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Learning the ropes: Orientation to the on‑line OT (Post‑Professional) Program
The transition from occupational therapist and/or parent to post-professional master’s student can be daunting. To try to ease the transition, the School of Occupational Therapy offers a 2 week, online orientation to their master’s program. The orientation is normally offered once a year in August, given that most students start their programs in September, although it is sometimes offered in January if there are enough mid-year admissions.
The orientation has evolved over the years. First offered as a 2-week, onsite orientation, demands on student and faculty resources encouraged a reconsideration of this format over the years since the expense to students, for travel, accommodation, and time off, was considerable. It is now offered over 2 weeks, part-time and fully online. Students can now complete the orientation while maintaining at least some of their work and family commitments, although most participants find that it is a very busy two weeks!
What do students learn during orientation? There is a focus on three areas: program information, graduate student survival skills, and scholarship areas. The program information sessions give students information to plan their program of study. Survival skills include library searching, critical thinking, tips from current students, giving/receiving feedback, and becoming familiar with online learning. Scholarship areas expose students to the research interests of almost all faculty members at the School. In addition, students practice reading critically and responding to discussion questions as they would in a typical online course – engaging with and posing questions to each other as well as the facilitator. Orientation facilitators keep the discussions going as well as offering behind-the-scenes coaching to students who have additional questions. The facilitators and other faculty members have an opportunity to get to know students, initiating a relationship before they start coursework. Student evaluations indicate the orientation gives a good taste of what on-line learning is like and students value learning about the research interests of faculty and getting to know classmates. As one participant stated: “This orientation prepare[s]me for the program, and help[s] me to organize and manage my lifestyle so that I can give my best to the program.” The Post Professional Program thanks all the faculty, staff and past and present students who helped create this vibrant online learning community!
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