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Community Blog: Building an Online Resource for Transfer Students (Part 1)
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Building an Online Resource for Transfer Students (Part 1)
By: Amber Baldridge & Taylor Kamin

 

How friendly is your orientation/transition website and other university webpages? How easy is it for new students to navigate your university’s website to find the answers to their critical questions? Why does it seem like no one is reading or retaining the information you post on your websites?

 

These were all key problems various departments at Auburn University were trying to solve independently. Through a campus-wide workgroup focusing on Transfer Student Success, we aimed to improve the transfer student experience collaboratively from the moment a transfer student thought about attending Auburn until they graduated. Our tool: an online centralized website. Through two blog posts, we’ll share our idea, the lessons we learned while making it happen, and our final product.

 

During the 2015-2016 academic year, Auburn University’s Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Constance Relihan, convened a large working group to address the growing needs of transfer students at Auburn University. By bringing together administrators, faculty, and staff who regularly interacted with transfer students, the working group could begin to determine the specific needs and challenges of transfer students on our campus and what current support services were being offered specifically for them.

 

The working group determined that one recurring concern was that while information was available to help students, they were struggling to know where to find and how to retain that information. Whether through information overload or not knowing what they were looking for, transfer students were missing key pieces of the information. With the multistep process of transferring, many students were missing crucial parts of the procedure, which only increased their frustration or anxiety. This was especially evident between the time transfer students were deciding to attend Auburn and the completion of their orientation session. Admissions, Orientation, and Academic Advisors were repeatedly being asked questions that they believed the answers to were posted sufficiently.

 

As we dug into this issue further, we noticed many requirements, procedures, and resources
were dispersed across many individual department websites and publications. This

required students to do a lot of searching, clicking, and reading, a process only exacerbated

if you are less familiar with what you are looking for (i.e. if you do not know what the

terms “transfer articulation guide” or “major curriculum guide” mean).

 

One common situation where this problem was most evident was when a student was choosing between two majors and trying to compare curriculums. A student previously had to know which specific college to navigate to for each major, requiring the student to first know how the majors are divided at our university. Then, the student needed to search through the college’s individual website for this information, which was often geared more towards sharing the good news about the college (recent honors, awards, and new research) instead of the academic curriculums. Students would then hopefully be able to find a curriculum guide. However, this pathway to find curriculum guides was different for every academic college and often required someone to review numerous webpages before being able to find their answer. No wonder students were getting stressed, giving up, or not finding the information.

 

In an ideal world, the working group believed that a “one stop shop” or designated transfer services professional or office would greatly help advocate a student through this transition. Unfortunately, due to the financial costs and time associated with creating a Transfer Center or centralized transfer professional, this option is not a possibility at this time. Instead, the group got creative and decided to develop an online centralized support location: transfer.auburn.edu.

 

The purpose of this website is to create a place where transfer students can go to easily find the information they need to be successful during any step of their transfer transition.

 

We heard that transfer students often looked to our websites first for information before calling university offices; however, it was a challenging shift for students to go from having only a few webpages to navigate through at their previous institution to needing to navigate multiple sites and university offices at our large university. We also heard that many students go through the transfer process solely off of our websites without speaking to a university professional so it is necessary that students can independently find all of the information they need. We wanted this one location to include all of the crucial information about the admissions process, transfer credits, their classes/major curriculum, orientation, financial services, and student life in a succinct manner so students could use this site as they started thinking about transferring, all the way through their first year on our campus. The committee hoped that by presenting key academic information like transfer articulation tables and individual curriculum guides to the transfer students earlier, transfer students could better prepare for the transition while they are still at their first institution and reduce unnecessary transfer credits. By bringing this information into one location, we hoped to help streamline the transfer transition process and help make what could be a very daunting process less so.

 

This semester charged with the creation of a new site, Amber Baldridge developed a subcommittee of the larger Transfer Student Success working group to benchmark other websites and lead the creation of our centralized transfer website. This website needed to be user-friendly and easy for someone unaware of our university’s terms and procedures to find what they desire. Secondly, the subcommittee wanted the website to be as comprehensive as possible without overloading a student with too much information. Finally, the site needed to be collaborative among many departments without developing something additional departments would have to maintain. By bringing together a representative from key offices who frequently correspond with transfer students, we were able to hone in on the key information transfer students needed and take a critical eye on our individual sites.

 

Join us for our next post later this month where we’ll share the lessons we learned while making the site, things we took into consideration, and how we incorporated what we heard from transfer students.   

 

 

Dive into the details of creating this new website with "Building an Online Resource for Transfer Students (Part 2)." 



 

 


 

 

 

 

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