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Engagement During Orientation [Learner Engagement Summit]

Brianna Bannach 0:06
Great. It looks like we have all of our panelists here. Are you able to turn your camera on panelists?

Mika LaVaque-Manty 0:14
No, no, no, no, because you have

Brianna Bannach 0:19
a Okay. I will work on that. Let me just quick say, welcome. Thank you all for joining. I'm really excited to kick off this session. It is a quick one. So I'm going to throw it over to Mika to get us started. And I will fix the camera issue and let you know via chat.

Mika LaVaque-Manty 0:35
Right. Thank you, Brianna. And hello, everybody. Thank you for coming. My name is Mika LaVaque-Manty. I'm the director of the honors program in the College of Literature, Science and the arts. At the University of Michigan. It's not this cold. This photo that I have is from three years ago when we had a polar vortex. And so we're very excited to share some of these ideas with you all on using Yellowdig. For New Student Orientation. My role here has been pretty minimal. So I'm just going to introduce my colleague, Gail Green, who is our assistant director, and our fantastic student, today's it with GZJ, who is also a student who's a first year student in our Honors Program, and also in our residential college, which is one of our many living learning programs. And that's relevant partly for the community building aspect. plug all of our discussions. So I'm just going to turn it over to Gail to talk about why we wanted to have Yellowdig for community building for orientation, and how it went and then we'll turn it over to Daisy.

Gail Green 1:48
Great, thank you Mica. As mica said, my name is Gail green. I am the Assistant Director here at the LSE Honors Program. And I am trying to see if I can get my video to start but it seems like not yet. So we are fantastic. And because a there you are Hello. So as mica said we use this tool as part of our orientation programming for students. For us orientation is targeted primarily toward first year students, at least in this iteration, we provide different kinds of orientation programming for transfer students. And with a virtual orientation, we really make an effort to build community in whatever formats we can. And so we opted to use Yellowdig, to meet our goal of providing a pure lead forum for students to do two things, builds community meet each other, but also to provide information in support. That's not again mediated through our staff, but rather, through students from students and to our delights. It really worked well for us this year, and that we had high levels of participation, over 80% of our students meaningfully participated in our discussion forums. And to our I would say almost amazement, they didn't just participate in our forums during the defined time that we had intended, ie during the summer orientation before students moved in, they are still continuing conversations to this very day, I went on Yellowdig. And there was a post posted last night by one of our students. And they continue to share, support each other share information, share experiences, and come together in this community building format. And so I'm actually going to ask those to say a little bit about some of her kind of experiences, what you've gotten out of it as a almost power user of the Yellowdig forum for our students.

Unknown Speaker 4:04
Thank you, Gail. Hello, my name is Daisy J. I am in as mica said, freshman at the University of Michigan. And my experiences with using Yellowdig were actually not really involved over the summer. But more so when school had started I realized, wow, as a member of the residential college who does not live with most others honors students as they live in a different building. I realized that I did not know many people in my community. So I tried to use Yellowdig as a way to further interact with people. And honestly, I can say that it worked relatively well. I don't really know them in real life. But I feel as if that I already have a community in the Honors community because of them. And it was just really nice to have a group of people who I could Just like kind of complain about like, Oh, my goodness moving is so stressful, or, oh my goodness, can you believe finals week is finals week as is everywhere else. And it was just nice to know that there's other honors students who are experiencing the same thing that I am. Because although the residential colleges nice, that additional understanding of being an honor student, is a different thing that I cannot discuss with everyone here. So Yellowdig was a nice platform to have in order to do that.

Mika LaVaque-Manty 5:31
And I follow up a desert, because I know, you took my class last semester, and they were actually some of the other power users in that class. And you might not know it, because it was a very large class, so. So I, I wonder if you have any thoughts or reflections on the relationship between the community, the informational community and the sort of virtual community that Yellowdig bills, and then the fact that you might be in classes with some students who you might or might not get to know?

