Ball State’s incoming freshmen class is going through a virtual orientation experience because in-person orientation was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The university has partnered with the social media app ZeeMee to help students connect before they arrive on campus.
Samantha Ray, associate director of orientation, said Ball State explored many different options and ZeeMee offered the best opportunity for incoming students to connect with each other as well as their orientation leaders.
“When it became apparent to the Office of Orientation that we would have to consider options beyond on-campus orientation, our goal was to figure out what were the objectives and learning outcomes that we met during the on-campus orientation that we need to replicate in some virtual environment,” Ray said.
ZeeMee started in 2014 as a web-based tool for high school students to compile a digital portfolio, which could then be linked to college applications. In 2017 the company moved from being a web-based tool to a mobile application to showcase more than just GPA and ACT scores, said Harrison Campbell, director of product marketing and brand development for ZeeMee.
Students could post pictures and videos of their achievements, involvement in activities and clubs, and projects that they have worked on, Campbell said.
When using the app, Campbell said admitted students will be welcomed into a chat room meant only for other admitted students where they can socialize and make connections. Other chat rooms can also be created by students and orientation leaders, giving students the freedom to connect with students outside of their orientation group.
Abigail Simpson, an incoming freshman, described her experience with ZeeMee as overwhelming at first, but eventually helpful once she was familiar with the app.
“It's pretty helpful to talk to fellow students about their experience and get help from not only your academic advisor, but also fellow students,” Simpson said. “For a while I was worried, but once ZeeMee was established and once they sent out orientation information, it was super comforting to know that there was a baseline plan and that everything was still going to happen fairly close to usual.”
Campbell said younger students who are considering attending Ball State in the future can connect with other students that share that same interest. He said this connection can help both the prospective student and the university.
If a prospective student has built a social community with people who are already going to Ball State, he said they may consider attending the school more than others.
For Ball State, this partnership allows its admissions office to collect data on incoming students’ interest in the university, allowing them to communicate with prospective students as early as possible.
Mark Parkison, director of freshman academic advising, said incoming students are invited to a Canvas community where they will find information about each academic department, housing, financial aid and student organizations.
Administrators in these departments have uploaded informational videos to help incoming navigate the new Canvas community, Parkison said. Information has also been made available for parents of students.
Incoming students should have received an email from the Office of Admissions, where they can schedule a required academic advising meeting via WebEx, to schedule their first semester based on their majors and the university’s core curriculum class requirements.
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