In a normal year, the Daniels Faculty's orientation week would be a nonstop series of workshops, information sessions, collaborative design exercises, and parties, where new students would have opportunities to meet one another and begin to acclimate to university life. This year, the Faculty's orientation organizers — Daniels students Rose Awartani, Paul Kaita, Silya Sarieddine, Athina Ji-Hae Alight, Astrid Manzanilla, Diana Koulouthros, Ashvin Baskaran, Saad Nasr, and Negar Mashoof — were faced with a problem: how do you do all that when a pandemic is making it impossible to hold in-person gatherings?
The solution? Do it online, naturally.
All of this year's orientation events happened on Zoom, the videoconferencing platform. Orientation coordinators assembled three full days worth of introductory programming for first-year students, all of it provided free of charge. (Ordinarily, first-year students would pay a small fee to participate in orientation activities.)
Day one of orientation, September 7, was an ice-breaker day. New undergraduates assembled on Zoom for opening ceremonies and were then split into smaller breakout groups — an instant circle of friends that they would continue to interact with throughout the orientation program.
On day two, in a normal year, there would ordinarily be a banner-making activity, where first-year students would gather in a studio and transform large sheets of paper into colourful posters for them to carry in the annual Tri-Campus Parade.
This year, with the parade cancelled and access to the studios at the Daniels Building severely restricted, the banner-making exercise took on a different form. Students gathered on Zoom, broke into their pre-assigned groups, and then logged on to Miro, an online whiteboarding platform that makes it easy for a group of people to collaborate, remotely, on visual projects.
Here are a couple videos of the online banner-making process in action:
The day wrapped up with an online talent show, where students played instruments and showed off their design portfolios:
Some talent show images, from the Daniels Orientation Instagram.
On day three, after an online yoga session, first-year students split into their groups once again for virtual tours of Toronto, in which upper-year students used maps and photos to introduce the many interesting neighbourhoods and businesses located within walking distance of U of T's downtown campus.
One group took a Toronto quiz:
And another group learned about Koreatown:
After lunch, there was a virtual club fair, where first-years learned about some of the Daniels Faculty's student-run groups and activities:
The day — and the year's orientation programming — ended with closing ceremonies and a "virtual club night," where students could socialize in an unstructured way.
The online orientation process has set the tone for what will be a very online year: all learning and social activities at the Daniels Faculty will remain online-only throughout the fall semester, although students will have limited access to the Daniels Building for small in-person meetings. The Faculty has not yet decided whether online-only learning will continue during the winter semester.