This summer, first-year students who are registered to attend Loyalist College in September had the unique opportunity to participate in a six-week, on-line virtual orientation called "Loyalist tlk". The program was designed to provide students with a fun way to learn about Loyalist while preparing for a successful college experience. Each week, new content was added with information provided in several formats including videos, maps and links to a wide variety of resources. Weekly themes included student life, student services, how to juggle studies with responsibilities and social activities, different learning styles, and what to expect when arriving on campus. Discussion forums enabled students to converse on-line with current students and staff, gaining information and support in preparation for their transition to college. A group of Loyalist moderators responded to on-line questions that ranged from monetary concerns to the anxieties students experience when moving to a new city. Although the six-week orientation is now finished, the materials are still accessible and the discussions are ongoing.
"When I have questions, this is the first place I go," said incoming student Stephanie Robinson, from the Toronto area. "It was really helpful and the students gave personal feedback which was great. I’m a very shy person and this has really eased my anxiety. There have been some great spin-offs too. One of the girls I met added us to Facebook and we’ve become acquainted with some of our residence roommates. I feel that I’ve made some friends before arriving."
One of the moderators was James Lewis, graduate of Advertising 2005, Media Marketing and Sales 2006 and Public Relations 2007. "A lot of the students were nervous about being able to juggle everything such as class work, part-time jobs and sports. I think it was reassuring for them to speak with students who were able to share stories about how they, or their friends, had worked things out and been successful in doing so. By opening the doors of communication prior to their arrival the move will not be as overwhelming for them."
"New students were able to get answers without having to go in search of the right person or the right place," said Camille Parent, a second-year Radio Broadcasting student and one of the moderators. "I think that they became more interested and excited about starting college in the fall by returning to the website and reading the discussion board."
"Approximately 30 percent of the incoming students participated in the orientation," added Mark Kirkpatrick, Director of Information Technology Services. "The logons grew in number each week. Some of the discussions included life in residence, how to get around Belleville, making friends, and community involvement. To my knowledge, this virtual orientation is the first of its kind in the Ontario college system. When combining the positive feedback we’ve received from incoming students, with the enthusiasm and energy that our current students have shown in helping to bring this initiative to life, our belief in its value to students has been strongly reinforced."
Media Contact: Marilyn Warren, Communications, Loyalist College (613) 969-1913, ext. 2332; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Mark Kirkpatrick, ext. 2356.