From Lakeside to Online: Incoming Students Participate In A Virtual Orientation

Zack Miller | The PhoenixLoyola’s two-day overnight orientation is now a one-week online experience filled with Zoom discussions and chatting via Facebook groups.

This summer, Loyola’s incoming students won’t be able to tour Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus or try out on-campus dining halls during their orientation experience, due to it being entirely online. Instead, they will participate in activities such as Zoom sessions with fellow incoming Ramblers and a virtual tour of campus.

Loyola’s usual two-day overnight orientation for incoming students is now a one-week online experience, meaning students aren’t able to physically visit campus or meet future classmates in person. Orientation kick-off events were held on June 5 and weekly orientation sessions began Monday, June 8 and will continue until mid-August.

Adam McNeil, Loyola’s assistant director for orientation, said preparation for online orientation began in mid-March when students were sent home and classes transitioned online due to the COVID-19 outbreak. He said what sets this year’s orientation apart from previous years is that it’s more asynchronous, meaning students can participate in some orientation activities on their own time rather than following a schedule for each activity.

Information presentations by campus partners — such as the Wellness Center, which provides medical and mental health services to students, and Loyola’s private police force Campus Safety — which were previously on-campus and in-person, are now available as webinars and presented live to allow for questions. They’re also uploaded on Loyola’s orientation website afterward so students can watch them at any time. This website connects students to a variety of different resources, including online events, academic planning for class registration and orientation leaders.

Similar to previous years, incoming students are placed in small groups of about 10 people with an orientation leader, who is an upperclassman Loyola student. To ensure they are able to stay connected, they must participate in a 90-minute Zoom session during their orientation week, McNeil said. Orientation leaders are also required to create Facebook groups for their small groups, in which they can communicate with each other even after their orientation week.

Olivia Simon, a 20-year-old Loyola junior and orientation leader, said links to the Facebook groups are sent out to students following their Zoom discussion. After the first week of orientation, Simon said “it’s been a really good way for us to engage with students.”

Leslie Doan, an incoming first-year from Chicago, said the Facebook group helped her connect with other students and make a few friends.

“I actually felt really welcomed,” Doan, 17, said. 

Doan, who said her orientation week ran from June 15-18, said she’s attended two online webinars. Although sometimes her questions weren’t answered, she said one of her favorite experiences was the use of Kahoot — an online learning platform which uses interactive multiple-choice quizzes as learning games — during the Rambler Resources for Academic Success webinar June 16.

Pia Marwani, an 18-year-old incoming first-year also from the Chicago area, said the three webinars she has watched have been helpful for her as a future commuter. She said her mother also attended a fourth webinar with financial aid information. Parents are encouraged to attend webinars throughout the summer.

“Being able to do orientation in the comfort of my own home is very helpful,” she said. “It’s really nice actually that they’ve accommodated according to corona [COVID-19] … just to be safe.”

Some elements of this year’s orientation — such as the Facebook groups and uploading information presentations online — are “benefits that came out of this hectic summer,” McNeil said, and he hopes to utilize them in the future regardless of whether orientation is online or in-person.

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