Feedback on ideas supporting entry level students
There has to be some form of permanent record or tutorial on how to 'connect' to an online course correctly. Students should be able to return to it at any time to refresh or renew their understanding of requirements, and having a guide that is easily understood and followed would be paramount in successful integration in situations like those you outline. Whether the students underwent an integration or connection process in a f2f situation, or whether they underwent the process in isolation is immaterial.
The connection or integration of the student is the key element and how its achieved really doesn't matter. Creating instructional material up to the task wouldn't be an easy ask but must be considered to be doable if a successful outcome is to be attained. The material could be in a written form, or perhaps a DVD that could be run that incorporated links an even self-connecting software that took the student to the correct places where further material could be found.
The support element must be readily available and could also be in the form of written or a CD/DVD, and clear instructions would need to be provided to students that wished to access expert assistance be email, phone, eLuminate etc. Obviously the students would need to be committed to studying! Thanks for the very good question Bron :)