Incoming Students Experience Mandatory New Student Orientation Online Due to COVID-19

 

First-year new student orientation, usually a multi-day event held on campus, moved to an online format this year in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The orientation was presented as a Canvas course containing videos and other content.

Students first signed up for one of eight different sessions online. According to the new student orientation website, there was no time limit, but the course could be completed in about two hours.

Students participating in the orientation were required to take quizzes based on the orientation material as part of the orientation course, and could only move on with a score of 100%.

Ashley Dabb, an incoming freshman, was disappointed orientation was moved online but understood health and safety was the priority.

“Overall, I feel like they did a really good job, especially on such short notice,” Dabb said.

Orientation is always mandatory for new students, and registration for classes is locked until a student has completed the orientation.

This year, in addition to participating in the online orientation course, students also were required to have an online meeting with their academic advisor in order to be able to register. Once both the orientation and academic advising holds are removed from the student’s account, they were able to register for their classes.

One benefit the online shift brought to incoming students is the absence of travel costs for students living out-of-townHowever, orientation is a time for students to familiarize themselves with campus and the locations of the various buildings. 

Chelsea Pett, an incoming freshman studying biology, is one such student who was depending on attending orientation in person to learn the layout of the campus. She said she still feels unprepared despite having completed the online orientation. 

“One thing that I was really looking forward to was touring the campus … I just don’t really know much about the campus yet, so I’m a little nervous for that,” Pett said. 

Another component lacking from the online orientation was the opportunity to become acquainted with other new students. Since there was no way to meet and interact with other students as part of the online orientation, group chats were created using Facebook and Snapchat as a way to get to know other incoming freshmen students.

“We’ve been all socializing pretty regularly, which is nice because now I feel pretty comfortable going down there,” Dabb said.

A team of student success advocates is also available to first-year students. The student success advocates are available to be contacted individually and also hold virtual drop-in hours.

In addition to the online orientation course, New to the U virtual events are available for both students and parents and families throughout the course of the summer. These events include Q&A sessions with Student Success Advocates, financial aid events and a first-generation session. The events are ongoing and can be found on the new student orientation website.

Both students felt the orientation material was clean, organized and easy to follow. 

“Considering the time, this was probably the best answer,” Pett said. 

 m.mckellar@ustudentmedia.com

@meganbmckellar

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