You found our list of the best virtual orientation ideas.
Virtual orientation is the first week of remote college and university years, and the goal is to provide social activities and onboarding to students. Online orientation ideas are ways to welcome first year students to campus remotely. These online activities can help students adjust to the social and academic aspects of college life online.
This list includes:
- virtual college orientation ideas
- fun orientation activities for students
- online orientation ideas
So, here is the list!
List of virtual orientation ideas
From virtual icebreakers for college to digital university classifieds to online freshmen anthologies, here is a list of online orientation ideas to welcome new students with a bang.
1. Online icebreaker and ice cream social
Icebreakers and college orientations go hand in hand. So, one of the most obvious virtual orientation week ideas is to host icebreaker sessions on Zoom, WebEx or other online conference platforms. To sweeten the deal, you can pair this activity with another welcome week favorite: the ice cream social.
Simply invite attendees to bring a favorite frozen treat to the meeting. To encourage strong attendance, you can include sundae making kits or vouchers for popular ice cream chains in your welcome packages. Once all participants join the video call, separate the crowd into breakout groups and start conversations using icebreaker questions.
2. Virtual orientation Bingo
Virtual orientation Bingo is a game that incoming freshmen and volunteers can play online over video conference software. The easiest way to play is to divide participants into breakout groups for easier interaction. To win, players must mark five squares in a row, but players cannot use the same name on more than one square.
You can use the above template as a guide for your game. Feel free to add other identifiers. Make sure you randomize the order of the squares, or else everyone will call Bingo at once!
You can review the rules for Online Team Building Bingo too.
3. Online Office Games
Competition gives groups a shared sense of purpose and strategy provides strangers with talking topics. You can build bonds and crown champions during virtual frosh week with spirited rounds of Online Office Games. Despite the name, the game does not have to be played exclusively by coworkers. In fact, since college often requires so much group work, freshmen can use the games as a chance to hone skills and practice remote teamwork tactics like communication, negotiation, and time management.
Learn more about Online Office Games.
4. Buddy blind dates
College orientations are intense because you meet so many new people. Virtual orientations offer less interaction, yet the classmates who do meet online are likely to make stronger and more intimate connections because introductions are scarce.
One of the most dynamic virtual orientation week ideas is matching students for random online buddy blind dates. You can add all incoming students to a Slack channel and use an app like Donut to assign pairs. Students can then connect through video chats to get much needed face-time, or can communicate via chat. You can keep Donut active throughout the year so that students can meet new friends and make new connections anytime.
5. Digital college classifieds
One of the perks of living in dorms is that anything you need is only ever a few steps away: aspirin, a ride to the mall, a Call of Duty partner, the notes from the 8am History lecture you missed. Often, you don’t even have to knock; neighbor’s doors are usually wide open.
Unfortunately, online campuses make crowdsourcing essentials much harder. You can remedy this disconnect and foster a community of sharing by launching a digital classifieds page for your incoming class. Social media groups like Facebook pages or subreddits are great outlets for this kind of exercise, or you could dedicate a section of your school’s online forum to swaps. Students can advertise and search for items or services, from textbooks and class supplies to room decor to Greek letters or tutors. Students can even teach each other lessons like study skills or basic guitar.
6. Virtual o-week badges of honor
Virtual events sometimes suffer from weak attendance. Participants who feel that online events will pale in comparison to real life counterparts may flake or decline the invitation upfront. Experts suggest that you should make online orientation mandatory, but required attendance does not typically extend to entertainment. Hyping your fun events can ensure a better turnout, but you can also sweeten the deal by offering collectable badges of honor.
You can commission an onstaff graphic artist to design fun badges to disperse at every virtual event. Students can display these badges on social media or student profiles to show off which virtual frosh week events they attended. These badges can serve as fun participation incentives, conversation starters, and means of tracking down coeds who attended the same events.
You can also award badges for winners of remote team building games.
7. Upperclassmen entertainment guide
Students who will eventually relocate onto campus will want to learn more about the surrounding area. Gaining bearings will take time, but you can speed up the process by inviting upperclassmen to recommend favorite local spots.
As part of your online welcome offerings you can include an entertainment guide curated by savvy connoisseurs. Students and staff can submit reviews to places like that diner with heavenly pancakes, the best late-night snack spot, the independent bookstore with a shop cat, or the hike with a secret swimming spot. Contributors can snapshot reviews directly from sites like Yelp, or can write original entries.
This activity is a fun way for upperclassmen to pass on recommendations to the freshmen and facilitates bonds between classes.
8. Social media challenges
The average American uses social media around two hours a day, and the standard for the average American college student is likely much higher. One of the most interactive free virtual o-week ideas is to engage your incoming class by posting daily social media challenges.