Unknown Speaker 6:03
What Yellowdig, because there were such a select few that continue to use it throughout the semester, it was, although I haven't necessarily met them, it was more I feel involved than the relationships I have with people in class. Sometimes in class, it feels like oh, I will see you for this hour of time, and then I will see you for another hour of time, and then I will never see you again. And that barrier is very clear cut with some people. And for other people sometimes like initiating, like, an actual, like, inter letter interaction or relationship can be really, really awkward. So people just tend to not like for me, I feel like even though it was a smaller community, it is always hard to make friends and lecture, it's always hard to make friends and discussion. Like unless two people are actively trying to seek each other out. It's difficult. And so Yellowdig, we kind of only really had each other, or only really have each other because you know, we're still continuing to talk. So it's just nice to know that like, yeah, we have each other to talk to. And even though I don't really know you in real life, I know that I will see your name next week on this post. And that is nice to know.

Mika LaVaque-Manty 7:19
That's great. And I see a question here from Richard, which I think it's for whoever else is also participating. But but one of the things and it's it's about international students and orientation for international students. So let me backtrack just a little bit and and then turn it over to Gail also so so at the University of Michigan orientation, even before times before the pandemic orientation was over, throughout the summer, students came in small groups. For Honorius, they were usually groups of 15, for pretty intense three day info dump. And even then it was a challenge to start building a community. So in 2017, we started using various tools, we began with just basic Canvas discussion boards. And you all are probably here because you know how horrible Canvas discussion boards are. But we started building this community for our students, because even when they had been in person, there was no sense of community. And now since the pandemic, we have a virtual orientation. Our international students actually participate in the orientation just along everybody else. So we find both that approach and Yellowdig much better. But I'll turn it over to Gail to see if she has more substantive things to add.

Gail Green 8:36
Mica you've pretty much covered it with regard to international students in particular. But I'll expound a little bit on what we aim to do as a learning community. But a large one within the larger university context. You know, we want to set expectations for students, not just about academics and so forth. But we really want them during their orientation experience. And as they first move on to campus, to feel like honors is a home for them an academic home, but also a home amongst other students with whom they have things in common. And the Yellowdig forum really provided an opportunity for all of our students to do that to the extent that they wanted to, it allowed for essentially very flexible participation. And so some students like Doug, they, you know, kind of minimally participated in the summer and then reached out a lot more for that community for that contact for even just asking questions or commiserating with other people, other students and things like that, once they got on campus. And the conversations that they're having touched on some of the topics that we presented to them during the seven sort of defined weeks of the summer and then Some of them are kind of out, like left turns or outgrowths of what's happening to them, you know, right now in their lives on campus, you're talking about the break, and what it was like going back home for an extended period after having been, you know, kind of making a life here on campus. So for any of our students, you know, we are hoping to create a smaller community within the larger university community. And for international students or any other group of students who had kind of shared interests and things like that, they were able to somewhat more easily meet each other than they would have either in our in person experience, or, you know, in something like a canvas discussion board, where you just don't have the flexibility that you have with the holodeck.

Mika LaVaque-Manty 10:59
And one thing I would sort of, again, thinking about the broader context and turning this, again, to a daisy in a moment, is to think about the fact that how Yellowdig was really unusually successful for us this term. So I've been using Yellowdig in various classes now for close to five years, I think. And one thing I've learned, during the pandemic, we tried it for some community building activities. And one thing that we've learned, which is what Yellowdig recommends, which is that do incentivize it that we know that people are intrinsically motivated, but they have so many demands on their time that you need some incentives. And that's what we found for the most part. So when I teach my classes, I incentivize it. And the surprise here and why a daisy is here is that it was incentivized, as Gail said, during the summer, and then it was not incentivized, and some students stayed. And we're interested in we're trying to figure out what the magic sauce was there. And today's a, you already began talking about this a little bit. But would you say more like, Why? Why did you want to continue? What what did you really get out of this, even when you knew that there wasn't, there wasn't a sort of curricular co curricular incentive.

Unknown Speaker 12:18
To be honest, I never really felt the incentive of using it throughout the summer, because throughout this throughout the summer, my focus was on, oh my gosh, I have to get used to school. So I will find and I found friends through other means. Such as like, there is a like massive, like, there's an app, a social media app called patio. And they can like organize like university groups, until I found friends through there. So then when Yellowdig came about, it was I found like friends in the residential college before I found friends in the Honors community. So then when I realized I had no friends in the Honors community, I was like, Oh, my goodness, I should have done Yellowdig. And now I can, I will not necessarily say friends, but I do have good acquaintances and Honors community. And I have people to talk to about it. And that makes me feel much more comfortable. It's just like a nice. It's like a, like a boat harbor of like stopping points. Like sometimes I'm in the RC and I do all my RC things. And then sometimes, like some nights, I just sit down my laptop. And like I'll talk to my honors acquaintance about what has gone on and other things that have happened throughout my week, because it's just nice to have that.

