This summer, Bobcat Student Orientation, or BSO, will be welcoming new Ohio University students with a combination of in-person and virtual programs.
With the prospective increase of in-person activities in the coming semesters, a limited number of students and guests will be able to attend orientation in-person. However, students may also choose to attend the orientation online through Microsoft Teams.
According to Ellie Burke, the administrative orientation coordinator for BSO, the in-person programs will have smaller attendance in comparison to previous years.
“In person programs in 2019 were about 300 students and 450 guests,” Burke said in an email. “This year, the student groups will be about 200 students and right now we are limiting to one guest per student.”
Students taking part in an in-person orientation must follow OU’s COVID-19 protocols. The orientation team is working to follow both state and university guidelines, she said, and are finalizing specific procedures with campus partners.
“COVID protocols will force us to think more creatively and intentionally about both the space we’re using and the connections we hope to facilitate,” Burke said in an email.
Despite potential changes in the schedule, the virtual orientation will include mostly the same elements of the in-person orientation. Additionally, Burke said the experience gained from last year’s virtual orientation will help the program run smoothly.
“We learned a lot from running a virtual orientation program last year, including how to respond to the vast array of technical difficulties and the on-the-spot problem solving that was required of us,” she said in an email.
The orientation team is taking note of feedback from last year’s participants to improve the online format. Sean Rogers, a freshman studying analytics, said student participation in last year’s virtual orientation seemed lacking at times.
“Well, I feel like they labeled most of the events of the orientation as optional,” Rogers said.
Due to this, Rogers said there were not many other students attending online events. Regardless, Rogers had praise for the orientation leaders.
“The people themselves were great,” Rogers said.
The orientation leaders have been training to adapt to both in-person and online interactions. According to Rhianna Hunt, student orientation coordinator, orientation leaders are currently in a virtual training class and will have in-person training components at the end of May.
An orientation leader’s responsibilities, Hunt said, involve knowing the answers to questions and leading students to resources with more information.
“So part of our training is content, like we learn about how to read a DARS and how to register for classes and how to teach students that, of course … but another big part of our training is team building and understanding how to work with students,” Hunt said.
The interpersonal skills that leaders learn in training are used in icebreakers and games with new students. One notable difference in a virtual setting, Hunt said, is the way these informal activities are formatted.
“We had to come up with new activities for the virtual world … and new icebreakers, and ways to get students talking to each other and interested in what we were doing, but also not making them feel like they were just sitting in front of a computer screen,” Hunt said.
Hunt is optimistic that the team will overcome the challenges of the hybrid format to create an enjoyable experience for new students.
“It is exciting in the fact that we get to do another one, and challenging in the fact that it’s going to be different again,” she said. “But there’s also the perspective that we’ve done it both ways, so theoretically, we can do them at the same time, and it should be within our wheelhouse.”