Our take on the new student guide

This is how I felt as as new student. (Note the lack of stars next to his name; me, too.)

Reaching new students. Freshmen orientation. New student packet. Do these phrases make you groan, sigh in resignation or shake uncontrollably? Me, too. Sigh.  Our department created our last new student pamphlet last year and I added random time blocks to my Google Calendar that read “think of new student info ideas!” My library is under the same umbrella as media and computing. So pro-wise we can combine our superpowers a la the Wonder Twins. The con is that we have three  times as much info to relay to students. One of my media colleagues suggested we make use of their creative prowess to create videos that the computing folks could upload to a web site in order to reach new students. And like that, our new idea was born. Then we hired a new employee who helped us come up with the piece de resistance: our means of promoting the web site. To quote Samuel L. Jackson, “hold on to your butts.”

Now, I know you might have limited resources. Don’t worry; you can do this on a budget using flip cams and iMovie. Or you could take advantage of the incredibly hilarious videos Xtranormal lets you create. Students love receiving information via watching and listening. I have this theory that our media-centered Western society is turning our kids into audiovisual learners from a young age. But that’s another article. How many times do you pass a student computer and see the browser pointed to a video? Hence, our decision to create less-than-one-minute videos on our top six items we want new students to know about.

I chose two representatives from library, computing and media, focusing on folks who interact with students regularly. Based on the FAQs we get the first week of school, we created a top six topic list. Then we each wrote a script for a visually based video. Our instructional technologist borrowed from Dan  Aykroyd’s Bassomatic ads on Saturday Night Live to inform students of the required antivirus we provide them with and software discounts. We titled the copyright information the government requires us to share with students “How to stay out of prison.” This video will feature a student illegally downloading resulting in the confiscation and sledge-hammer destruction of their computer while a narrator reads the required statement. You get the picture.  “Funny, concise, accurate” is our mantra.

Our student staff reviewed and helped rewrite the scripts. They will also star in them. We are avoiding specific cultural references in order to keep these as evergreen as possible. In order to promote the sites, we purchased microwave popcorn from a price club. We created a sticker with text touting all the things they can do themselves at this website from connecting to our wireless to staying out of prison.

We plan to send the popcorn to them this year, but we might need to hand it out at check-in next year based on cost. Finally, our web master is trying to think of ways we could assess the effectiveness of this campaign. We thought of creating quizzes they could take which would enter their name for a prize drawing. But we’re not sure how many students would actually take an optional quiz. One way we can access is by the number of students who come to us for help with the top six topics the first week of classes. Our computer guru changed the format for installing our required antivirus and there was a noticeable drop last year in the number of students needing assistance.

This project is still in process, but I’ll post the results and feedback as they become available. In the meantime, go forth and outreach!

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