Program Assessment & Benchmarking

Three Lessons from a Student Orientation Pilot Project

By June 29, 2017 August 14th, 2017 No Comments

For anyone who has worked on a campus, very few times during the academic year are as fast-paced and exciting as new student orientation. From my own experience, I always looked forward to the opportunity to interact with both new students and their families.

From orientation office staff to academic advisors, professionals across higher education can speak to the value of new student orientation. However, sometimes we’re lacking the data to back up our stories. In particular, data combined with our stories can provide a powerful demonstration to those who have never participated in the process about the value of new student orientation to the broader campus community.

So, in the summer of 2015, Benchworks piloted three surveys related to new student orientation programs:

  • Student orientation—For new students who attended the orientation session
  • Family orientation—For family members who attended the orientation session with a student
  • Orientation leaders—For current students who serve as orientation leaders

Our response from clients was exciting; Skyfactor had between seven and nine institutions volunteer to test-drive each of the three surveys. We learned a great deal from the data.

1. Student orientation sessions are filled with meaningful

interactions.

New student orientation sessions require the involvement of countless individuals on campus, from orientation office

New student orientation sessions require the involvement of countless individuals on campus, from orientation office staff to academic advisors, to current students, and staff from numerous other offices

staff to academic advisors, to current students, and staff from numerous other offices. New students and families juggle multiple events and items at orientation sessions. For instance,

  • 63% received a campus tour
  • 44% stayed overnight at least one night as part of orientation
  • 89% registered for classes for their first term
  • 82% met with an academic advisor

To those staff who work in the field, the volume of interactions at a new student orientation session is obvious. But, our pilot study allowed us to use data to demonstrate the value of a variety of interactions. For instance, 56% of incoming students engaged in meaningful interactions with other new students and 40% engaged in meaningful conversations with faculty in their academic program. For incoming students, the questions related to campus interactions correlated highly with learning, satisfaction, and overall effectiveness, meaning those who engaged in quality interactions got more out of their orientation experience.

2. Family members are committed to supporting their students.

Family members play a key role in new student orientation. Orientation sessions provide family members with the confidence that they can support their student’s transition (81%) and appropriately assist their student if he or she is struggling (72%).
Furthermore, 61% of family members expressed a strong desire to be involved in family programs at the institution, showing that support of their student extends beyond new student orientation.

3. Orientation leader programs serve as valuable learning experiences.

The orientation leader assessment pilot includes a variety of scales that measure learning related to leadership skill development, interpersonal skills, intrapersonal skills, practical competencies, critical thinking, and problem solving. Overall, orientation leaders reported that their experience was not only satisfactory, but also valuable in teaching them relevant skills. 87% of orientation leaders reported that their experience improved the value of their education, and 91% reported that it provided a positive learning experience. In fact, of all scales includes in this assessment, learning scales related to interpersonal competencies, leadership skills, and practical competencies had the strongest correlation to overall program effectiveness, further showing the contributions of these experiences to student learning.

So, whether it’s new students, their families, or orientation leaders, multiple audiences benefit from new student orientation programs. We’re excited to continue exploring the data to see what else we can learn about the impact of these critical campus programs.

Are you interested in learning more about what we discovered in our orientation assessment pilot? Check out our recent webinar that dives deeper into this subject.