Virtual orientation social media challenge ideas:
- The Twitter “My roommate” challenge: Ask students to tweet about their pet, but refer to the pet as “my roommate.” Examples: My roommate just made eye contact while knocking over my glass of water. My roommate won’t stop licking my face. I think my roommate is about to shed his skin.
- Facebook friend search and find: Every day, challenge students to find and friend classmates that fit certain criteria. For instance: Someone that attended your rival high school; someone who has traveled to a country you want to visit; someone with the same taste in movies.
- Instagram-a-swag: Send students stickers of the university logo and instruct them to place the stickers on random objects to share the most creative piece of college swag.
Social media challenges offer free publicity and great engagement opportunities. You can host multiple challenges throughout your virtual welcome week. Whatever prompt you post, you should outline specific rules and monitor hashtags to ensure appropriate content.
9. Hometown maps
College programs unite individuals of various unique backgrounds. One way to capture a snapshot of your incoming class’s diversity is by assembling a hometown map.
To make a hometown map:
- Create a map using an app like uebermaps or Google maps
- Invite all students to collaborate
- Instruct freshmen to pin home cities
- Feel free to add any missing locales
- Save and share the map with students and faculty
These maps can serve as a great conversation starter. One student may reach out to another to share memories from a past trip to the hometown, or with questions about the destination. You can also use the map to highlight geographical diversity in the school’s marketing materials.
10. Welcome packages
Free T-shirts are a big deal at college orientations. I think I received at least three tees during my undergrad welcome week. Sending care packages of college swag to your incoming freshmen is one of the best ways to welcome new students remotely.
Virtual student welcome package ideas:
- Snacks like chips, granola bars, cookies, and of course, ramen
- Coupons to places like bookstores, electronic stores, home goods stores, and takeout restaurants
- Samples from local businesses
- USB sticks
- Charging cables
- Water bottles
- Cozy socks
- Highlighters, sticky notes, and other school supplies
Another especially neat idea is to send students a white T-shirt with an outline of the school logo or mascot and fabric markers. You can instruct students to style the shirt and upload photos of the creations online with a hashtag. This activity is a fun way to engage with students, connect the community, and marvel at the incoming class’s creativity!
11. Virtual team trivia
Your digital college orientation needs exciting entertainment options, and virtual team trivia ranks among the funnest online welcome week activities. This online event is a guided trivia game with customizable topics. An emcee will oversee the festivities and energize the virtual crowds. The event lasts approximately one hour and can accommodate hundreds of participants. This online activity is a great way for new students to blow off steam, connect with classmates, and maybe even find a study buddy!
Here is a guide to running virtual trivia nights.
12. Online campus tour
A big part of orientation is students being able to physically orient themselves on campus. During welcome week, students stumble around the grounds and memorize the locations of the library, academic buildings, and of course, the cafeteria. Though your freshman class may not be able to stroll through the quad during an online orientation, students can still explore campus on their laptops through a virtual campus tour.
Fun online campus tour ideas:
- Enlist theatre students to give a dramatic performance. (Billy On the Street style, perhaps?)
- Hide the mascot throughout, and offer a small prize to students who catch every sighting
- Provide a drone’s eye view of campus
- Create a virtual scavenger hunt to add an interactive element to the tour
- Present views of campus throughout all seasons
- Offer downloadable tour through an app like Junket so students can explore campus independently upon arrival
Even if the school is entirely remote, then you can still recruit a high-energy guide to record a video or facilitate a real time virtual tour exploring all available digital campus resources.
Here is a list of online tours for inspiration.
13. Parent passports
Parental presence is standard during traditional frosh weeks. After all, freshmen need help transporting the futon, and mom and dad need a teary quad sendoff. Though online schooling may keep the nest filled a little longer, you should still encourage parent participation during your online orientation. You can create an online parent passport program that grants guardians access to remote events. You do not need to limit the invitations to financial aid information sessions or commencement ceremonies; parents can join events like Zoom karaoke, Virtual Team Trivia, and online movie nights too. In fact, the whole family can join the fun, including siblings, children, spouses, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and perhaps even the noisy neighbor. The more the merrier, and you can try activities from our list of virtual games for large groups.
14. Campus cafeteria cookoff
Whether your school boasts multiple campus eateries, a culinary program, or cooperative restaurant neighbors, you can incorporate fun food-related entertainment into your digital welcome week. Culinary competitions add elements of excitement into your program.
You can host contests of popular cooking show challenges such as bake-offs and cook-offs, including events where participants must use special ingredients. Students can send recipes ahead of time and contestants can choose dishes to create. For further participation, audience members can use online polls to vote on appearance and overall appeal. You can invite the school president, notable alumni, and local restaurateurs to serve as judges.
