IDEA-U offers affordable options for adults who want to obtain their associate or bachelor’s degree. Many of IDEA-U’s students are nontraditional students, meaning that they are either a little older or in a different place in life than the typical fresh-from-high school college student. “A lot of our students are parents,” said Roxanne Ruiz, a college completion advisor with IDEA-U. Adults who are accepted to the college program are given the opportunity to warm back up to being students again through an Academic Onboarding program, which is a five-week process held on IDEA-U’s campus. Through this initiative, new students can ease their way back to being prepared for school rather than being thrown headlong into concepts, schedules, and practices they haven’t touched in years.
Ruiz, along with Grace Hernandez, another of IDEA-U’s college completion advisors, explained what happens after a student is accepted at IDEA-U. The first step is for students to attend a two-and-a-half-hour orientation, which has a threefold purpose for its attendees. One of the main goals for the orientation is that “students get to know each other,” Ruiz said. “It allows them to meet other students starting in their cohort … to lean on each other for academic and emotional support throughout the program.”
“It also allows them to build a sense of community,” she said.
Hernandez continued with the second primary purpose for the orientation.
“We’re going to outline the expectations within our program,” she said. Part of those expectations are that students are required to come to the IDEA-U center for 12 hours per week and meet with their mentor for 30 minutes a week. Hernandez said that they also make sure students understand that “we’re providing them with the support that they need throughout the program.”
Hernandez added that the orientation also helps students determine whether IDEA-U offers what they were looking for when they applied. “They’re able to not only meet others but they’re able to learn and see if this is the right program for them,” she said. “It’s kind of like a trial period for them.”
Throughout the five weeks for the onboarding program after the orientation, students are able to continue gauging whether IDEA-U is a good fit for them as they assess where their academics currently are.
“During onboarding is an excellent time to find out what your strengths are and if you do have weaknesses, well, you can definitely work on those,” Ruiz said.
There are no graded assessments that would affect students’ grade point average for their degree program, and any assessments that students do complete are purely for the students’ benefit.
“During onboarding, it’s more of a hands-on process,” Ruiz said. “We actually really help them build their growth mindset — and not only their growth mindset, but also really learning the key factors that will go along with online learning.” Some of the skills that IDEA-U seeks to enhance for their students are “self-pacing, time management, and really honing in on being able to be self-driven.”
Onboarding gives students the opportunity to refresh old skills, as well. Hernandez explained that students get back into the habit of using mathematics, reading, and writing skills while in onboarding.
“It’s a refresher. So if you’ve been out of college for some time, if you’re not in practice reading, writing, or comprehension, you’re going to put those skills back into practice,” she said. “It’s the time to ask questions, plenty of questions.” They can also pick a few new skills. “Maybe for students who have been out of college for a long time, they’re actually able to learn new skills, maybe computer skills. So, we’ll sit with them and we’ll assist them with any technological skills or any other things they need.”
IDEA-U has received positive feedback for the onboarding period. “We found that students really appreciate that time because students — as excited as they are to start the program — sometimes they don’t realize not only the time commitment, but also the financial investment it takes to start within their degree,” Ruiz said. “So they really appreciate that trial period to allow them to see if they can actually be committed.”
Visit IDEA-U.org to learn more.