Pathify Customer Story
Using the Portal for New Student Orientation
150 Years of Concord
Founded in 1872, Concord University is a public institution that serves 1,800 students in West Virginia. It’s ranked as a top 100 Regional Universities South by U.S. News. The mission of Concord University is to improve the lives of its students and communities, through innovative teaching and learning, intellectual and creative activities, and community service and civic engagement.
Trying Something New
Engaging Prospective Students
Concord University, a school of 1,800 students in West Virginia, tried something different for their Summer 2021 orientation sessions. They wanted a way for students to engage online and access schedules and resources before arriving on campus. Though the university originally looked at outside solutions, the Admissions and IT departments quickly realized that their student portal — powered by Pathify — would get the job done. In addition to utilizing a resource that was already in place, using the portal for the student orientation experience had an added benefit … introducing students to an important university tool.
Over the Spring 2021 semester, Concord University’s student portal saw a little over 134,000 page views during roughly 54,500 sessions. During the Fall 2021 semester, that number rose to nearly 250,000 page views during more than 105,500 sessions.
Creating Personalized Engagement Opportunities
Because of COVID concerns, Concord limited each on-campus orientation session to 30-35 students. As students signed up for one of the 12 orientation sessions, they were automatically added to a private group for that session in the Concord University student portal. This seamless process made it easy to import each student into the portal with the correct roles and permissions.
The idea, according to Dalton Boggs, Front-End Web Developer at Concord University, was to make the groups the primary way for the admissions and enrollment teams to communicate with each session of potential students.
“If students had any questions they could comment in the group and one of the admins would get back to them,” he explained. “If there was a change in one of the events, Admissions could explain in the group. Or if any events were added last minute, Admissions could let the students know, ‘Hey come to this room number, we’re doing something here.’”
Centralizing communications meant students could hear from key university stakeholders outside of formal sessions, such as enrollment personnel and the Dean of Students. It also made orientation easier on students as they could access their schedules, find information, ask questions and get helpful resources — like a digital coupon for the campus bookstore — before ever stepping foot on campus.
“Before students get to campus for orientation it was nice to have them into their resources so they could see their schedules, they could interact with financial aid, etc.,” said William Allen, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Concord University. “It was also easier for our academic folks to interact with students throughout the event because they were already into their schedules and could see what was going on.”
Easing the New Student Transition
Having access to information and a way to connect helped ease what can be an anxiety-inducing transition for many students — moving from high school to college.
“A lot of those orientation events, especially when you’re fresh on campus, can be really stressful sometimes,” Dalton explained. “But being able to communicate with other people beforehand and create some sort of a connection, when you go to orientation it’s a little bit easier to engage. It’s less intimidating.”
He believes it’s also helpful that the portal has a familiar user interface and experience, making adoption easy and natural.
“The portal already feels like a very familiar product,” Dalton commented. “What I told a lot of people when I was trying to get them to adopt this was, “Just think of it like LinkedIn or Facebook. It’s just for the campus.’”
Having the portal available in a mobile app also helped drive student adoption and comfort, he added.
“Being able to have the portal as an app store app probably saved us because a lot of students use their phones more than any other device — it’s convenient, it’s right there, it’s in your pocket. Being able to just take it out while you’re on campus waiting for the next orientation event to check the portal probably got students super familiar with it.”
That ease-of-use and familiarity led to increased student user adoption going into the Fall 2021 semester.
“For all of the students who used the portal at orientation, if they went through with sticking with Concord, it was pretty much a 1:1 conversion with a new user rate. Which is really cool,” said Dalton.
William believes new students were also more comfortable overall at the start of the Fall semester because they had a chance to get familiar with the portal and knew how to access critical systems.
“[One of our goals was] trying to get students to use the portal so that before they even got to campus they had a firm handle on where information was and where they could get to Blackboard and get to other stuff,” he explained. “I think a lot of students are still nervous about technology, believe it or not. New learning tools are a lot to digest.”
Concord University estimates that portal usage has increased by about 35% since implementing Pathify.
Taking the Portal to the Next Level
Orientation groups are already set up in the portal for Concord University’s spring orientation. Both William and Dalton see this as a tool they can use and expand on for future orientation sessions — hopefully with some exciting new additions to drive increased student engagement.
“I’d like to come up with a fun theme and find a way to make our digital footprint reflect the physical event. I’d like to come up with a fun theme every summer to help entice students,” Dalton said about his vision for incorporating the portal into future orientation events. “I think it would be cool if we could find a way to come up with theme-appropriate polls to get students invested.”
“I really think there’s the potential for growth and I really hope that’s the case, because it definitely seems like this first run was a success,” he added. “I am excited to see what we come up with next year.”