Mika LaVaque-Manty 13:36
Right. And we have a question on quick demo. I don't think we can, we're not prepared to share and it's for protected. And so we we didn't do screenshots, but maybe we could talk about a little bit about what kinds of things so so Gail, if you could give some examples on when our official formal programming and one of the things we did also recommended Yellowdig practices said, keep the prompts open and loose. Don't say please respond to this assignment, give give our answer but sort of open ended, but talk a little bit about the themes we talked about. And then a daisy, if you could talk about the things you've talked about with these honors acquaintances that you have.

Gail Green 14:19
So yeah, absolutely. We had seven sort of defined weeks, but again, very broad. First week was all about introductions. And so our peer facilitator, who was an upper division students is an upper division student, who we hired essentially, to monitor these boards and to post kind of the seed questions each week and to help develop some of the content that he thought would resonate with students and so forth. That Pierre is also an RA in our dorm, and so had a pretty good handle on what student concerns what books questions they had would be? How those questions would sort of change over time and things like that. So the first week again, introductions, just everybody introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about you. The second week, we asked them to talk a little bit about their bucket list for coming to Ann Arbor in the University of Michigan, what were some of the things that they were really excited looking forward to? Third week, we talked a bit about study skills and time management, and ask them to think about what they anticipated what their worries were, where they thought they'd be successful in terms of managing the workload, particularly during the transition from high school to college in that first term. We also that week, had some questions about living in the dorms. And again, sort of thinking about your what are your concerns? What are you excited about? What questions do you have, a lot of that was practical sort of information. The next week was kind of dedicated to introducing them to some differences between college and high school, and particularly some of the unique things about U of M. So we provided them with some of our acronyms and lingo and so forth and talked about communication, particularly how to communicate with professors, with our graduate student instructors, with advisors, and also communication amongst friends and things like that, and how some of that might change what their concerns were, and so forth. We talked a bit about student organizations clubs, ask them what they were interested in, talk a little bit about what they were looking forward to what they were worried about, provided them with some resources. The next week, we talked about wellness and self care, and ask them to sort of consider these topics, again, concerns what they thought they could contribute to the, to the discussion to their community members, things like that. And then we wrapped up in the final week, talking about how, how to understand how to think and reflect on themselves. The title of this was thinking broadly how to understand you, which provided them with some questions to think about what their goals are, for themselves writ large, but also what their goals were for the first semester to maybe write those down to consider them over time. And one of the nice things about Yellowdig is looking back, I can see kind of which topics got the most traffic. And we still have conversations now in the Yellowdig site about study skills and time management, about living in the dorms about thinking broadly and how to understand you and sort of some of the crises of who am I what am I doing here? What should I be doing? That still happen even now? So see that there's a couple of, you know, discussion questions that I want to address before I put this over, but does a to kind of talk about some of your favorite topics were one of the questions was, how often do you recommend dropping C topics or questions? Over the seven weeks, we did usually about two per week. And again, they were very broad topics, and we would provide sort of smaller questions or ideas to consider along the way. And as time went on, especially once academic year started, they would continue to tag those topics, but speak on things that had nothing to do with the actual individual questions that we would seed but more about, and now I'm thinking about classes for next semester. And here's what I'm worried about, or whatever have you. So we let the topics run, we did not have to intervene, due to topics going in problematic directions or anything like that students were generally really respectful of each other, and respectful of the nature of the conversation that was happening and didn't kind of drop in with, you know, things that had no relevance to the conversation at hand. So it does say like, what were some of your kind of, I think, the topics that you've found to be, you know, most useful or that resonated with you the most over these past few months as a student here.

