Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

July 23, 2003

U of G online orientation a Canadian first

Students entering their first year at the University of Guelph are already getting involved in the campus community through the launch of Canada's first online university orientation program, ST@RT Online.

Since its July 8 launch, has helped connect hundreds of new U of G students with each other, with upper-year students, and with services and people across campus. The seven-week online program features weekly themes ranging from course selection, academic success to campus life that give students information, personal stories and checklists to prepare them for university life. They can also participate in online forums, weekly contests, and real-time chats with other students in their academic programs led by returning U of G students.

"People often feel very nervous about starting university," said Barry Townshend, co-ordinator of summer orientation. "With the ST@RT Online program, we're really trying to emphasize community and we're trying to emphasize campus resources so that people know that there's somebody out there who can help them."

If students make connections and get involved with the university community before they even set foot on campus, they'll be much more likely to continue those connections throughout the academic year and have a successful university experience, said Townshend.

Sixty-five upper-year U of G students were chosen from 400 students interested in volunteering to act as ST@RT Online group leaders. Each group leader facilitates real-time weekly chats with a group of 35 entering students and moderates chats and forums. To prepare, group leaders were required to complete three online training sessions, as well as a full-day session on campus. "We're blazing new paths in developing leaders in an online environment," said Townshend.

The chat areas have been the most popular area of the program. Students have exchanged 30,000 messages in two weeks. Thousands of messages have also been posted in 127 different subjects threads of the forums, including orientation week, tuition fees, residence life, fields of study, and intramural/varsity sports.

ST@RT Online is an expansion of START on Campus, Guelph's long-running summer orientation program for students who have accepted admission to the university. There are four on-campus programs offered in August: START for families, a session for international and exchange students and one-day or two-day sessions for entering students. The programs allow participants to meet faculty, staff, and other new students in small groups led by senior students; learn strategies for a successful transition to university life; participate in workshops and seminars; explore academic questions; and learn more about the Guelph community.

Barry Townshend
Student Life & Career Services
University of Guelph
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 56519

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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