How might we make the orientation experience more engaging and effective? A question posed to many people, yet as first year students, orientation can come across unimportant, lacklustre and a waste of time, where for some however, orientation is a time to receive “freebies”.
Nonetheless orientation is designed to create an experience for students, in particular first year students, to understand and see how university works and what is expected from you to have a worth while learning experience.
As a general consensus orientation “is a great opportunity to meet your fellow students, get to know your support staff, and find your way around campus” (QUT, 2016)
So this poses the question, how might we, as designers, make the orientation experience more engaging and effective?
What is important to students?
When asked how to make orientation engaging and effective, is it imperative to understand what is important to a student starting out at university. My colleagues and I brainstormed and came up with a list that we believe best depicts the large majority of first year students, along with understanding why this is vital for this target audience. This includes:
- Social life: during university, it is clear that students must balance between social life, work life, university life and sleep. Along with scheduling in the Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs to help sustain and healthy wellbeing. (Pitt, 2014)
- Food: food is fundamental to life, however as food culture has expanded, as too has the complexity we are faced with today. As time goes on, as does our need to experience food and take in the atmosphere around us. It is clear that through food, experiences and social needs can be met, through the sharing of a simple need, food. (Peabody, 2016)
- Technology: these days it is uncommon for a person to be without a tablet, mobile phone device or a piece of technology. Nearly everything is found online these days, and it is the main source of information available and easily accessible to nearly all university students. (Donley, n.d.)
- Ease of access to vital information
After understanding the importance of the above list, we discussed and pin pointed how the basic thoughtless acts can correlate with first year students. Taking from a task set earlier, we understood how humans interact with the environment around us, due to the culture and upbringing we have associated ourselves with. The image below is the common interactions we found people to best follow and was most commonly seen throughout all of our research.
Ease of access to vital information VS thoughtless acts
After further analysis, it was clear that we were leaning towards “ease of access to vital information”. First years, although they are inundated with notifications on university websites, it is clear that the information is so abundant it is hard to differentiate between vital information and information that is not as important for students. Therefore we came up with the simple yet well-defined question of “how might we best signal locations and areas to reduce student confusion and stress during orientation?”
It is clear that through not having direct and easy access to important information as first time university student, stress levels rise and can lead to a poor first year experience, which can ultimately be reflected in grades and further attendance to university. (Science Direct, 2016)
We found that the Hit Matrix was the best form of brainstorming to help my colleagues and I come up with a solution and design to help rectify this issue of confusion during O-Week. As can be seen below, we placed the common thoughtless acts under the appropriate axis and eliminated the “solutions” we found to be unimportant to the issue at hand.
Once we narrowed down the solutions, an overlying solution of ease of access through colour coding was evident. As a group, we came up with:
- Colour coding the ground to show a real life map of how to get to the your faculties buildings (for example for creative industries, there would be pink footprints that direct you to D-Block and F-Block etc)
- Faculty “Help” Members would wear the specific colour associated to the faculty
- There would be maps pinned to seats
- For the Gardens Point campus there will be hand out maps at the bottom of the Goodwill Bridge and entrance from the city (main entrances to the campus) allowing people to see the faculty building footprints to help students locate where they need to be
How this would have been helpful for me
As have been a first-year student myself previously, it would have been extremely helpful to have easy access to straight forward information like this. I found orientation to be extremely stressful and thus I did not spend much time on campus as I felt uneasy about the whole process. I believe if you made the transition of moving into university easier through helping students locate where they need to be on campus, students will find it easier to engage in university and not feel stressed about the whole experience and have more sense of community.
Clayton. (2013). Orientation – International Student Services – Clayton State University. Retrieved from http://www.clayton.edu/international-student-services/orientation
Donley, M. (n.d.). Technology Influence on Education. Retrieved from http://source.southuniversity.edu/technologys-influence-on-education-76874.aspx
Medicaid Finance. (2014). Technology Trends. Retrieved from http://www.medicaidfinance.com.au/tag/technology-trends/
Peabody Museum. (2016). Big Food: Health, Culture and the Evolution of Eating. Retrieved from http://www.peabody.yale.edu/exhibits/big-food-health-culture-and-evolution-eating
Pitt, M. (2014). Balance your social and academic life at university – Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/student-life/11100038/Balance-your-social-and-academic-life-at-university.html
QUT. (2016). QUT – Student support and orientation. Retrieved from https://www.qut.edu.au/international/student-support-and-orientation
Science Direct. (2015). Adaptation and Stress for the First Year University Students. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042813009518
Why This Energy Drink Poster Targeting College Students Is Red Bull$#! (2013). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-ketchen-lipson/red-bull-why-college-stud_b_8118916.html