Embedding APA Refresher Content in an Online Orientation Course

Written by Teri Gergen, EdD, OTR/L

An essential feature of any institution of higher learning is a commitment to maintaining an atmosphere of intellectual integrity and academic honesty. Health science students are expected to adhere to the highest of ethical standards. Students who are newly admitted to a selective allied health science program may benefit from a review of information related to plagiarism. Many of these students recall Modern Language Association (MLA) formatting and citation style, but have little or no experience with the formatting and citation style of the American Psychological Association (APA). For these reasons, Excelsior University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) resources were embedded in an online program orientation course for 29 occupational therapy assistant (OTA) students. This blog post will describe how the OWL’s plagiarism self-assessment resource and APA refresher modules were used to prepare incoming students for success.

In the “Program Overview” unit, students were first instructed to review posted information related to the topic of academic integrity. The adaptive release feature within the learning management system was used to open the link to the OWL self-assessment “Check Your Understanding of Plagiarism” once the condition had been met. Students were asked to upload a screenshot of the summary page of the self-assessment. Once the assignment had been submitted, students were able to view the OWL resource “Types of Plagiarism.” In the “Student Resources” unit, students were given the assignment to complete the OWL resource “APA Refresher: Style” module. Once completed, students uploaded a screenshot of the summary page in the course Dropbox.

APA Style summary slide

An online survey was sent to all enrolled students to evaluate the perceived usefulness of the OWL resources. A 79% response rate was obtained (n=23). Almost one-half (48%) of the students reported that they had never used an online writing resource. Students who did report prior use of online writing resources had used the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) (67%), Google Search (58%), and the Excelsior OWL (17%). Most students (74%) strongly agreed or agreed that the Excelsior OWL was “easy to navigate” and that they “liked the interactive components.” A large number (83%) of the respondents indicated that the APA Refresher module was “useful” and 87% strongly agreed or agreed that the “self-assessments were useful.” Approximately 75% of the students reported that they felt “better prepared to appropriately cite and reference sources because of the OWL assignments.” Although most (57%) students did not visit non-assigned OWL content, 65% reported an expectation that they would use this resource in the future and 35% were “undecided.”

Survey responses indicated that students found the Excelsior OWL’s Understanding Plagiarism and APA Refresher modules helpful and that they were likely to use this resource in the future. The intentional strategy of introducing the OWL by way of low-stakes graded assignments appeared to be effective. Permanent links to OWL content deemed most relevant for this group are located in the “OTA Student Information Area” within the learning management system.


Teri is an occupational therapist/educator with an EdD in Instructional Technology and Distance Education. She has twelve years of experience in higher education program management, development, and delivery of synchronous and asynchronous courses. Teri is familiar with learning management systems (D2L; Canvas; Blackboard), web-based conferencing platforms (Adobe Connect, Zoom, Big Blue Button) and variety of tools to support collaboration and learning at a distance.