An especially fun variation on this exercise is to add a college-cuisine theme to the contest. For instance, constants must make packaged ramen gourmet, re-purpose cold pizza, or whip up the best mug cake.
15. Digital mentor programs
College is a big adjustment. Beyond the major curriculum, there is much more to learn: effective study skills, budgeting tips, the tightrope walk of class-work-social balance, the weird world of coed dating culture, and the fact that 8am classes are a bad idea about 90% of the time. Navigating all these new rules can be overwhelming, especially if your freshmen are not physically on campus. You can help bridge the knowledge gap by offering a digital mentor program.
How to start a digital college mentor program:
- Ask upperclassmen to volunteer as mentors.
- Offer new students the option of mentorship.
- Then, assign your mentees and mentors.
- Communicate the maximum time commitment and outline acceptable/unacceptable questions
- Introduce your pairs via email or chat app and encourage the students to connect!
The time commitment should be minimal. Mentors should not spend more than a couple of hours during orientation, and the activity should not interfere with the mentor’s academic obligations. The aim of this program is to answer basic questions and introduce a friendly face. If a student has needs beyond the basic, then the mentor can always direct the mentee to the proper campus resources.
16. Online freshmen anthology
Every incoming freshman has special skills, talent, and knowledge that will enrich fellow students. You can kick off the peer knowledge exchange compiling an online freshmen anthology. To build your collection, ask incoming students to each submit one page. Contributors can send anything, from works of art or poetry, to the perfect mug cake recipe, to dance instructions or beauty tutorials, to laundry directions, to a list of shower thoughts.
Once you receive all submissions, you can collect the works into a PDF and send to the entire class. Allowing upperclassmen voluntary access and archiving the collection is also a nice touch. This activity is a great way for faculty and peers to learn more about the new batch of students and makes for an excellent talking point.
17. Faculty meet and greets
The relationship between students and professors is one of the most important bonds of the college career. Distance learning can easily turn teachers into strangers. Without a strong introduction to departmental figures, students may hesitate to reach out for help.
By planning for department-specific online events and virtual meetings with professors during your remote orientation week, you induct virtual learners into an online community and establish a strong support network. You can facilitate practical online affairs such as advisor conferences and initial office hours as well as more informal gatherings such as departmental online open mics or virtual competitions.
At these events, you can include icebreaker games to encourage more connections.
Virtual Orientation Week Tips
Assembling upperclassman volunteers, stocking up on snacks, and reserving auditoriums is second nature to college administrators planning in-person orientations, but virtual welcome weeks are brand new territory.
Here is a quick list of tips to make your online college orientation successful.
1. Seek innovative ways to interact
Opportunities for interaction can make or break any online event. The ability to participate draws attendees to attend a live event instead of watching a video tutorial. Your orientation week may be mandatory, but your students will focus better and have more fun if you build engaging interactions into your program. Examples include distributing digital badges for event attendance, posting social media challenges, and hosting online socials through video calls.
2. Do a test run to uncover any bugs
You want your students’ orientation experience to be amazing and, ideally, error-free. While you cannot prepare for every glitch or technological snafu, you can run-through your software and root out any initial bugs. Partnering with your campus IT team to test functionality and security is a good idea. You may also want to enlist upperclassmen as guinea pigs to demo the program and confirm that your o-week is fun and accessible.
3. Proactively accommodate your class
Orientation is a welcome to all students, but not every student will attend a virtual orientation from the exact same environment. When on campus, all students can access the same resources such as computer labs, wi-fi, and the library. You should remain sensitive to the fact that some of your students may face hiccups like unreliable internet access, lack of a quiet or private space, or firewall issues. By encouraging students to reach out with any environmental challenges pre-event and offering support and workarounds, you will ensure that no co-ed misses out on the festivities.
4. Incorporate tactile elements
What I remember most about my own undergrad orientation is the sheer amount of free T-shirts I received. Though your events may all take place online, you can send goodies like school swag, props for online games, books, and snacks to round out the experience.
Freebies are fun, but there are other tactile aspects that can enhance your event. For instance, you may issue a geocaching challenge, invite students to give a virtual hometown tour, or prompt attendees to produce physical objects during online scavenger hunts. Adding elements of touch and movement can make your event more exciting and distinguish the orientation from more routine computer-based activities.
There are many other online orientation tips that can spice up your event, but the advice in this list covers the basics for designing an inclusive and rousing web-based welcome week. For similar pointers, you can check out our post on virtual conference ideas.
Starting college is a significant occasion, regardless of whether instruction takes place in lecture halls or on laptops. With careful planning and creativity, virtual welcome weeks can be momentous.
If you have both remote and live students, then check out this list of hybrid learning activities.
For more suggestions, check out our post on virtual field trips and this one that includes virtual team building activities for students. For work, we also have a list of onboarding books and this list of internship orientation ideas.