Online international orientation cuts costs in half

tutorial-80PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University is among a handful of colleges featured in an article about innovative online orientation programs offered to new international students.

WSU launched the iCoug online orientation tutorial in the fall. It has enabled the university to reduce its international orientation duration and budget by half and to better integrate it with domestic new student orientation, said Cheryl Hansen, director of global services at WSU.

A WSU student reviews part of the tutorial.

The tutorial consists of five modules and includes a staff introduction video with funny outtakes, PowerPoint slides with audio, maps, animated clips featuring avatars narrated by current international students, discussion boards and housing and course registration portals.

Once students pass each module, they are eligible to register for up to nine credits of core courses prior to arrival.

Although in-person orientation is still required, Hansen said, “we recognized that international students really needed to engage and have interactive information about WSU and the Pullman community before they arrive.

“We also wanted to get them registered for courses,” she said. “International students often get what’s left over in classes because they can’t enter the country more than 30 days prior to the start of their program. We just feel they’re so much better prepared now than ever before.

“A highlight we weren’t expecting is the interaction between students on the discussion boards talking to one another about their backgrounds, what they are planning to study, asking housing questions,” she said. “One group even spun off and created a Facebook page.”

Hansen said WSU was able to create iCoug for free with help from graduate students, who did the editing and engineering, and from the WSU Global Campus, which specializes in creating online courses and built the orientation under its e-course framework.

The complete article about online orientations is in the May/June issue of International Educator, a magazine of the NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Written by freelancer Vicki Valosik, it can be found at

See an earlier article about iCoug at