Summer orientation programs for many universities have either started or about to start. These orientation programs introduce incoming students and their families to the university through a series of events and activities.  Universities can take advantage of mobile and social media to enhance the orientation experience of these new students. [pullquote]According to a study released in April 2012 on mobile internet use by Pew Research, 46% of American adults (18+) own a smartphone.[/pullquote] The research organization comScore estimates that 30% of mobile users, with almost 40 million in the US, access social networking sites daily on their mobile phones. Orientation programs can also benefit by using these technologies to gather attendee feedback as well as for their staff to document their experience.

Listed below are a few ideas to start with and I would love to hear your ideas as well.

Customer Support

  • “Listen” to conversations on social networks related to your program. Use Google Alerts to be notified either via email or to an rss reader when keywords you define appear on the web. Another site to use is SocialMention.
  • Answer questions on a facebook page or create an account/ hashtag on twitter for attendees to follow and use.
  • Provide real-time information such as change of venues/schedules.
  • Provide guides to attendees such as schedules and map for mobile devices. An example is Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) use of  Guidebook.


Community Building

  • Use groups or facebook apps like Inigral Schools App to provide attendees the forum to connect based on interests and demographics. Providing new students the opportunity to connect even before they attend orientation makes their experience more comfortable as they already know other students.
  • Software like OrgSync provide universities  to build communities amongst incoming students as well. In addition, orientation staff can communicate with the students via email and text messages as well as collect feedback from orientation leaders and students alike.
  • Utilizing student leaders as social media ambassadors is a good way to welcome and introduce incoming students to the campus.

Event Coverage

  • Staff and attendees can use twitter backchannels to ask/share additional information related to the topic discussed at the events. Through the backchannels, Orientation staff can also get some feedback on how the attendees perceived the events.

Document Events/Experience

  • Orientation staff (including students) can document their experience, lessons learned for assessments and future staff using blogs and wikis.
  • Curate attendees’ comments/feedback/experience provided on various social networks using Storify. Christopher Conzen (@clconzen) uses Storify to document his NASPA Region II MidManager’s Institute experience.

General Campus Info/Other Uses

  • Provide campus mobile websites to campus services, maps, academic information (schedule of classes, course catalog) so attendees can browse while they are waiting for events and while they are registering for courses. Browse through a higher ed mobile directory by Dave Olsen (@dmolsen) to get an idea of how universities are using mobile.
  • Provide staff with mobile devices and mobile applications to conduct business away from their desks. These could include: check-in/check-out, access student information, communicate with other staff (via text, email, twitter, etc), access to schedules and other program info.

Orientation programs are where new students get introduced to their upcoming  university lives and academic careers.  Campuses should use this opportunity to educate the students with the concept of digital identity and how their activities online can have both negative and positive impacts on their careers, rather than waiting until they are about to graduate from their universities. Eric Stoller (@ericstoller) introduces this idea on his blog post  Digital Identity Development: Orientation and Career Services.

While I offer some suggestions on using social media and mobile for Orientation use, I am cognizant of the fact that not all students have access nor the resources and familiarity to utilize these technologies. Orientation programs should use these technologies appropriately and not severely disadvantage some students by not providing the essential services to all.

What other ideas can you suggest?