Virtual or In-Person: Planning for Orientation 2021

How do you plan for upcoming college orientation programs when there’s a lot of unknown? Similar to this current semester, college universities, specifically administrative staff, had to adapt to the obstacles around the pandemic and plan accordingly. Instead of planning a day of activities, a campus tour, or presentations for students and parents, there were a lot of restructuring in terms of how to transform an in-person orientation into an engaging virtual experience.

As you plan for the 2021 school year, it’s essential to consider whether you’ll continue virtual methods or return to in-person campus orientation programs. But, why not be prepared for both with a hybrid plan? Here are 7 ways to help you plan a new student orientation for both a virtual orientation with the assistance of an orientation app and/or in-person college orientation for new students.

Expertly navigate campus with a virtual tour

One of the things students look most forward to as part of their orientation is getting acquainted with their campus. Tours help students learn where residential housing is situated, give an idea to where they’ll be taking most of their classes, and locate critical spots they’ll be inhabiting quite frequently like the library, the bookstore, and the student center.

For in-person you have student tour guides you can entrust that understand the campus layout and make students feel comfortable and confident navigating their new university. But, when it comes to the virtual experience, how do you do that, all the while utilizing the resources you already have?

For a virtual orientation, create interactive campus maps with pins to decipher specific locations, film and post videos of tour guides providing a virtual tour around campus. By turning your in-person tour into a virtual package, you have the tools to continually provide students a resource they can refer back to whenever they need an extra reminder.

Open communication and dialogue 

Orientation is the go-to for students and parents to ask all their questions and help ease worries before the start of the new school year. While at orientation on campus, you have access to a wealth of knowledge through tour guides, trained orientation leads, and expert staff members. Through in-person interactions students and staff can foster understanding and trust through conversations and presentations.

But virtually that may seem like a limitation. To tackle this hurdle, plan ahead if you go the virtual route. Develop a section of FAQ students and parents are most likely to ask or have even emailed in prior to the new year. Create channels with tour guides, orientation leads, and expert staff members, so incoming students can have a hub to ask their questions, interact with campus members, and have a sense of community through their virtual engagements. 

Efficiently manage your to-do tasks

Typically, in-person orientations include a series of tasks for students to complete, whether that’s designing a schedule, registering for classes, or taking a photo for your official university ID. There’s several action items planned for students to help them accomplish and ready for their first day in session. 

With an orientation app, whether you’re prepping your student schedule or signing up for classes, keep track of what tasks you’ve finished virtually. Creating checklists online for incoming students gives them a clear idea of to-do items, and gives orientation leads a way to oversee how many students have fulfilled their tasks. You can also send students reminders, those who have missed items and need a little nudge to finish up tasks.

Discover and access an array of student resources 

At orientation students get to learn about the different resources that they can take advantage of as a student at the university. Through presentations, powerpoints, and printed materials, you’re able to find a list of student resources to access.

Create a dynamic student resource guide composed of all descriptions and contact information in regard to available student resources throughout the school year. Link to informative pages, or share videos to convey what students can reach out to you for. From academic advisory to student life services, compile a list of resources students can utilize throughout the semester.

Spark student friendships with similar/shared interest channels

Students also make some of their first college friends during orientation. You can potentially find your new roommate, or new study buddy while touring the campus in-person. This is where an orientation app is truly valuable when you go the virtual route. With an app you can create channels and pages dedicated to students with similar/shared interests and they can locate fellow students and potentially new friends.

Whether it’s the commonality of a shared student type such as international, commuter, or transfer students, to more academically such as majors or first-years to seniors, or based on hobbies including rock climbing, sports, book clubs, music, or movies. Creating pages and channels where students can virtually connect and discuss topics that interest them is a way to build a space of connection and interaction. This will enable them to choose the groups that most relate to them and jumpstart their social life while going the virtual route. 

Browse and find your future university club / group virtually

Orientation also gives incoming students the opportunity to discover clubs and groups on campus. Whether that’s student leaders setting up booths in the quad to introduce themselves, club members passing out flyers and making introductions, it’s a way for new students to collect information and potentially decide if they would like to join that particular group or association when school starts.

How do student leaders present their beloved campus group to prospective new members online? Universities are able to set up virtual student activities fair, where all the groups are compiled into one space, and new students can browse the various club pages. Each page gives each club the opportunity to describe their mission, values, showcase past photos, leadership team, even open channels and direct messages so students can reach out to register and hear more. From video introductions to zoom links to upcoming meetings, students can build a dynamic presentation accessible online.

Don’t miss out – keep track of must-see events

In addition to what matters to students, they also want to know what upcoming events they could look forward to. Whether your school is taking a more online approach or going toward in-person, having a go-to filterable events calendar online is a must. From can’t miss events like move-in day to more socially fueled activities like trivia night, gather all types of engaging events that students would like to participate in and compile them in one easily searchable place.

Use filters and tags to help your new students find just what they’re looking from. Tags can range from sports, Res-life, academic, and students will be able to scan over what intrigues them, save them, and keep track of when each one is happening with the help of an online calendar they can consistently refer to.

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