Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?
Many of us likely remember our college orientation as a day or two spent listening to college staff explain financial aid, campus policies and how to get involved and register for classes. Or maybe a week spent moving into the residence halls, meeting our new roommate, making friends and exploring those first unbelievable moments of freedom from our parents. Either way, orientation probably seemed to be less an exercise in academic success and more a rite of passage into autonomy and early adulthood.
Given our student demographics, Metropolitan State University of Denver’s orientation may look different, yet it seeks to achieve many of the same outcomes. The Roadways Orientation team has carefully crafted in-person and online sessions that strive to transition students into the University and get them ready for their first semester on campus and beyond.
But one brief orientation session could never provide everything a student needs to be successful at MSU Denver. How can faculty complement the experience in the classroom and further enhance the information given and connections made during orientation?
Take a SIP of this: The Faculty Role in Orientation
Orientation sessions at MSU Denver are mandatory and differentiated according to the individual transition that students are making. Sessions fall into four main categories: first-time-to-college students (SOAR, or Student Orientation, Advising and Registration), transfer students, adult and veteran students. Transfer students have the option to do orientation in person or online.
Regardless of student type, orientations seek to achieve the following learning outcomes:
- Creating a sense of belonging
- Introduction to the faculty relationship (specifically at SOAR sessions)
- Introducing financial-literacy concepts and skills
- Completing college-readiness requirements such as health forms, student ID card, etc.
- Understanding the technological support systems that underpin students’ work on campus (Blackboard, DegreeWorks, etc.)
- Providing information on how to construct an academic path that supports career choice
Once classes start, faculty can provide students with quality, high-impact messaging that enhances the orientation experience and keeps students learning about how to be successful. Here are some ways to do this without using valuable class time:
- Message a sense of belonging to your students. Encourage them to see themselves as college students and remind them that MSU Denver is their academic “home.”
- Invite students to come to your office hours and tell them what office hours are for (many first-time-to-college students don’t fully understand that this is a time to engage with faculty). Research shows that a positive connection with a faculty member is a positive indicator of future success.
- Connect students to Peer Mentors. Every student on campus has an assigned Peer Mentor who can help guide students toward academic and social/emotional success.
- Post helpful resources (Tutoring, Supplemental Instruction, Writing Center, Presentation Lab) on your Blackboard site and include them in your syllabus.
- Encourage student engagement on campus. Consider linking an assignment or extra credit to community service or getting involved in the campus community.
- Post the academic calendar and make important announcements on Blackboard in class related to last day to drop, registering for next-semester classes, completing the FASFA, etc.
- Post Blackboard trainings and other helpful links to technological supports provided by Information Technology Services.
- Encourage self-care and highlight resources on campus that support it (Campus Recreation Center, Counseling Center, Roadrunner Food Pantry, etc.)
You may find that you are doing a lot of these things already. When faculty contribute to the continued integration of our students into a college-going mindset and lifestyle, students’ chances of success (academic achievement, retention, persistence, graduation) increase. Your students will benefit from the instrumental role you play in guiding and mentoring them through the college experience.
Still thirsty? Take a SIP of this:
Participation in orientation is a standard practice for first-time-to-college students across the nation. Orientation programs facilitate academic and social interactions, increase students’ involvement and enhance their sense of belonging (Brownell & Swaner, 2010; Mayhew, Stipeck & Dorow, 2011). Countless studies identify a positive relationship between orientation and student retention (Ahrin & Wang’eri, 2018; Lipe & Waller, 2013; Davis, 2013).
Academic involvement at orientation is a cornerstone of the SOAR program. Tinto’s (1993) theory of factors contributing to student retention posits that undergraduate students’ persistence is influenced by their experiences academically and socially while in college. Specifically, the SOAR framework is constructed with Tinto’s theory in mind. Students participating in a SOAR program are exposed to intentional academic interactions through participation in an Academic Welcome with faculty from their college or school to begin setting academic expectations. Pascarella and Terenzini (2005) also identify positive student-faculty interactions with positive outcomes for students, including a greater likelihood of persistence. If you have ideas or feedback to inform student-faculty interactions at our orientation programs, please contact John Babcock, Associate Director of Orientation, Transition and Retention – Roadways.