UA Launches Innovative Websites for Freshmen and Their Parents
October 3rd, 2005 - Filed under: News
By Deidre Stalnaker
This fall, the University launched revolutionary interactive Web sites for freshmen and their parents designed to improve retention, campus involvement and graduation rates.
Through the two separate, unique sites, myBama Freshman Connection and myBama Family Connection, the University regularly passes on advice and information to first-year students and their parents about upcoming events, living with roommates, study tips and other topics specifically written and targeted to help them navigate their freshman year together. The Web-based communications packages are designed to engage users through a series of editorial features and interactive online activities.
“We are sharing a wealth of useful information in a pleasant and engaging format,” said Dr. Hank Lazer, UA assistant vice president for undergraduate programs and services. “We want to get students involved on campus and help them feel at home, and we want parents to feel connected to their son or daughter’s new home.”
The program serves as a way for students and parents to communicate with the University and with their peers. If an incoming freshman is not motivated to study because he misses his friends back home, he can voice his feelings online and receive help quickly from an adviser or another student. Parents also can submit questions and receive feedback from a University official within 24 to 72 hours.
“Through the use of the two Web sites, we can get immediate feedback from both parents and students,” Lazer said. “In turn, we can provide them with the assistance they need during their vulnerable first year of college. While these new tools will help with communication, it is our intention that with increased communication and resources, we can reach our goal of keeping students in school and see them through to a successful graduation.”
Students are most likely to drop out during their freshman year. National research has shown they are more likely to graduate if they get past the challenges of the first year.
Lazer added that while university officials have been able to collect feedback and information from and about students during the course of the academic year, this data often took the entire year to process. “We had great data that allowed us to look retrospectively. We now have warning signs which allow us to provide immediate help to students. These new tools allow us to achieve real time, specific, personalized communication, not a blanket response.”
UPeers, offered through the new myBama Freshman Connection and myBama Family Connection sites, is a social and academic Web-based community that lets students and parents connect with one another virtually. Users can browse and search for others by majors, personal interests and hometowns, create their own UPeers profiles, form study and support groups and plan get-togethers – all in an environment that safeguards privacy.
Features to be added to the site in coming months include UBlog, a Web log service; UScene, information on University area events where students can post reviews and suggestions; Live Chat, an instant messaging service; and photo posting abilities.
UA is the first university in the Southeastern Conference to use the new program developed by GoalQuest, a New York City-based software company specializing in innovative solutions for higher education.
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