Student Affairs Merges Media, Message in CD

July 28, 2004

Nick Marinello
Phone: (504) 865-5714

Perusing the new compact disc that has been distributed to next fall's freshmen by the Office of Student Affairs sure seems like looking at whizbang technology but, according to Denise Taylor, it is a case of simply giving students what they have come to expect.

studaffrsFor Taylor, the assistant vice president of student affairs who coordinated the project, the medium may be just as important as the message.

"From a student perspective, this is what they expect. This is how information is suppose to work."

Entitled "Hit the Ground Running," the compact disc serves as a primer to Tulane. It was mailed out in late May to incoming first-year students, after a fast and furious period of production.

Containing information from more than 30 offices and departments, Internet links to important forms, a step-by-step walk-through on how to become a Tulane student and a useful interactive campus map, the disc gives a sweeping multimedia tour of campus.

"The idea was to take out the mystery for them," says Taylor. "Students can get all the administrative elements as well as information about what it's like to live on campus, and they can get it in one place."

By the time they arrive for orientation in the fall, students will be able to, well, hit the ground running. Students opening the disc on their computer desktops will be greeted by the friendly faces of current students, who engage them in topics ranging from roommates to interesting places in the city to visit.

In fact, the staff of student affairs is increasingly focused on communicating with students "with a voice and in a language they are comfortable with," says Taylor, who has noticed that many times students will admit they haven't read important forms and brochures that have been distributed in the traditional printed format.

"They want access to information when they want it. They want to get up in the middle of the night and go online."
To make the leap to digital delivery of material, staff members from student affairs collaborated with Innovative Learning Center staff, who have worked with a number of departments and faculty members in developing interactive and multimedia projects.

"We were pleased to work on this project," says Hugh Lester, executive director of Integrated Development and Support Services, a new office that serves as the umbrella for campus web development, faculty and classroom support and the help desk. "I think this is a good example of how the ILC can be used to integrate different aspects of the university. We have a direct relationship with all the various people on campus."

Coordinating a large and sometimes disparate pool of information was perhaps the greatest challenge of the job, says David Robinson, project team leader at Innovative Learning Services.

"It was a challenge to pull it all together and make it look like a single entity and not just a collection of material from all over the place." "They did an amazing job," says Taylor of the ILC. "For me the biggest challenge was that I only knew in concept what I wanted. It was hard to conceptualize it out the box. There seemed to be unlimited possibilities of what you could do on the CD and the challenge was to harness it and rein it in."

Robinson and Taylor agree that while the new CD should be an effective tool for students, there is room for improvement. "We're already thinking about next year,"says Robinson.Among the goals for 2005's CD is to have it less text-dependent and better able to exploit the visual nature of the medium and to contain more video of students talking about life at Tulane.

"The parents like to look at the material on the CD," says Taylor. "But students like the voice-overs."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000