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May 22, 2020 1:45 PM

Supporting a new virtual student experience

The start of a new semester at Conestoga usually sees a bevy of activity on campus welcoming new and returning students. For the first time, like many other post-secondary institutions across the country, the start of the spring 2020 semester was launched completely online to adhere to Public Health guidelines amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The college’s Student Engagement team plays an important role in ensuring a successful transition to Conestoga and enhances the student experience by providing opportunities that foster personal and professional growth. In-person events and workshops made up a big part of how the department engaged with students. With the shift to remote delivery, the team has adapted programming to support a new virtual student experience.

“Faced with unprecedented times, Student Engagement immediately connected virtually with students to not only continue supporting engagement but collaborating to shape a path forward,” said Amy Baird, Student Engagement manager. “It’s been a privilege to witness the innovation as we’ve moved from uncertainty to opportunity.”

According to Baird, the team adapted quickly, but with intent, to move most programming online, including orientation, transition events and English conversation programs, to reach not only students learning from home in Canada, but also abroad. The college is offering a number of out-of-country programs this semester.

Beginning the week of May 11, ahead of the start of the new term on May 19, Student Engagement welcomed new students to Conestoga through a modified orientation via Zoom. Program sessions run by faculty provided students an opportunity to meet their coordinators, learn about their online class environment, connect with college service areas and meet their peers. The sessions saw over 90 per cent attendance.

To further support transition, Student Engagement has collaborated with college service areas to host a series of virtual workshops that will focus on start-up tasks and accessing available supports and resources. Transition events offered each semester as part of orientation activities, like the LGBTQ2+ welcome night, will also be held virtually.

Other activities planned to enhance growth and development outside of the classroom include an inclusivity panel, virtual enlightenment dinners, and leadership workshops.

“Our mandate remains the same - to foster student development, connectivity, sense of belonging and inclusivity,” said Baird. “Everything we offer is learning outcome-based, is meaningful and authentic, and has been adapted to support, engage and enrich the new virtual student experience.”

For more information on upcoming and new initiatives, visit the Co-Curricular Portal.

Conestoga’s Student Engagement team meets the needs of students through innovative programming designed to achieve goals with learning outcomes-based initiatives including the Co-Curricular Record, Orientation, the Respect Campaign, the Connect Leadership Workshop Series, and various student volunteer and committee opportunities.

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