September 11, 2000
Volume 53, No. 3
Freshmen plugged in on arrival weekend
By Eric Rangus
Come the end of August and beginning of September, it seems everyone has back-to-school on his or her mind. For some, however, the work of surviving "back-to-school" began long before anyone left in the first place.
Each year, the Learning Technologies team of the Information Technologies Division (ITD) caps ITD's Back-To-School Project by visiting every freshman hall during Freshman Arrival Weekend and ensuring that the students' computers are set up and online before Monday comes and classes begin.
"Our goal is to make sure the parents feel good about leaving their kids here," said Marisa Johnson, an educational analyst in ITD, who led the Freshmen Arrival Week effort in the residence halls.
And by any measure it was solid success. Johnson said that ITD's goal is to ensure than no more than 10 open problems remain at the end of the Sunday the freshmen arrive. Over the weekend of Aug. 2527, 609 freshman computers were hooked up, and just seven service calls remained open by Monday, Aug. 28.
More than 50 staff and student volunteers set up tables in each dorm, handed out software CDs and instructed new students how to configure their computers. The time spent with each student depended on how many problems they experienced.
Newer computers posed few difficulties. Some of the older ones produced occasional hiccups, but the volunteers were able to quickly resolve them. Some students required no help. Others needed the assistance of IT staff and student residential computing consultants (RCCs).
Many issues were routine-setting up computers to default to Emory servers rather than commercial ones like America Online, for instance. There were also a lot of questions about installing ethernet cards.
One reason for the lack of problems is the workability of the software Emory produces. It is frequently updated to adapt to hardware and software advancements, and also come with an updates button so that users can do their own updating once the software is installed on their own systems.
It's a significant effort that starts way back in January. That's when the project team begins working with the College admissions office distribute new student accounts. Throughout the spring and summer the project team remains in contact with the administration to ensure training needs, accounts and orientation are coordinated with ITD.
ITD stays in touch with students through print brochures, E-mail, LearnLink conferences and websites.
One of ITD's new services to this year's freshman class is Connect2004. This LearnLink service gives freshmen their own space for online discussions, private e-mail and real-time chats with their classmates.
This is another service that got an early start. Early decision students received Connect2004 account information shortly after they paid their deposits. By May 31, all freshmen had their userids and passwords. On Aug. 1, all Connect2004 accounts became full LearnLink accounts, giving all new students access to of LearnLink's tools and amenities.
"The point was to provide communication between students before they even got here," said Susan Mistretta, the Back-To-School project leader.
In previous years, students would register for classes using pen and paper the Monday after they arrived. ITD would then provide training sessions on Emory's computer systems. Now, students register online through OPUS, and need to be familiar with Emory's system before they move to campus. By receiving their accounts early, they can train themselves.
"Because of Connect2004, they already have a way to communicate," Mistretta said.
ITD's work setting up the freshmen isn't over by any means. Several students have yet to purchase computers and the stable of RCCs continue to receive troubleshooting calls. Rush hour, though, is over.