Unknown Speaker 19:55
Personally, I really like the thinking broadly and Understanding you topic, because there's considering that my home life was a lot different from the current loose living situation that I have, especially, I'm out of state. From the south there's so many things that I figured out about myself in regards to university and myself in regard to just Michigan as a whole. And being silly about that with other people who are like, Haha, you should have bought a bigger puffer jacket, or I told you that I was gonna get really cold or better get used to ice skates, etc, etc. I think those are the funniest ones. The Time management is study skills, one is also useful because sometimes other people I'll post my strategies that I've learned about myself, other people will post their strategies that they've learned about themselves. Sometimes it's stuff like oh, yeah, Cornell note actually work, I was just taught it in a really poor manner in high school. And other times, it's like something that I actually have like, never thought about, and I'm like, Oh, my goodness, I could just do that. Like putting post it notes of like, stuff everywhere that way, like, through recognition you'd like eventually learn it. And I was like, Oh, wow, that's actually really convenient. That's not what the posted notes in the back are. Sorry, those are notes that I got from my friends from first semester that I put on the wall because they're nice. But yeah, stuff like that is always nice to like, see, like stuff that you never really think about? Other stuff that like, you just want to share with others. So yeah.

Mika LaVaque-Manty 21:38
One question to you while we wait for other questions from the audience is that this is basically like social media but it's protected social media like you know exactly the community and to what extent without getting into TMI land, to what extent do you feel like there are topics you can talk about on Yellowdig that you wouldn't necessarily talk about and you know, other publicly accessible a sort of social social media or, or even with your friends in, in the RCMP squad or other friends?

Unknown Speaker 22:17
Well, like considering the nature of yellow day, there's always like that, overlying like notion that like, this is like a school site, you cannot like, it's likely that you're going to be talking about study strategies, you have to talk about things in relation to like the University of Michigan, like, sure, like, like, we could talk about, like, the football game, but like I already talked about the football game with like my other friends. So here instead, I talked about, like more academic stuff. And in regards to like, for example, the bucket looks question kind of like ran dry after the first like month, because by then we had done everything, if you are, like, done everything that we had the time to do that. So like, that's why I turned more into like, oh, understand yourself, and also study strategies. Because like, you know, throughout the semester, things change and the way that you study for certain classes change. And I don't really talk about that with my friends, my friends, I talk about like current events, or like, things that have gone on in the building. In on Yellowdig. I talk about what new things I've learned in class, or learn how to do or, like, what new things that I recommend for people who like are not used to something, etc, etc.

Mika LaVaque-Manty 23:39
One thing I have found you again, using Yellowdig in lots of different contexts, mainly in courses unsuccessfully, during the pandemic, to start a community for our students around wellness, unsuccessfully, because it was not incentivized. And it was early in the pandemic, where we were all kind of trying to figure out what was what. But what I found, I teach large classes, and I use it in large, large classes, there has to be a kind of economies of scale to get us started. And, and, and so it doesn't, if there are just very few people, it doesn't get going and then the few people who are active will feel obligated to continue. But one of the things that's thinks that's interesting, and I think Gail and adays, I can attest to this in detail is that right now, the community is actually pretty small. But because the community got made, it's there and it's going and I don't know if it feels like you have to post but what I'm hearing from you at Isaiah is just you posts, you post because you feel like it and not because you feel like there's an obligation, even even sort of social obligation to your friends. So that's just sort of an observation that's that I've put in the broader context of using Yellowdig thinking about scale community building and Then when you don't actually need to scale anymore when you don't need 400 students, which is we're talking about 407 to two students, what's our incoming cohort?

Unknown Speaker 25:13
Well, I will admit that there is like, the weekly notification to post on yellow dig, does kind of incentivize me because I'm like, oh, yeah, I haven't posted in like a while. Okay. And there's also a sort of point system, that it's like, you know, sometimes it's just nice to watch the numbers go up. It's not necessarily like an incentive, like this will lead to something burned or more of something that like, kind of like scratches at the brain, that's like, Yeah, well, I mean, this is nice. And I don't feel like there's not really any reason other than those, like two minor things that I post other than because I want to. So yeah, I would say that there's not really much pushing me other than, Oh, it's nice to talk about these things. As my honor students, also, the numbers go up, and I get an email about like, every four days.

