Tales from Virtual Orientation | Shania Weaver
The UW-Parkside orientation leaders are a group of students who help introduce new students to UW-Parkside and help guide them through the beginning of their newest academic journey.
Shania Weaver, a senior majoring in Applied Health Sciences with an occupational therapy concentration from Madison, WI, is one of the student leaders here at UW-Parkside. She took on the role to assist students in making the transition from high school to higher education and make them feel at ease
Challenges and Advantages of Virtual Orientation
Weaver’s favorite part of virtual orientation has been being able to share her personal experiences with students as well as seeing them participate in fun activities during the online orientation, such as the "Put a finger down" challenge.” The “Put a finger down” challenge, from the popular social media platform TikTok, allows students to interact with the orientation leaders by putting their hands up and putting a finger down if the scenario relates to them.
Weaver believes that, in addition to the health and safety advantages, orientation virtually helps ease students into this transitional period of their life by allowing them to take this first step from whichever environment they choose. She believes this freedom will help students be more comfortable with the new challenges. Weaver explains, “I think it is beneficial for students to do orientation virtually because they don't have to leave the comfort of their own home. You can also do the orientation at your own pace and take your time. I realized last year that when once student starts to become stressed about classes other students tend to pick up on that energy as well and become stressed out. With orientation being online they don't have to worry about this.”
However, for some students, face-to-face contact is more comfortable and encourages them to ask questions. Weaver states, “I think getting students comfortable asking questions has been difficult. I often feel like some students may not ask as many questions because it is an online environment, as opposed to last year where students asked a lot of questions because they may have felt more comfortable in person.”
This experience provides the new students with a unique learning opportunity and will allow them to see things in a different way. Weaver says that she thinks it is important for students to take note of UW-Parkside’s response to the pandemic. She elaborates, “I would like students to see that Parkside is taking this pandemic seriously, and we are doing our best as a university to accommodate the needs of the students. Not just current students but future students as well.”
Weaver has also learned some valuable lessons from this experience. She asserts that she has realized that it is important to remain positive and continue to look for ways to innovate during the pandemic. “I have learned not to give up hope on finding alternative solutions to problems due to the pandemic. I felt as if this was a setback for students and that their learning experiences wouldn't be as fulfilling as many other students have had in the past. But after this experience so far, I see that anything is possible,” she says.
Weaver explains that she is happy with UW-Parkside’s pandemic response so far, but she would like to see a continued focus on accommodating students and help them to overcome whatever unfamiliar obstacles may arise. She says “I feel that social distancing efforts have been very well executed and I feel that they have done a good job at making this transition for current students seamless. I like that they have reached out to students and asked about their technology access at home. I wish there was an opportunity for students to have more resources available for new laptops and internet access.”
The upcoming semester presents an opportunity to move forward and establish a new feel of normalcy for Weaver. She explains, “I am looking forward to being able to do things at my own pace and on my own schedule, as well as having the opportunity to work more this semester in a job related to my field.”
Coordinator of New Student Services
University of Wisconsin-Parkside