Taryn Pearson is pursuing an Associate’s degree in Fine Arts at Scottsdale Community College (SCC) beginning with the current Fall 2020 semester. Over the summer, Pearson had concerns about navigating her online courses without getting lost or falling behind.
Starting one’s academic journey at a new educational institution can be challenging to students of all levels and backgrounds. In order to make the onboarding process easier, Pearson – along with more than 2,300 other students new to SCC this Fall – were invited to participate in Artie’s Welcome On Demand.
With a nod to SCC’s popular mascot, Artie’s Welcome offers a virtual orientation experience and an online repository for related information and resources across the college’s Academic Affairs and Student Affairs divisions. View Artie’s Welcome On Demand. While the content is geared toward new students, it can also be a helpful resource for current students, prospective students and parents, and can be accessed at any time.
The online platform was designed with separate orientation modules representing the nine Fields of Interest offered at the college. Within each module, students can access a welcome video from SCC Interim President Chris Haines, an introduction from an advisor, a welcome from program faculty, and an overview of campus resources. This was supplemented with live, virtual faculty meetings to discuss academic programs in further detail and meet new students.
After attending Artie’s Welcome and now several weeks into her classes, Pearson said, “I feel totally comfortable with online classes and actually prefer them for classes that aren’t hands-on (like art classes) because they are convenient, predictable and I have a flexible schedule.”
She added, “I feel more prepared for a full course load. I feel that I am learning at a steady pace and not overwhelmed.”
Pearson chose to attend SCC because of its reasonable tuition. A Canadian native, she said, “The international student advisors have been super helpful and made me feel very welcome. The students I’ve worked with on Zoom were friendly and they are all ages which made me feel more comfortable about going back to school 10 years after high school.”
Other students walked away from Artie’s Welcome feeling more at ease, as well. SCC conducted surveys among participants before the virtual orientation and then after. The results show students experienced positive outcomes in a sense of belonging, being comfortable asking for help, and confidence in taking online classes.
Engaging new students and making them feel a part of SCC before classes begin is the goal of Artie’s Welcome, according to Drew Koch, student services specialist in the Student Success & Retention department. Koch helped lead the summer-long effort to create the new virtual orientation, which required migrating elements of a previous in-person event format. He said a big challenge was trying to compile multiple videos from many different departments, all on the fly, without access to the campus.
Koch also plays a visible role in Artie’s Welcome, encouraging students along the way and soliciting feedback.
“My goal was to be authentic and connect with students, which is hard to do through a pre-recorded video, so I added four legs and fur!” he commented. “I also think that having to film myself outside with my dog mirrors a lot of what our students are having to experience themselves; that we really are working through this together.”
Having all of the Welcome content now online and in one location serves as a great resource for future new student orientations and can be easily updated. Koch’s ultimate desire is to show students they made a great decision in coming to SCC, they belong at SCC, and they will find more support from faculty and staff than they could have imagined.