Five Best Practices for Back to School Readiness

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Back to School month is here – August, the entire focus of the institutions moves to Student Orientation, Student Success, and Student Graduation. Entire month revolves around welcoming the new and old students and providing Student support to ensure their smooth journey with the new semester/year.

With new students and new facilities rolling out, back to school can be a hard time. The intend is always to continuously enrich student experience during the new registration period.

Considering Back to School as the prime time to focus on student engagement, we congregated five best practices for Back to School readiness for the institutions.

  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) should be ready
    With the new students coming in, there’s a lot of curiosity which they bring along. You must expect a lot of questions coming your way. The best way for student support would be to prepare the frequently asked questions and making them available for the students. It will answer majority of their questions and will save time for counselors and admission officers. Additionally, having all the answers handy eases the student’s life and makes the process smooth.
  • Portal administrator shall be ready with student’s ID
    With new technologies coming in and overtaking the legacy systems, every student will have their own individual account at the university’s system (portal). This login is linked with their profile having all the details like their courses, subjects, fees, financial aid, etc. The portal administrators need to provide student’s ID prior to their arrival to the university. Class scheduler and syllabus for entire academic year shall be added/updated to the portal for students to go through and select their respective courses. This helps students to enroll themselves to their courses and get to know their respective programs for the academic year and plan their scheduler easily.
  • Student orientation program
    Welcoming new students is an opportunity to help students to know how to navigate to the campus and introducing them to the new community. Orientation program helps to uncover all the questions that students have, provide them information on campus resources, programs, and services. It helps students to start their journey following the right path with the right people.
  • Events to be updated for student’s engagement
    Student engagement plays a vital role in welcoming new students and the ones coming back to the University after a long break. Some of them call it as “Welcome back event”!
    Student involvement programs help in keeping students happy and making a successful transition for them to start their new year. The past student leaders or the student advisory committee participates in the engagement events and make the arrangements to welcome aboard the new students, organizing city tours, get together, etc. to engage the new students.
  • IT Department readiness checklist for back to school
    With the new sessions, you will have higher number of users/students logging in to your portal. IT department needs to take care of the increase in user sessions to ensure 100% portal availability. The labs and inventory shall be updated, systems shall be implemented, classroom computers shall be prepared for beginning the semester. Network and bandwidth shall be made available for students to connect their devices with university’s network without any issue and they should have access to join university’s network.

We’ve also interviewed a few members from different institutions to find out how do they prepare for Back to School.

SK Calkins, Director, Information Support Services at Community College Philadelphia

With back to school, we start communicating with students about getting their portal login IDs, helping them to obtain class schedules, drop and add period. This is critical as students will get charged $$ if they do not drop in time. We also help them remind to look at their syllabus for each course, so they make sure they have purchased the books needed.

A few events typically take place on campus welcoming students and making college FUN, to make them feel homely and enjoy the start of the semester.

Our IT department would most likely have all systems implemented and all classroom computers imaged and prepared for beginning of school. And other departments make sure they have all their information ready and/or reporting information showing how many students will be in each major/class, etc.

Alexander Johnson, Network Administrator at Oklahoma Wesleyan University

  • At OKWU, back-to-school generally starts with training staff and faculty on net equipment, remind staff of cyber safety and security policies and practices.
  • Our main effort is on making sure all systems have been updated.
  • We coordinate with our Admissions and Campus Life offices to makes sure that students have an account, students have access to wired and wireless network, and understand how they and their professors will use the system.
  • We update our documentation and disseminate the same to ensure that campus community member have access to self-service help documentation.
  • We run through our DR plan and exercise an outage to test response time and backup systems.
  • We scale-up resources to accommodate the additional load on locally hosted applications.
  • Finally, we make sure new students know the help we offer and how to get in contact with us.

Rebeca Renderos, Web Portal Administrator at University of La Verne

With back to school on the tech side of things, we typically like to cover three main areas as stated below.

  • Communication:
    We collaborate with various departments such as Admissions to make sure our content on our website is up to date. We educate departments on any upgrades or design changes that will affect incoming and current students.
  • Look/feel:
    Design or functional enhancements are done to our Portal. This year a new theme will be implemented to improve the user experience.
  • Load/memory:
    When the semester starts, we like to be proactive to make sure that our systems are in a position to handle the load. We collaborate with Unifyed to check that all certificates are current and that our overall Portal resources such as disk space are checked.

Takeaways

With Back to School hitting in, it might be a bit difficult for the Administrators to manage the enormous flow, but with proper planning and management, you can easily overcome this period and decide your pathway for the student success.

We, at Unifyed, are focused for the start of the Fall semester and intend to continuously enhance student experience with institutions during this period.

Do share with us what you follow for Back to School readiness.