By RAEGAN NEUFELD
Tiger Media Network
The homecoming fun of this week is not just limited to on-campus students this year with FHSU All In: Online Homecoming.
A combination of synchronous and asynchronous events started Monday. Students had the opportunity to share where they’re from, share a picture of themselves in Fort Hays apparel, participate in a design contest and participate in a digital escape room. Zoom sessions with several alumni award winners were also available to students. All of the activities are being done through InScribe, a platform used by the online university for Tiger-2-Tiger, a virtual space for student connections.
Kelly Meyer, an admissions advisor for FHSU Online, and Cyndi Landis, an instruction and outreach librarian at Forsyth Library, were two of the people involved in planning the online homecoming. Both are part of the on-campus homecoming committee and wanted a way for online students to get involved.
“In past years, we’ve wanted to include online students in homecoming,” Meyer said. “It was just a matter of thinking of creative ways to do that.”
The planning process started in June. That included brainstorming activity ideas and consulting with Teaching Innovations and Learning Technologies (TILT) about what platform to use.
“It took several major meetings of brain dumping and really feeling things out with TILT and the folks at InScribe,” Meyer said.
While the activities and events of online homecoming are for students not in Hays, they have been made available to on-campus students and others as well.
“We ended up duplicating all the activities that are in the Tiger-2-Tiger platform on the homecoming website too, thinking that anyone can do the activities,” Landis said. “Community members and alumni who can’t travel back to Hays still have the opportunity to participate if they want to.”
The feedback from students has encouraged Meyer and Landis for future years and what they might hold.
“The qualitative comments that we’ve gotten so far by watching the different engagement shows that there is a need to do things like this and to advocate for our online students,” Landis said.
With most of the groundwork done this year, the possibility of improvements and changes for next year opens up. For example, the asynchronous activities might be open for longer than a week, and efforts can be focused on promoting the online homecoming to students more.
Overall, the main goal for Meyer and Landis is to provide online students with the connections and opportunities of on-campus students in a less formal setting than what they normally have.
“We, of course, want online students to feel like they’re just as much a part of Fort Hays as our on-campus students, and taking advantage of these opportunities isn’t only fun and good for the college experience, but also builds connections with other students or faculty and staff that can really benefit everyone in the long run,” Meyer said.
“As an online student, the experience can feel a little siloed while taking three or four classes and maybe recognizing a few names between courses in a program,” Landis said. “To have more of a recreational entertainment outlet to feel connected to the university can go a long way. A little bit can go a long way in feeling connected and feeling that pride of being an eventual Fort Hays graduate.”