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CQUni’s OTV hit earns a Best Practice Award in Tertiary Education Management

Published:27 November 2020

CQUniversity's University Life and Student Engagement team has won an Association for Tertiary Education Management/Campus Morning Mail Best Practice Award for its "OTV" project.

When COVID-19 hit, it hit universities in a big way, particularly with normally public events like orientation, but CQUniversity’s adaptability and innovation to take O-week online has earned it an Association for Tertiary Education Management/Campus Morning Mail Best Practice Award.

COVID-19 restrictions meant O-week had to go completely virtual and CQUniversity’s University Life team rose to the challenge and created “OTV”.

University Life Senior Coordinator Victoria Roome said she and her team were elated to hear the news that CQUniversity had won the Innovation category of the 2020 ATEM Best Practice Awards.

“Organising orientation at CQUniversity is a massive undertaking. We have thousands of students, dozens of locations, multiple intakes, and many stakeholder groups,” Victoria said.

“Pivoting from face-to-face to virtual on that kind of scale, while maintaining the energy and buzz of an on-campus event, has been a huge triumph.”

Victoria said the team adopted the University’s motto and dared to be different in the delivery of its online orientation event.

“Ultimately, students can search online and find the information they want. So, we knew that a virtual Orientation had to be more than webpages or webinars,” she said.

“It had to be about connecting with others, in a time when so many, around the world, were feeling isolated. When considering how to replicate a face-to-face event virtually, we chose to focus on replicating the feelings, and the benefits, of attending a face-to-face orientation.

“Creating a sense of welcome, a sense of community and connection, and an overall feeling of excitement became important to us.”

She said webinar fatigue was always a consideration when putting together OTV, but the team was keen to have the students adapt to the online method in a comfortable way.

“We knew it wouldn’t be enough to lecture students over Zoom, though we wanted our students to become familiar with the platform. As a leader in online education, we had to assure students they had picked the right university,” she said.

“Retention of our new students during O-Week was critical, we simply couldn’t risk attrition, especially as other universities had rapidly become more comfortable with the transition to online, and the importance of our student enrolments heightened. That’s why we pushed ourselves to use Zoom a little differently.

“Webinar fatigue was certainly in place even with my team planning OTV, so this shaped a strong determination to provide a live and interactive orientation experience. We drew inspiration from YouTube skits and TV Game shows to produce a Zoom webinar that was exciting, engaging, visually pleasing and that ultimately maintained high levels of participation in the exchange of useful and relevant content.”

Collaboration was also critical to the success of OTV. The project team sought the involvement of current students, alumni, senior leaders, academic and professional staff.

The team relied on the collective input of content experts and many of them appeared in the recordings of OTV segments. Technical assistance from staff was offered to create dozens of virtual 360-degree tours to students, many of whom couldn’t travel to campus. OTV was entirely filmed on the Rockhampton North campus in an impressive recording studio accessible by digital media students, with thanks to the School of Education and the Arts.

She said the collaboration with the Student Communications team was also vital as they have a broad understanding of the student’s frequently asked questions, the information they require at various stages of their onboarding experience, and importantly, they were abreast of the rapid developments happening across the institution.

“We knew that a virtual audience would have a short attention span, so we worked together to condense our regular orientation information sessions, and to batch sessions into a catalogue, which gave students a road map to personalise their orientation,” she said.

“We then worked together to rebrand Orientation to signal very publicly to internal and external stakeholders that this orientation would be like no other.”

For more information about the awards visit https://www.atem.org.au/awards/2020-best-practice-awards

To view a sample of the Term 1 OTV session click HERE