The 2018 First Year Experience Conference, held in Houston in February, featured a discussion panel highlighting the benefits of switching to Advantage Orientation® for Texas A&M University and Houston Community College (HCC). Panelists included Associate Dean of Student Services Jason Wilson of HCC, Director Heather Olague of Texas A&M, San Antonio, along with HCC President Muddassir Siddiqi and Texas A&M President Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson.
Prior to implementing Advantage Orientation®, Wilson said HCC’s orientation process was a "static" and "generic" program that lasted anywhere from three to four hours. "We included a tour, we fed them," Wilson said. "That's where we kind of landed and got the messaging that we needed to do something a little bit better than that and a little more succinct across the district."
Olague noted that Texas A&M used Blackboard for its orientation process. "It was a very cumbersome, time-intensive process of having to put in students' names, check it constantly then go and release holds," she said. "As we wanted to expand and add things, we were getting stuck." Although the old system checked off a few boxes, Olague added, it wasn't ideal for Texas A&M students.
After launching Advantage Orientation®, both Wilson and Olague confirmed that the platform was easier to maintain, navigate and update compared to its predecessor. For example, the Texas A&M director noted that making a small, quick adjustment to the online orientation platform was a straightforward process.
"It needed to be user-friendly for [students]," Olague said. "On the flipside, as a growing institution — how easy will it be for us to navigate this system on the backend? And it's amazing."
When the campus police department informed the school that students were confused about the parking permit at Texas A&M, Olague said it was easy to subsequently login, see what information students were learning and tweak the language to make it more understandable with just a few clicks.
HCC officials found the same ease, Wilson said. The school tailored its online orientation to students by beta testing the platform and asking students for feedback. Through this method, HCC learned that students preferred their content to be identifiable under specific member groups.
Additionally, Wilson predicted that HCC’s online orientation will increase yield by allowing officials to follow up with students who engage with the institution and shepherd them through its enrollment funnel.