Orientation leaders welcome first-year students to Lehigh on Mountaintop Campus. The Office of First Year Experience is continuing to train orientation leaders via Zoom and training videos on CourseSite. (Courtesy of John Kish)

Orientation leaders prep for 2020 orientation despite move to remote learning

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The Office of First Year Experience is continuing to plan for the incoming freshman orientation, despite the uncertainty of the fall semester and the challenges of switching to remote learning.

The OFYE will continue to stick to its usual orientation plan until the school says otherwise, said Nicole Burke, the OFYE’s associate director.

“As of right now, we are still planning for an in-person orientation this August,” Burke said.

She said while the OFYE has thought about what they would do if orientation was pushed back due to the coronavirus, they have made no official plans, and will not do so until the university tells them to.

The OFYE will continue to prepare for an August orientation by holding meetings with campus stakeholders via Zoom, Burke said. She said the orientation leaders and Camp Hawk counselors have remotely held weekly training meetings. 

Emily Lacasse, ‘23, is training to be an orientation leader for the fall semester. She said the staff have modules and videos posted for them to complete on CourseSite, as well as weekly meetings over Zoom to get to know the other orientation leaders.

Harry Zuckerman, ‘21, a returning orientation leader, said he believes students will still be ready to lead a group of first-year students, despite the switch to remote training.

“From my perspective, from last year to this year, I think the same information is being given,” Zuckerman said. “Obviously it’s being given in a different manner, but I think that everyone is learning the same things, everyone is kind of retaining the same information and, regardless of the method, I think that everyone is going to be just as equipped to lead an orientation group in the fall as if we were on campus still.” 

Zuckerman said the only thing lost with the switch to online training is the bonds that would have been formed between orientation leaders during in-person training. Though the remote training makes this difficult, Zuckerman said he predicts the bonds will still be formed with the eventual planned return to campus.

Andrew Zhang, ‘20, has been an orientation leader for two years and is now an orientation coordinator. Zhang oversees the other orientation leaders and helps prepare them for the upcoming orientation. 

“The spring training is a lot about building a foundation for how we want our staff culture to be in the summer,” Zhang said. “That staff culture is really important in order to bring energy come orientation time and to show our first years.”

The orientation coordinators, along with Burke, are working to prepare the content-based training videos for the orientation leaders. The videos contain a lot of leadership training to help the orientation leaders prepare to lead their groups come August, Zhang said.

He said the coordinators are trying to keep the orientation leaders on schedule with their training, while also having fun and bonding with each other. Since a lot of their training games require them to be in person, they’re not able to complete those over Zoom, forcing them to find creative ways to bond through remote training.

“Right now, we’re doing an activity, kind of exciting, called ‘quarantalent,’” Zhang said. “Basically, you send (the staff) something you picked up over break or something that you’ve been doing a lot over break.”

Aside from watching videos and doing modules, the orientation leaders have also been getting to know each other through Zoom breakout rooms and GamePigeon tournaments on their phones. Zhang said the difference in Zoom training is that there is less in-person interaction, and they’ve had to tailor certain activities to accommodate the remote training.

He said the switch to remote learning has been a journey of growth, and has forced them to find compelling ways to adapt. 

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