Kennesaw State sees success in online efforts connecting with incoming students
KENNESAW, Ga. (Jun 29, 2020) — Following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, several Kennesaw State University units were tasked with innovating new ways to connect with incoming and prospective students while respecting social distancing.
Their response? Meet the students where they are: online.
From information sessions to campus tours, orientations to student organization fairs, all have transitioned former face-to-face events to a virtual format in order serve students at an otherwise tumultuous time. In many cases, the transition has been met with tremendous success, said Jordan Stevenson, director of student recruitment.
For the last two years, the Office of Admissions held its “Ask Admissions” series on Facebook Live and Instagram Live, connecting potential Kennesaw State students and their parents, as well as high school counselors, with University experts on a variety of topics, including admissions, orientation, housing and residence life. The virtual information sessions have reached nearly 30,000 people while answering more than 1,200 questions. The sessions are also recorded and uploaded to the University’s YouTube channel for posterity.
With prior experience in the virtual format, Stevenson said his team had the formula to transition other efforts online.
“The operation has gotten more robust since its inception, and when COVID-19 hit we decided to really enhance that medium,” he said. “We knew we had a captive audience who could join from the comfort of home, and it was a really simple way to share the KSU message.”
Now, the Division of Enrollment Services has increased the amount of “Ask Admissions” sessions from once a month to several times a month. High school visits are now conducted via Zoom while one-on-one sessions with prospective students are conducted on Microsoft Teams.
In the absence of in-person campus tours, KSU also launched a new virtual campus tour in April that has been visited more than 10,000 times. The virtual college and campus tour experience allows students to get a sneak peek of what life is like on the University’s Kennesaw and Marietta campuses.
“The new virtual tour landed at just the perfect time for us,” Stevenson said. “It is uniquely Kennesaw State, and we’re already beginning to hear from students on Instagram and Facebook, anecdotally, how great the experience is.”
A similar effort was made for new student orientation, which also shifted to an online format in April. Ana Baida, executive director of transition support and career development, said the move has shown remarkable growth in its infancy, becoming one of the only orientations programs in the state to move to a fully live virtual format.
On each orientation day, KSU now offers separate Zoom video sessions for parents and students. Throughout Summer 2020, the University is providing opportunities for incoming students and parents to learn more about campus resources and services through its "Live! with New Student Orientation" series.
“The transition has been incredibly successful and is, in my opinion, offering tremendous value to incoming students and parents,” Baida said. “I think we've learned a lot about how students, parents and families process information and what they need, as well as when. I could imagine us using components of our online experience moving forward, even when we're fully back face-to-face.”
Coinciding with the virtual new student orientation, Kennesaw State’s Department of Student Activities has begun a series of virtual student organization fairs each Wednesday with past sessions recorded and uploaded online. Since its launch, about 120 student groups have requested to participate, said Brian Garsh, assistant director of student activities.
“Our department understood how important it was for incoming students to learn about involvement opportunities on campus, so we collaborated with registered student organizations, as well as fraternity and sorority life to hold these virtual fairs,” he said. “In some cases, we are seeing new students sign up for as many as 10 sessions, which is a great indicator that they see the value in these opportunities.”
While students are spending more time than ever in front of their computer screens, Stevenson said it remains important to maintain touchpoints with incoming Owls.
“It’s arguably more important that we increase the touchpoints with incoming students because their attention is being diverted in so many different ways,” he said. “The live aspect of these events is allowing students and their family to focus on just one thing at a time, and we are seeing them engage with us on a regular basis. With everything going virtual, they need someone they can trust. Every time they check in with KSU they will see a familiar face.”
– Travis Highfield
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.