Student orientations, sometimes called student welcoming or onboarding, significantly impact students’ overall university experience. 

According to a recent survey*, when students have a great welcome experience, they’re 35 times more likely to have a positive overall university experience.

Unfortunately, that same survey showed that only a third of students said they had a great orientation, and online learning can make it even more difficult.

The good news? There are realistic ways — which are mostly quick to implement — to improve online student orientations.

8 tips to create the best online student orientation

1. Plan virtual welcome activities to engage students before the semester

Virtual welcome activities should allow students to connect with each other and instructors – and make it fun!

Virtual welcome activity ideas:

  • Meet-and-greets using video conferencing
  • Group scavenger hunts
  • Games (trivia, virtual escape rooms, bingo, etc.)

2. Simplify processes

Regardless of whether a student has taken online courses or not, make everything simple and easy.

Whether it’s registering for online courses and getting technical support, or even just providing single sign-on, remove any obstacles that may frustrate or deter students.

Keep in mind that the format and design of online courses should also be simplified and easy to navigate. Follow online course design best practices to meet students’ needs.

3. Talk about the importance of DEI

You want students to know why DEI is so important and how it benefits the entire teaching and learning experience. It’s also important to explain what you expect from students and what they can expect from you.

DEI resources

4. Create a site page with any resources for online students

Online students need one location with all of the information and resources they need, such as:

  • Hardware and software requirements
  • Technical support options and availability
  • Student privacy information
  • Learning resources (online library, OER, tutoring, study groups etc.)
  • Important dates such as midterms and finals, the start and end of the semester, holiday breaks, and so on

5. Build an ambassador program for online students

Find current online students who can connect with future students and share information about their experiences, perspectives, and tips for success in online learning.

6. Gather student feedback

Use anonymous surveys to better understand students’ questions, expectations, needs, and how to improve the welcome experience.

7. Use emotional intelligence

Many people believe that emotional intelligence is something you either have or don’t have. But there are many ways to improve emotional intelligence in online courses.

Emotional intelligence helps build relationships, trust, and communication, which is exactly what you want in online learning. 

8. Tell them about yourself

Telling students about yourself can help establish credibility and build trust – you may find some common interests!

Keep it simple and don’t overthink it. Talk about your background, hobbies, education, and even a funny story that makes you who you are.

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*Salesforce. 2022. Connected Student Report (Third Edition)