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Trends and Issues in Higher Ed

February 26, 2016

University 101

To overcome information overload, organizers “flipped” orientation for the Seattle campus

U101 Screenshot

Senior Saige Hawthorne, drama and sociology major, discusses student resources in this screenshot from the U101 video series.

Many of the more than 8,000 first-year students who enroll on the Seattle campus will experience an in-person Advising and Orientation (A&O) Session, organized by First Year Programs (FYP). Operating within Undergraduate Academic Affairs, FYP is dedicated to facilitating transitions for all new undergraduate students. Through A&O, new students receive important information that prepares them to be successful and to make the most of their Husky Experience.

Driven by consistent student feedback about the difficulties in absorbing such a large amount of information in a short period of time, FYP partnered with Academic and Students Affairs in the Office of the Provost and other campus partners to create University 101 (U101), a new online course that begins students’ A&O experience through video before they ever step foot on campus.

Matt McGarrity, a principal lecturer in the communication department, co-led the project and directed the U101 videos. “What we had before was like trying to get students to drink from a firehose,” says McGarrity. “It was simply so much information, coming so fast, at a time when students were mostly excited and anxious about being on campus.”

The U101 project team did not want to completely overhaul the established A&O structure. Rather, they were looking for a way to present the information they already had in a new and engaging way to allow students to better retain information and arrive at campus prepared. The focus became changing the timing and format of information delivery.

Adopting ‘flipped classroom’ techniques (see the Center for Teaching and Learning guide), U101 provides students with video modules to review and work through prior to attending their A&O sessions. These modules introduce information on academic and campus life that had previously not been presented until the in-person A&O session itself.

U101 Data

Students work at their own pace at home

U101 is made up of eight modules that students complete beginning two weeks prior to their on-campus A&O session. Through each module, students watch videos featuring students, staff and faculty sharing critical perspectives on how to navigate and succeed at the UW. Students can access the material at their convenience during this two-week period, with the freedom to pause, rewind and watch sections over again as needed.

“It was nice to have background so I knew what to expect [at A&O],” explained first-year student Mira Weimer. “I found ‘Campus Life,’ ‘Involvement’ and ‘Doing Well in Classes’ the most helpful modules. College is immensely different from high school so it was completely new information that ended up helping a lot, such as getting advice about attending office hours and learning about the various clubs and organizations on campus.”

At the end of each module, students complete a short survey that gives them a space to reflect on the information covered and ask questions they may have for their in-person A&O session.

Arriving prepared to interact and make decisions

Through U101, students learn how to access the people and resources at A&O more efficiently and effectively. “After going through U101, students can arrive at orientation with informed questions for their orientation leaders and advisers,” says McGarrity.

The early exposure to A&O materials also lets first-year students customize some of their in-person experience. Because U101 freed up time previously dedicated to information delivery, “students were given more opportunities to ‘choose their own adventure’ for special topic information sessions, such as studying abroad and getting involved on campus,” notes UW senior and two-time orientation leader, Hannah Frisch.

Orientation optimizes engagement efforts

U101 offers students a chance to better maximize their A&O time by going deeper into common questions and information, ultimately strengthening their Husky Experience. First years are more prepared to engage with orientation leaders, make connections with their peers
and ask meaningful questions because they are less overwhelmed by the mass of information they are asked to digest.

Group of students at international orientation

After U101, 92.2% of students reported that they feel “more prepared” to begin their on-campus Advising & Orientation (A&O) session. Photo courtesy of First Year Programs.

As McGarrity explains, “Students can get the most out of this University — networking with professors, thinking about how courses are constructed, and cultivating their Husky Experience deliberately with a sense of what experiences they want to gain.”

Beginning in 2016, the Graduate School will be introducing a version of the program called U501, giving new graduate students the opportunity to also be able to engage with pre-orientation material before their arrival on campus.