Orientation for Augusta University’s new students was moved to fully virtual sessions for summer 2020 due to COVID-19.
Because of the pandemic, the university decided to move away from a two-day, on-campus orientation to online orientation sessions, in order to allow for communication with incoming students throughout the summer.
Orientation for summer 2020 was very different from the typical face-to-face orientation that has been hosted in previous years. In previous years, orientation would revolve around a two-day event where students would get to come and learn more about AU’s campus, events and clubs hosted on campus, and further information about each department AU has to offer.
However, due to COVID-19, this year’s orientation was based virtually on engagement with incoming students throughout the summer.
With knowing that this summer was going to be different, AU decided to take the normal orientation schedule, and offer incoming students sessions based on different topics each month and week. These sessions were based off of required topics, topics the students were individually interested in, and any additional topics AU thought was important for incoming students to know.
Lyndsey Williams Mayweather, the director AU’s New Student and Family Transitions, detailed how this summer’s orientation has worked.
“The month of June focused on required sessions,” said Mayweather. “During these sessions, students were given the opportunity to learn about financial aid, get the chance to meet the different colleges AU has to offer and their academic advisors.”
The month of July was based on “choosing your own adventure.” During these sessions, students had the chance to pick additional topics that they were interested in. Some of these topics focused on student organizations, fraternity and sorority life, and the honors program.
Keeping summer orientation as normal as possible was important to Mayweather.
“Tour Tuesdays was an idea that we came up with,” she said. “Tuesdays allowed for students to see behind the scenes on our campus.”
These tours allowed students to see the campus virtually, instead of in person. Orientation leaders would go live on social media to give the students a live tour of AU’s campus, the classrooms, and other facilities offered to a student.
“We also held family sessions to allow family members to go on and ask any questions they had”, said Mayweather.
Students were able to connect with orientation leaders through WebEx and Microsoft Teams. To make sure these students understood and were able to comprehend everything, they were required to take a “quiz” on D2L, in order to complete their orientation and allow for their holds to be lifted.
Being assigned an orientation leader made this summer’s orientation feel “normal.” These groups allowed for good communication with the students throughout the summer. Calling campaigns were done in order to allow these leaders to easily keep in contact with the students.
“These campaigns allowed orientation leaders to call students and let them know that AU is excited to welcome them to campus, keep them updated with information, and to allow students to have a sense of things moving forward,” said Mayweather.
Mayweather stated that one thing she was most excited about was the JagSwag that students were still going to be receiving.
“This is a great way to show students we are still excited to be welcoming them here to campus, even through the chaos,” she said
When discussing main concerns from this year in comparison with years before, Mayweather stated that their top concern (aside from safety) was relating to students what to expect and what they will be getting from being a student here at AU site unseen.
However, when it comes to the concerns of a decrease in student applications, Mayweather said this is a concern all universities are dealing with.
“Nationally, schools all over are being faced with the question like: (1) Are students going to come back and (2) what can we be doing to insure that they know AU is doing everything to make it a safe place so they will even want to come back,” she said.
New students are moving into housing during the week of Aug. 3-7. Students from AU are allowed to come and help move incoming freshmen into their housing.
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