Incoming students set to have a virtual summer orientation

Graphic by Cassandra Tweed

New students will still feel connected while social distancing

This summer, first-year student orientation at North Dakota State University will be held online rather than in-person to adhere to social distancing guidelines. This new “virtual orientation” will be a two-part process with pre-recorded Blackboard sessions and a “virtual day” where students will be able to talk to advisers and register for their classes.

“It’s really going to mirror that on-campus day where some pieces are big large group and some pieces are small one-on-one.” Alyssa Teubner, the Coordinator of New Student Programs, said.

The first step of the orientation process is to complete the pre-recorded Blackboard sessions, which are normally offered at orientation. Some of these sessions include well-being in college and a session on how to buy textbooks.

These pre-recorded sessions will shorten the normal orientation day because students are able to watch the videos at any time once they have set up their Blackboard account.

Students also sign up for the virtual day session, which is a three-part day where students will be doing real-time connection making, speaking with advisers and getting registered for classes. The virtual day will have both large and small-group sessions and will likely be run through the video communications website Zoom.

There will be ten virtual day sessions with options for either morning or afternoon sessions. The sessions are from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. or 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and are on the following dates: June 10, 11, 18, 19, 23 and 25 as well as July 8 and 28.

“Virtual is hard, but I think virtual has a lot of potential to be even more interactive than what students have experienced in the past.”

Alyssa Teubner, Coordinator of New Student Programs

The first part of the virtual day will be a meeting with the student’s Hall Director or with Jordan Dadez, the Coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life, who works with commuter students. This allows students to meet others who are living in their halls and to meet the professional staff where they will be living.

Students will have the chance to ask individual questions about campus life, their classes and academic life, along with any other topics they are curious about.

The second and third parts of the virtual day will be with orientation leaders in small group sessions likely held through Zoom. “We’ll also have the opportunity to do breakout rooms and things like that, so it’ll go from meeting maybe one or two people to having 15 people in your group and you’re all having a discussion,” Teubner said.

“Advising will be a mix of large-groups, where you’re with other people in similar majors advising you what classes to look at and how to use our technology.”

“We can’t substitute face-to-face connection but we have tried to be really creative in how we’re going to engage students like releasing podcasts and grouping students by interests,” Teubner said. “Creating more of those connections over the summer is a great opportunity for us.”

Another addition that will be done by NDSU Admissions will be giving tours through Instagram Live.

“Students will maybe be able to see places that you wouldn’t have been able to see on orientation because we couldn’t specialize, whereas now we’ll get to highlight some really cool places behind the scenes,” Teubner said.

This virtual campus-tour through social media will be run by interns that are well-trained in giving tours and training tour guides. These interns are supervised by Teubner as well as Admissions and they will take over some of NDSU’s social media. 

NDSU understands that some students will face obstacles in completing this virtual orientation due to technology and other potential issues. Students with these concerns are encouraged to reach out to Admissions and NDSU to work out a plan that will be successful for them.

“Everything is going to be on a case-to-case basis. Someone may not have great internet or someone may not have the technology. We can always go back to emails and phone calls.” Teubner said. “We are wanting every single student to feel supported through this process.”

NDSU’s New Student Programs received a grant last year partly to be put towards online tools that will be part of NDSU’s online programs going into the future.

“We’re currently working on having some online things that are really beautiful and well-developed by a third party, but those take about a year and a half to design and we are designing them now,” Teubner said. 

NDSU hopes to use technology in an effective way to give first-year students the best virtual experiences they can. Students are encouraged to come prepared and be engaged with the virtual sessions and ask questions.

Teubner hopes students utilize this time to learn and become excited about campus so that they feel prepared when Welcome Week comes.

“Virtual is hard, but I think virtual has a lot of potential to be even more interactive than what students have experienced in the past. Their mindset is going to be everything for them to be successful with this,” Teubner said.

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