Wednesday September 14, 2005

UD Parents Coping Through Online Program

The parents of 1,162 students — more than half of the first-year class — logged into UD's "VOParents" more than 10,000 times to share their concerns and to answer each other's questions. They still were posting messages as their children were moving into residence halls.

Rosemary Nigro wishes the University of Dayton's virtual orientation for parents existed three years ago when she brought her son to UD.

As she brought another son to UD this year, it was a different experience because of the University's new online program that helps parents make the transition to having children in college, becoming empty nesters and navigating the area surrounding campus.

The parents of 1,162 students — more than half of the first-year class — logged into UD's "VOParents" more than 10,000 times to share their concerns and to answer each other's questions. They still were posting messages as their children were moving into residence halls.

"It's definitely a one-stop shop for information," said Nigro, who mostly shared her experiences as a UD parent in her online conversations.

Julie Schade, content and operations manager for UD's Internet development division, said the site provides information that can benefit any parent. She said the parent forums allow parents can share their anxieties about sending a child to college.

"We try to draw the line between what parents and students can access," Schade said. "The site does not allow parents to do things their children need to do to get ready for school."

Nigro liked that parents could participate in Alcohol Edu for College, a mandatory online program for first-year students to help increase awareness of responsible drinking and the negative impact of alcohol abuse on the college experience.

William Tobin was impressed with the openness and responsiveness of the parents who participated in the forums. He said he gained insight into UD's student neighborhood, what other parents are experiencing and where to find the nearest stores.

"You post a question and have multiple responses in two to three hours," Tobin said. "Finding stores may not seem very important in the middle of the summer, but it was important on move-in day when we needed to find one."

Nigro said others offered tips for special things to bring if you lived in a particular residence hall or where to find Pepsi products "because UD is a Coca-Cola campus." The only recommendation she and others have made is to keep the site running into their children's first semester.

"We have received dozens of requests to keep the site running," Schade said. "It's been extremely popular with a core set of parents."

"VOParents" is similar to Virtual Orientation for first-year students. The 2004 first-year class spent a collective 19 million minutes, or 36 years, online sending messages to each other, talking to faculty and checking out Wendy, star of a weekly virtual reality series depicting a typical day at UD.

"I have lots of friends with children going to many different schools, and they were very jealous of our virtual orientation resource," Nigro said.

For more information, please contact Shawn Robinson at (937) 229-3391.