Webinars Keep Family Members Engaged

As 3,500+ new students transition to Miami each year, their families go through their own transition as well. “New families are also learning about the Miami experience, the deadlines, the resources,” said Mark Pontious, director of parent and family programs. “They want to know how to best support their student, how to help them navigate this new system.”

The office of parent and family programs welcomes nearly 5,000 family members of incoming students at Family Orientation and sends email newsletters to family members throughout their students’ time at Miami to facilitate their transition. 

Pontious recognized a gap in Miami’s engagement of families. “Orientation sessions are packed with information,” said Pontious. “The information load is likened to drinking water from a firehouse for families about to send their child to Miami. It’s one of the only opportunities for in-person education about supporting a Miami student.”

screenshot of Parent and Family Programs websiteThe 2018-19 webinar series includes 20 topic-specific webinar sessions While regular newsletters help keep family members informed, there are some topics that don’t belong at orientation in the summer but also can’t be adequately communicated by reading text on a screen. “Some topics just need more time, more explanation, and an opportunity to ask questions,” said Pontious. “That’s where the webinars come in.”

The office of parent and family programs has developed a schedule of 20 topic-specific webinar sessions throughout the academic year. Presenters, mostly staff members, can discuss the topic in a comprehensive way that makes sense with how students and families experience it. This often means collaboration with staff from across units and even multiple divisions.

The geographic diversity of Miami families means there is no single best time to schedule a session. Webinars are recorded and posted for later viewing. “We have found that the views of recordings far outnumber the live attendees of the sessions,” said Pontious. “This also allows families to re-watch sessions or watch the session when the topic is most applicable to their student.”

Screenshot from Post-midterm academic assistance webinarTopics range from academic to financial to wellness and beyond Webinars have been viewed more than 3,200 times this academic year. Recent topics have included:

  • Understanding & Paying the Tuition Bill
  • The First 6 Weeks of College
  • Homesickness and Finding Community
  • Post-Midterm Academic Assistance
  • Second Year Housing Options
  • Study Abroad Planning Process
The full list can be found at the parent and family programs website.