Gail Green 26:07
I'd say I think in that way, the way that you're wanting functions to kind of, you know, notify students who reminds them, and operates a little bit like Reddit, and other Online Communities where you get a little like, hey, ping, you know, these things are happening, these conversations are happening. And you're like, yeah, maybe I do want to read a little bit about that. And I would say that, you know, what does I said about your students are cognizant that this is, you know, a University created community, and their names are attached to what they're saying, it has created, I think, a unique sort of situation where yes, a lot of the conversation is about being a student student life, but it's positive and respectful of each other. So when somebody you know, says, like, oh, the culture of staying up all night, and humble, bragging about how much studying you have done, you know, reminds me of my high school. And that's, that's pretty toxic. You know, people are like, yeah, I totally understand what you're saying. And, you know, here's how I choose to push back against that, or, here's how I cope. And so the messages that students have aren't just like, putting their thoughts out there, but they are conversational, and engaging with each other in a positive and supportive way. So for those students who are continuing to engage in posting and engage in this kind of microcosm of the community, they are, I think you're incentivized by those reminders, but also incentivize because when they go, it's a positive experience. They get useful experience, knowledge, affirmation from others. And I see that Ron has dropped a question here. That's a good one, actually, for those I hear. So were there any situations where you felt like not joining the conversation for the week? Or did or didn't feel comfortable with the topic of the week? So any, any thoughts there? We didn't have any, you know, problems with students, you saying like I am not comfortable or where we had to step in and stop a conversation. So from like, the administrative ends, that wasn't a problem for us. But from the student end, were there any things?

Unknown Speaker 28:51
I feel like there will uncomfortable will not be the right word. There is no like conversation topic that made me feel uncomfortable. And therefore it didn't join in. It was more like some conversation topics that I feel like I really couldn't join in. For example, I remember recent, not super recently, but recently, one person was like, Hey, are there any places that you can like go to like, a hair salon or a barber in Ann Arbor? And yeah, I could not give any advice on that. I don't live in Michigan. Nevermind in Ann Arbor. Nevermind, do I get my hair cut anywhere near often? So I was like, um, maybe call maybe look up online. And that was the full extent to which I could relay any information on that. Another person was asking for information on a coding class. I am not a coder. I don't know if I will ever be a coder. Those conversations like that are ones that I just look at, and I nod and I'm like, maybe I'll react to this. Maybe not. Maybe I'll just like sit here or start my own conversation. So not necessarily income Trouble, but definitely moments where I just cannot add anything.

Mika LaVaque-Manty 30:06
But I think your hair salon haircut example is really interesting because in some ways it's a on the one hand totally sort of mundane, everyday question that many people might have. But you know, it is also culturally specific. And like it could have been awkward and problematic, and you were still trying to be helpful, but you know, not not your thing. And so it's, I think that that's a good example on on how the conversations went. For our students and in general, that there's sort of recognition that people come from, you know, different places, metaphorically and literally, and, and are also respectful of one another in that. There's a question on incentives. of physical items. We have, we have some swag to our students, as I'm demonstrating, some of which we sell some of which we give. But Gail, Did we do anything else we did not

Gail Green 31:17
other than we, and it's kind of gets into a complicated explanation. But for our students to successfully complete the lower division Honors Program, we have a point based system by which they engage with our coursework and other offerings. This was baked into part of that so students could earn a point, if they participated it at at least a 70% level, in the Yellowdig conversation over the summer, they could earn a point Ford, the sophomore honors Award that recognizes successful completion of our lower division programs, so no branded items, in part because every student gets a t shirt from us. And we have an in person kickoff events during move in, where there's also giveaways and things like that for for students. So that wasn't, you know, the part of the Yellowdig experience. But there were points to be awarded.

Mika LaVaque-Manty 32:24
All right, and I think we're out of time is what brianna is going to tell us. So I want to thank I saw 80 People at some point, it's been great to have you join us. And I'm particularly grateful for our days, if you're willing to join us and for Gail for everything she does for us, she recited missions and orientation, and, and sharing about these opportunities. So we, I have yet to enter my info on the Yellowdig board for this conference. But I'm, I'm happy to do that. And also, if you know how to use the magical interwebs you can always find us and we'd be happy to answer questions. I'm you can contact me. You can contact Gail and I'm sure a days I would also be willing to answer emails. So. So thank you, everybody. And thank you, Brianna and your colleagues for inviting us for this. And I guess you're about to kick us out.

Brianna Bannach 33:25
Yes, unfortunately, the platform will automatically kick us all out by 135. Eastern but I wanted to say thank you for for joining I really learned a lot from you three. It was really interesting. Yeah, just enjoy the rest of the day. We have some sessions starting after the break with the booths. So definitely stopped by the expo hall as well. Thank you

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