Why change your orientation from an purely in-person experience to an enhanced online one? Well according to Rob Liesland of Xavier University, it’s more convenient (for students and parents and the orientation staff), it’s what other schools are doing, and it’s what he would do if we were to start this process from scratch.
This project to move the Xavier University freshman oritentation program from in-person to online came from the top with the goal of to re-imagining orientation. A steering commitee was formed with admissions, student life, and advising. Which led to BIG GROUP MEETINGS.
The Road to Xavier website already existed; in fact it was started before high school students were able to access Facebook. It was essentially a road map of 10 things new students needed to do online. The NEW orientation site built on that framework and expanded it. For example, they took all the 30-minute long orientation talks that were done in person and turned them into video (some pretty cool-looking and info-packed videos, actually). The staff can’t be sure that students are watching the videos, or course. But they do incorporate quizzes so students can evauate themselves about how well they’ve understood the content. And the YouTube analytics on the videos suggests that most students are sticking with the video content.
What was the hardest thing about moving to an online orientation experience? The loss of the real-time social interaction. You miss the ice cream social and the “milling about time,” which is kinda sad. They did add an extra day to the move-in orientation process, to add more social programming.
In order to encourge students to complete the online orientation process, the admissions team created some incentive. They added a gamification layer, with points, leaderboards, teams, and badges.
The biggest issues they experienced were with the e-advising process. Students were matched with an adviser and prompted to schedule an appointment for an online advising session. Students were often forgetful about their scheduled appointment, and some advisers thought it was a waste of times and that students didn’t take it seriously. There was also an issue with the confusing roles of the people involved in the project. Rob is a web developer and he was often in the position of having to email a student, for example. The site is only in its first year though, and Rob is planning to address these issues in future iterations of online orientation.
On the plus side, summer melt went down to 9% from 15% in 2010 and 12% in 2011. There are a lot of factors involved in that, but at least the online approach to orientation did not drive students away.