Arrival and orientation
A defining characteristic of the student body in a mass higher education system is its diversity. As mentioned at the start, we cannot assume that all students will be positive and excited about starting university study; neither should we assume that all are nervous and
uncertain. Some students may have had older siblings or friends to guide them prior to enrolment or they might arrive with a number of friends from their local high school or community. The arrival support strategy for these students would no doubt look quite different from the approach taken for international students, for example. Similarly, you may choose to adapt your strategy for mature age students as compared with school-aged students entering university for the first time. While it is important to maintain consistency in terms of the types of information available to students about enrolment and course advice (see Case Study 9), it is equally important to adapt the ways in which you deliver this information in order to maximise the success with which you relate to diverse student cohorts. For instance, in Case Study 11, Ward refers to the use of social networking tools, such as Facebook, and a 3D virtual guide booklet to engage with international students as they arrive at university. These forms of engagement could be particularly appealing for some students but not for others. It is therefore essential to know who your students are, the nature of their support and information needs and the most effective means of communicating with them. In order to address these issues, you will need to gather feedback from students over time and evaluate your support strategies regularly. In summary, when planning your arrival strategies for new students:
• know your students, their background characteristics and needs and adapt your arrival strategy accordingly;
• monitor and evaluate your initiatives on a regular basis with a view to continuously improving the effectiveness of your arrival and orientation strategies.