Every term, California State University, East Bay (CSUEB) intakes a large class of transfer students from community colleges and other universities. Recognizing how difficult it is for students to make that transition, the CSUEB office of the Online Campus created a mandatory orientation course to introduce these new students to the campus, graduation requirements, and university resources at their disposal.

The original online orientation course shared PDFs and short quizzes through Blackboard. To learn anything, students had to read a lot of long, dry documentation. They weren’t engaged with the material, and they certainly weren’t getting as excited about their education nor as prepared as the university wanted. The innovative Office of the Online Campus knew they could create a more engaging orientation course using adaptive learning, but weren’t sure how to do it.

They reached out to the Smart Sparrow Studio to begin a collaboration. 

A Virtual Field Trip (VFT) from CSUEB's course

Designing a Personalized Online Orientation Course — Together

Smart Sparrow and the Office of the Online Campus partnered to transform the existing orientation into a visually-appealing, personalized, and interactive course. We worked together from end to end, brainstorming possibilities, storyboarding and iterating over lesson content and design, and ultimately building a 21st century orientation experience for CSUEB’s 21st century students.

Since the CSUEB campus is close to Smart Sparrow’s headquarters, we had the unique opportunity to meet with them in person for the kick-off call. During this session, we discussed:

  • What problems they were trying to solve for students
  • Their ideal solution, in a world without limits (no matter how crazy!)
  • Potential solutions, employing the full breadth of Smart Sparrow and CSUEB resources
  • How to create student personas that accurately represented the needs of their entire student population (CSUEB is one of the most diverse campuses in the United States)
  • Project management structure and communication guidelines

The goal was to make an orientation course that suited every department and student need. So one of the biggest challenges became managing this unusually high number of stakeholders. We spoke with academic advising and career education, student life and leadership programs, accessibility services, individual colleges, and more. We also met a few CSUEB students and asked what they would expect from an orientation course.

The CSUEB and Smart Sparrow partnership collaborated closely to carry out and iterate over every step of the project on a very short deadline. To ensure the course met everyone’s vision, our Studio set up regular, frequent check-ins to review progress and new ideas, involving at least four CSUEB stakeholders per call. We worked hard to ensure everyone had their say in the ongoing course development.

The personal academic planner from CSUEB's course

Building Exactly What Students Need to Be Successful

For the best orientation experience, we brainstormed a few tools students would need to be truly successful. Smart Sparrow didn’t have all these items yet — so we made them.

We designed and built these completely new components for the course:

1. My Academic Plan

My Academic Plan (MAP) is a large simulation spanning across all five lessons, able to copy information students provide from within one lesson to another. There are also three additional simulations sitting within this larger simulation — a truly unique design feature. MAP gives students a way to actually sit down, plan, and reflect upon what they want to do and explore during their time at CSUEB.

Students also learn about university services such as: commuting options, buying a parking pass or a meal plan, student accessibility and disability services, taking advantage of the vast array of health and wellness programming, and more.

2. MAP Tools

After fleshing out the use cases and requirements for student tools, we custom built a calendar, milestone tracker, and information bookmarking tool.

3. Virtual Field Trip

The final project was creating a Virtual Field Trip inside the course. With this, students are introduced to campus before they even arrive. They visit the real university unions, dining halls, student housing and parking, recreation and wellness center, and amphitheatre.

More Than An Orientation Course

Before the Summer 2016 term began, Office of the Online Campus at California State University, East Bay successfully launched the new online orientation course for their transfer students.

At the end of the day, we weren’t just trying to tell students where the health center is located and how they could buy a parking pass. Our goal was to help students actually create a real, personal academic plan, organize their financial planning, and schedule future action items (e.g. signing up for classes next term) so they start off the next chapter of their education on the right foot.

Work with Our Studio to Create Your Personalized Lessons

If you’re interested in creating more personalized learning experiences for your students — just like we did during our collaboration with California State University, East Bay — reach out to our Studio here. We’re always eager to discuss new, innovative project ideas!