As Coordinator of New Student Orientation, I was responsible for the online onboarding experiences of incoming students. In addition, I managed the reservation system where the online onboarding was hosted and delivered technical projects to the in-person onboarding sessions such as video learning content. I was in this role for over three years and experienced the birth of the online onboarding experiences as well as the maintaining and iterating throughout the years.
When I started my role, the Orientation team (myself, another colleague, and the Director) wrapped up a series of focus groups as incoming Spring semester students beta tested a lite version of online onboarding video content. Through online survey and focus group feedback, I was tasked with developing a comprehensive online orientation to onboard all incoming students with a timeframe of a few months before the experience would be open to incoming students transitioning to college during the summer months to start in the Fall semester.
The goal would be to take many sit-and-get PowerPoint presentations on resources and turn them into shorter 2-3 minute videos with quiz questions. This would transition resources relevant to students into bite-size information they could access on their own, while freeing up more time in-person to do more high-impact activities.
To accomplish this large-scale project, I broke it into three sections:
I consulted with my manager and colleague, as well as the orientation committee which consisted of key partners to the onboarding experience. With the topics determined for what would be moved into online content, I began scripting. Example topics suitable for an online video were: Going to the library, Using online resources, How to pay for parking.
I worked directly with subject matter experts (SMEs) for each topic and prompted them to draft up a copy to include what the main learning points would be for incoming students. Once I received their drafts, I edited, add/subtracted content, and overall, made the script flow better for the student learner. Each draft I sent back to the SMEs came with a rough storyboard outline, so they understood the theme and setting.
With the changes approved from SMEs, it was time to move into filming. Scripts were written in a way that would translate well to copying and pasting into a teleprompter during filming.
I used the student employees (Orientation Leaders) employed through the New Student Orientation office to be the on-screen actors. Working with SMEs and other colleagues to secure filming locations, a filming schedule was established during a condensed period with student employees in between their classes and work time in the office.
During the filming process, I coached each on-screen talent on how to read the teleprompter, figure out pacing between words, and to make them feel comfortable being on camera so they would be less nervous and let their personalities shine. Overall, there was no expectation for them to be professional actors, but it was a way to have fun on camera and do as well of a job on-screen as possible. It was a fun experience for them.
I used Camtasia to screen capture the University’s website when featuring tools like the main student portal every student accessed on a regular basis.
With all video and audio parts recorded, I moved on to editing. I used Final Cut Pro to edit. I did use Adobe Premiere and After Effects to edit and transition some of the pre-created assets the branding office had and customized them before replicating assets in Final Cut Pro and Motion.
A templated intro and outro was created. The intro included an editable title screen to match the name of each video course and lesson(s). All videos featured a variety of video editing aspects including: color correction, audio adjustments, audio to multicam syncing, video trimming, custom titles, motion tracking, curser highlights.
A draft version was shared with the SME and my manager. Then a final draft was produced and approved. For videos being made for online orientation, the videos would be uploaded onto YouTube. Captions would be added using the original script in YouTube’s creator tools so learners could easily click and open closed captioning. For any videos made to be shown during in-person orientation, captions were manually added to the video itself so when exported, the captions would always show when the video played.
The CMS used was VZ Orientation. The software housed incoming student data and acted as the reservation system for students to sign-up to attend an in-person orientation session. The online orientation was sandwiched in as part of the reservation process, where the student would need to complete their online orientation before being able to select an in-person date.
In the Online Orientation Module, there were 10 or 11 unit lessons depending on whether they were a brand new first-year student or a transfer student. Each lesson contained at least one video to represent a topic relative to the specific lesson. Some included more if there were topics or resources similar to one another. Each lesson included multiple choice quiz questions which students had to answer all correctly before being able to move on.
VZ Orientation was not a fully featured LMS, so HTML was used to embed the videos. If a student answered a question incorrectly, they would be prompted with information in red and was directed to try again. Correct answers would show pop-ups with information in green. Students would need to complete the lessons in a linear order to move onto making a reservation for in-person orientation.
In the VZ Orientation software, I was able to implement custom emails sent to students based on a variety of triggers. I used a template offered by the University’s branding office to customize. Using Adobe Dreamweaver, I customized the messaging and images. Then I copied and pasted the HTML into the specific email trigger.
I designed a post attendance survey in Qualtrics for all in-person orientation attendees. This would be completed at the end of the the orientation when students would have registered for classes.
This large-scale online orientation and supplemental in-person video content received overwhelmingly positive feedback from teammates and colleagues alike. Colleagues appreciated the ability to focus on high-impact practices when getting to work with the students in-person instead of spending most of their presentation times just reading off a PowerPoint. It allowed university partners to collaborate and facilitate in more interactive ways.
When it came to the student experience, 71% of participants felt a sense of community after participating in the projects and programs executed.
Over the course of 3+ years, video content would be edited or completely overhauled based on if the information was outdated. This would occur twice a year usually between the beginning to middle of a Fall or Spring semester to have updated content for the following semester.
At the time of this writing, it has been four years since I worked in this role. Since then, I have made even greater improvements and gained more experience in my videography, editing, and instructional design skills. If I went back and did this project again, some improvements could be:
This project allowed me to work on a large-scale, multi-content project from beginning to end. I worked with multiple SMEs, coached people to be on-screen actors, developed videos using multiple editing tools, and built out the online course content and subsequent triggers needed. It was a rewarding experience to scale this initiative for my team.