For years, new student orientation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida required the creation of information packets that were labeled with stickers and contained as many as 10 sheets of paper.
The packets, which were prepared by Records and Registration staff with help from other departments, directed students to where they needed to go during orientation. The stickers identified students by group, such as freshmen, transfers or veterans.
Despite hours of prep work, there were always problems. Some students lost their packets. Others arrived at orientation without having confirmed their attendance in advance, causing a mad scramble to pull a packet together. And some students’ information changed when, for instance, additional transfer credits arrived.
Any of those scenarios forced staff to rework packets on-site. Long lines at orientation and in some departments caused frustration and confusion for students, which was not the first impression Embry-Riddle intended.
When Registrar M.J. Caro arrived on campus in 2012, she recognized an opportunity to transform the orientation process. The first step was low-tech—creating an Excel spreadsheet listing all the students who had preregistered and their pertinent details. Associate Registrar AbdulAziz Al-Hajeri managed this process. Paper packets have been eliminated completely and student data is entered into Excel in advance to create a short printed report for reference.
The second step was changing to an arena-style registration, which brought the participating departments into one place.
“By having departments on-site for a massive advising and registration session, there was a lot less moving back and forth [for students],” says Caro.
A customized online check-in form developed within Oracle’s PeopleSoft Campus Solutions pulls information directly from the student information system. When students arrive at orientation they simply have to verify the most up-to-date data. Orientation staff have created an iPad checklist form for the event leaders and, upon check-in, students are given this form as their to-do list.
This means orientation leaders can interact more meaningfully with students—instead of spending time shuffling through packets and giving out directions. Eliminating packets also means less paper, fewer boxes and envelopes, and lower labor costs—for a total annual savings in the neighborhood of $21,000.
“Arena registration is old-school, but it works,” says Caro. New students spend less time finalizing their registration, deal with less paperwork and avoid running back and forth across campus to meet with faculty and administrators.