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30 Ideas for a Digital-Friendly New Student Orientation

Did you know I have an updated version of this post for 2020!?!

Check out my 15 ideas for Remixing Digital New Student Programs for the most updated digital considerations in the time of COVID.

Those who have worked within New Student Programs and Orientation know that summers are not a time for vacation or downtime. The months of June and July stacked tightly, back to back, with transition programs for new students and their families.

Orientation is part of the reason that I pursued a career in Student Affairs. As an orientation leader, I loved the energy, even the endless parent questions and late nights programming that blended into early mornings academic advising sessions. But as an orientation leader from 2000-2002, we did not have the type of technology tools now available. We created our student session ‘slides’ on poster boards that took at least a week to create. We went through registration by hand, then phoned in courses.

19937967_sIn this post, I am proposing methods that new student programs can implement to make their orientation experience more digital-friendly.

This is beyond the tech tools, such as using PowerPoint instead of paper flip-boards or posting content online instead of handing out copies. Those things should be obvious, because how they save time and are environmentally conscious decisions.

Also, I do not claim to be an expert on software or hardware that may be advantages to any large-scale event, so you will not see those here. Another much-needed post is to create a virtual/online orientation experience for students and families that are not able to make the physical trip to campus. I will save this for a future post.

The direction I take this post is advanced social media usage, with platform strategy, methods of student supervision, and digital as well as in-person activities that can be implemented leading up to, at, and after your orientation program.

To summarize what you will read is this:

  1. Take the time to develop a plan, involve (heavily) your student orientation leaders and give them the power to carry out ideas.
  2. Decide the strategy you will take in using social media as a communication tool beyond social or marketing, including elements that will begin before orientation, as well as during the on-campus experience and just as important continuing the interaction and strategy post-orientation season into the start of school.
  3. Finally, allow your community to take the online conversation as their own, to be continued beyond orientation, and through the college experience.

Disclaimer: Under each section, I give a base of ‘ideas’ and not necessarily listed of rank or timeline. One idea may end up being extremely successful at one institution, but just not fit at another. Do not jump into every social media platform because they are free or recently popular. The more time you can put into being strategic about social media, even if this means only doing one social media platform and doing it very well, the better. Some of these may also take long-term planning to implement, such as staff training or resources for video production equipment. Think about short and long-term goals for your program, considering orientation season is already quickly approaching!

My post also comes with a research lens.  I do not suggest getting serious about social media just because it is a cool thing to do, but because it has a ripple effect of positive outcomes. Research has found positive results from college student online activity such as expressing true self, building relationships, self-esteem, transition to college, academic motivation, and student engagement (DeAndréa, Gemmill & Peterson, 2006; Ellison, Fiore, LaRose & Steinfield, 2011; Pempek et al., 2009; Steinfield, Ellison & Lampe, 2008; Tosun, 2012;).  For more about the positive impact of social media on young adults, check out a post I wrote (here).

This actually isn’t the first time I have written about this topic.  To explore further each phase of the ‘orientation’ process, feel free to read more on those posts including:

At the end of this post, I welcome comments and hope it can be an area for readers to share other means that have been implemented or being explored in orientation programs across the country.

Because 30 ideas take up a lot of blog real estate, I have added pages below. Hopefully making the post more digestible, also found by clicking each link below.

Let’s start this big ideas orientation post by clicking page ‘2’ below!

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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