BlogHillary EngelmanHow UW-Whitewater built a remote orientation program

How UW-Whitewater built a remote orientation program

In May, the First Year Experience team at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater teamed up with Involvio to rapidly transition their Warhawks SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising, & Registration) program into a robust, remote experience. It has always been held in-person, but that would not be possible this year due to COVID-19. 

Defining UW-Whitewater’s goals

With limited time and resources, the First Year Experience team at UW-Whitewater knew that transitioning the SOAR program into a successful virtual experience would be a challenge, especially given the program’s many complexities and objectives.

To create a virtual asynchronous and synchronous SOAR experience, they needed to rethink how significant pieces of the program could be delivered. Some key factors to consider included:

  • Making the orientation information easily accessible
  • Guiding the students through their orientation schedule
  • Facilitating 1:1 advising sessions for every student
  • Enabling students & parents to engage with the UW-Whitewater community
  • Maintaining a personal connection and face-to-face interactions

The first step: Understanding SOAR key takeaways 

SOAR has historically been conducted as single day, in-person sessions on the Whitewater campus. These day-long events are meant to engage students and families by allowing them to: 

  • Begin acclimating to UW-Whitewater, the campus, and its facilities
  • Connect with their peers to facilitate student to student connection
  • Meet with an academic advisor and register for classes
  • Attend college information sessions
  • Participate in Q&A sessions for families  

Reimagining SOAR as a Remote Orientation program

After reviewing the planned in-person SOAR schedule and goals for a virtual orientation, we worked closely with UW-Whitewater to build both content and functionality using the Remote Orientation features to facilitate an online SOAR program. 

UW-Whitewater’s app will give SOAR attendees: 
Resources

Each student’s app is highly personalized to show content that is relevant to them.  A dedicated tab on the app centralizes all key pieces of information and updates the students would need easy access to, with the added advantage that students and parents can explore them even after orientation. 

Community

The Community section is a great place for students to come together to communicate with one another, ask and answer questions, build new connections, and start feeling a sense of community. Parents and families will also have their own dedicated space to get their questions answered and feel reassured.

Video conferencing access

The robust integration with Webex video enables students to quickly join in video discussions from the app. Any video meetings they’ll need to attend are already on their agenda, so they have one-tap access to participate in their various orientation sessions and advisor meetings. 

Individualized schedules

Every student has a unique academic journey and this needs to be reflected in their orientation. Students are part of specific breakout groups and have individual 1:1 advising appointments. The UW-Whitewater app makes it easy for students to view these on their agenda so they can stay organized and on track throughout the day. 

 With Remote Orientation, UW-Whitewater will be able to:  

  • Conduct all parts of the traditional SOAR program through the app - from 1:1 advising sessions to parent Q&As. Face-to-face interactions are facilitated via 1-click video calling. 
  • Host small group breakouts of 25 new students and a student leader as well as larger information sessions based on chosen academic majors
  • Give students a dedicated channel to network, get clarity, and build peer-to-peer relationships. The discussion channels will remain open after the actual day of remote SOAR, allowing students to continue to stay connected
  • Allow students to access key resources throughout the summer, even after the SOAR program has ended
  • Provide access to all students, parents, instructors, advisors, and administrators, who are experiencing an online orientation for the first time ever without the need for expensive hardware or software

With the Remote Orientation features, the UW-Whitewater app is a critical component in onboarding new students - it’s also easy-to-use, intuitive, and interactive. It takes the rich human-to-human interactions, foundational resources, and interactive experiences which are key to an orientation program and brings it to their smartphones. Students and parents can download the app before their orientation sessions begin and continue using it throughout their college experience.

The Warhawks will SOAR, remotely

By the time the SOAR program is done, UW-Whitewater will have successfully onboarded over 1,800 new first-year students for the fall semester, through a fully online and mobile asynchronous and synchronous experience.

The Remote Campus features within Involvio were built to aid institutions’ transition online during these unprecedented times, and have addressed significant challenges they are facing in this upcoming orientation season. Indeed, while a remote orientation marks a break with tradition, it also opens the doors for new possibilities.