This story was posted earlier in May. It is being reposted to help students navigate to the online orientation.
Polk State has launched two new online initiatives, both of which are aimed at helping students make a stronger start in college.
In a dramatic change to the enrollment process, Polk State will begin offering an entirely online orientation in early June.
“It’s designed so that a student can do orientation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whenever it is convenient for them,” said Kathy Bucklew, director of student enrollment and registrar.
Orientation is a requirement for all new students.
Aside from the sheer convenience of the online version, students will also find that it is both modern and interactive. Videos are used to convey much of the standard orientation information — such as financial aid resources and campus security contacts. Students will also use “choose your own adventure”-like navigation to get information tailored to their personal situations.
For instance, a screen early in the orientation asks students whether they recently graduated high school, are active military, or neither. The information they receive from that point on depends on how they answer.
“There are links to everything they would normally receive in orientation,” Bucklew said.
“Plus, one of the greatest things about an online orientation is that students will be able to go back and refer to the information as they need it. There is a lot of information included in orientation, and sometimes students don’t absorb it all in one sitting. Now, they can go back and review the information as often as they need.”
After students complete the online orientation, the College will be notified and will then permit students to register for their first classes. During business hours, the delay between completing orientation and being permitted to register will be less than a day. Students who complete orientation after hours will be permitted to register the following business day.
Bucklew emphasized that students may still opt to complete orientation in person if they choose. After students apply to the College, they receive an admission letter with information on scheduling orientation sessions, after which they may register for classes.
“Polk State continues to expand its online degree programs, and we are increasingly a mobile, Internet-connected society,” Bucklew said. “This is a sign of the College keeping pace with how students access information. We’re meeting them where they are, and ensuring that we are accessible — in person and online — to anyone who wants a higher education.”
In addition to the online orientation, the College also has recently launched an online academic advising “snapshot,” found under the Student Orientation tab at polk.edu/admission-aid.
The new “snapshot” tool explains state-mandated changes in developmental education. Last year, with the passage of Senate Bill 1720, Florida College System institutions — including Polk State — may no longer require students to take developmental courses, even if placement testing shows that they need help.
Developmental courses are also referred to as remedial courses. The College uses the PERT (Postsecondary Education Readiness Test) for placement purposes.
Furthermore, under the bill, members of the military and students who began at a Florida public high school in 2003-2004 or later and earned a standard diploma are exempt from placement testing.
Under SB 1720, even if students take the PERT and it shows they need academic help, the College can no longer require them to take developmental courses.
However, the College is still encouraging students to take the PERT (Postsecondary Education Readiness Test) to assess their skills in math, reading and writing.
The College offers the test at no charge at both the Lakeland and Winter Haven campuses, as well as the Polk State JD Alexander Center in Lake Wales.
Even if students choose not to take developmental courses in their weak areas, at least they begin their college careers with a clearer picture of where they stand.
The “snapshot” is a 10-question quiz that asks students to rank their abilities in math, reading and writing, as well as their responsibilities outside the classroom, such as work and families.
Based on their responses, students are either advised to take the PERT, or not.
The College invested nearly $40,000 and about 200 hours to developing the online orientation and academic snapshot — both of which were small prices for delivering more individualized guidance as students start their academic careers.
“This is a great collection of information, and we hope that students will use it and refer back to it,” Bucklew said. “We’re here to help our students succeed, and these new tools are investments not so much in technology, but in them.”
The online orientation will go live prior to fall registration, which starts June 16. The snapshot is already online and available. Both can be found at polk.edu/admission-aid under the “Student Orientation” tab.