Butterflies swarmed in Megan Grabenau’s stomach.
The 19-year-old UF accounting freshman sat alone at her father’s desk May 19 with nothing in her stomach but a steaming cup of Starbucks’ coffee. However, while she was physically alone in her hometown of Winter Park, Florida, her computer was logged onto a UF Preview Orientation Zoom call with four of her future classmates on the computer screen.
Preview orientation began on May 14 for incoming students, UF Spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in an email to The Alligator. Students paid a $35 fee to register, and the event was held over Zoom conferences, averaging students a total of 4 to 5 hours to complete. Preview registration remains open and Preview sessions will continue until late July, he wrote.
After Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in March that four UF students tested positive for COVID-19, the university transitioned to remote learning and encouraged in-person events to be held online. Preview Orientation, an in-person two-day event where prospective students stay in dorms and pick classes, was also moved online due to COVID-19 safety precautions.
Preview Zoom links for students were embedded in Canvas, and the number of groups varied per Preview session, Orlando wrote. The groups averaged about 12 students, each randomly assigned, and were led by a Preview adviser and staffer. Information typically reviewed during Preview was shifted to Canvas for both students and family members.
To successfully attend Preview, Grabenau said she had to complete five Canvas modules and an online class-planning worksheet. Modules one to three were due before preview and focused on transferring AP credits to UF credits and creating a tentative class schedule.
Module four was completed by virtually attending Preview.
Module 5 was to be completed after Preview and focused on different resources, such as Gator Central, that are available to students, Grabanau said.
Preview’s goal of supporting students’ transition to college has remained at the forefront, Orlando wrote. The Preview team has worked to replicate the energy of being in person despite the online program being developed in a short time period.
Olivia Daniel, an 18-year-old UF public health freshman, attended Preview on May 19 from her hometown in Jacksonville, Florida. She didn’t get to interact much with her future classmates, and said it was difficult to meet friends because the online medium only allowed one person to speak during presentations.
However, she enjoyed hearing about Gainesville’s restaurant Bagels & Noodles from her preview staffer during her 4 pm afternoon Q&A session
“She gave us a lot of good advice on just how to be a freshman,” Daniel said. “She made it feel like a regular group.”
UF’s incoming students attend must Preview Orientation through Zoom due to COVID-19.