  Provide a copy of an accessible course syllabus for students to review. Consider deconstructing the syllabus to highlight important policies such as grading, late work, requesting accommodations, etc. If students not reading the syllabus is a concern of yours, create a syllabus quiz.
  • Student resources: When it comes to technology and subject-area knowledge, consider the varying comfortability levels among students. Technology resources might include links for how-to videos and where to receive technical support for each tool being used in the course. Additionally, list options for academic support, health/wellness and other relevant student resources.
  • An icebreaker activity:  Create an activity that helps the students learn about, and interact with, their peers. The activity could be built using a discussion board in UB Learns or asking students to share something during class (virtually or in person). Provide clear directions and model an appropriate response.

Follow the directions in the Course Orientation Template to build your student course orientation module.

Next steps

Now that you have created your course orientation, the next step is to either finish your course organization or begin unit planning.