Summer Orientation Goes Remote

A black and white grid of 8 boxes, each with a different campus resource and corresponding photo. Text includes fraternity and sorority life and student activities, college of creative arts, education abroad, First Miami student credit union, global initiatives, goggin ice center, howe writing center, and International student and scholar services.

When the decision was made to move the 2020 summer orientation program to a remote format, director of orientation and transition programs (OTP) Dr. Buffy Stoll-Turton, went into immediate action mode. “Our goal was to go beyond putting information online - we set out to design a comprehensive and engaging introduction to Miami,” said Stoll-Turton. “It was also very important that our design include connections with the faculty, staff, and student leaders that are often the highlight of orientation”. 

Within a week of the announcement, OTP had developed a plan. The plan included one-on-one academic advising, a robust role for Student Orientation Undergraduate Leaders (SOULs), and an interactive format using Canvas (Miami’s learning management system). They communicated with nearly 70 offices who contribute in various ways to summer orientation with a clear path to participation. They assigned an OTP liaison to each office and established guidelines for content.

OTP collaborated closely with parent and family programs to ensure the transition to remote orientation for students would also work well for parents and families.

“It was definitely a massive undertaking; we’re always busy at this time of year, but this project challenged us to do in six weeks what we’d normally plan out over six months,” continued Stoll-Turton. “That said, it couldn’t have happened without the amazing support and buy-in we have received from campus partners in Student Life and across the university. It was truly humbling.” 

As the date for summer orientation launch neared, the OTP team added a chat feature to the orientation website to help students and families navigate the new process. On the date of launch, May 13, the team addressed 76 chats. 

In its first ten days open, nearly 2,000 students have already joined the Canvas course and started to make their way through the program. 

About Remote Orientation

During remote orientation, students complete a combination of self-directed work and live meetings with advisors and SOULs.

Screenshot: Next Up: Check Your Knowledge. You've now learned about the academic curriculum for your college. Let's check your knowledge before you move forward. Red button with Check Your Knowledge. Several modules require passing a short quizStudents must complete modules in order; several modules require passing a “Check Your Knowledge” quiz prior to moving forward. 

The 18 modules include: 

  • Getting started
  • Visit Miami virtually
  • Introduction to orientation
  • Campus resources and opportunities
  • Information for specific populations
  • Liberal education at Miami
  • Academic advising preparation
  • Your academic curriculum (specific to college of major)
  • Academic exploration
  • Academic advising and registration
  • Services on campus
  • Campus life
  • Transitioning to college
  • Student expectations and campus policies
  • Connecting with your peers and your SOUL
  • Miami traditions and next steps
  • Surveys
  • Class of 2024 Hawk Herald

Academic advising takes place Mondays through Thursdays between Wednesday, May 27 and Wednesday, July 1. Meetings are scheduled for 30 minutes via video calls on Google Hangouts. Students will register for fall courses during an assigned time block on the Friday after their advising appointment. 

Screenshot from Remote Orientation: Text heading reads How did you make friends? Did your friend group change or evolve during your first year? The module on transitioning to college includes
a series of short videos from current students
During student registration times, academic advisors are available via Google Chat to answer questions via chat or meet in a video call.

New transfer students will have a similar, but separate site optimized for their unique needs. They will also meet one-on-one with advisors and connect with student leaders as part of their orientation experience.

Parents and Family Members

Families will have access to online content through the Parent and Family Programs website, as well as virtual Real Time Q&A sessions throughout the summer. Real Time sessions include general Q&As as well as several sessions dedicated to particular topics (e.g. living on campus, fraternities and sororities, understanding and paying the tuition bill, etc.). 

Because parents and family members do not have access to Canvas, all family orientation content is offered through the parent and family programs website.

“Parents and families are vital partners in supporting students’ transition to Miami,” said Mark Pontious, director of parent and family programs. “We want to make sure they have the information they need about resources and opportunities on campus.”