Combating info overload/folder fatigue
Everyone who has ever working orientation knows the pain of stuffing endless information folders for students and parents. This summer I stuffed more than my fair share and I’m sure that factors into my feelings on the matter. I understand that departments and offices on campus want to get the message out about the services and programs they offer, however I question how valuable/retain-able this information is to orientation students in its current form. All told SJSU students receive 33 seperate documents (many two or more pages a piece) in their student folders and parents receive a similar number. While a handful of the information is specifically referenced during the two day program, most of it is information that we expect them to take home and read. I am very skeptical about how many of them do this and more concerned about how many of actually retain the information they are given. Ultimately, I think it is time to take a look at this process of information dispersal and revise it for the new NetGeneration students. These students are not in the habit of reading through a sea of papers to become completely aware of every program and service the university provides. Instead the majority of these students wait until they have a specific question and then go on-line to search for an answer. Therefore it may be more beneficial to give them a tutorial on the web directory and how to access various offices’ websites.
My other concern with having paper heavy orientation folders is that the information that is most relevant and important is often overlooked simply because it is swimming in a sea of supplemental materials. For example, one of the documents we provided was a guide to being safe on campus. Not only did this packet address an area that wasn’t covered enough during orientation it also provided info about something many students don’t proactively seek out. On the other hand, we also included a brochure about the bowling center in the student union. I did not think this was a proper venue for this info because students who were truly interested in this service would look it up on their own and most of them would find their way into the union for other activities and therefore learn about the bowling center.
I am quite certain that orientation folders will not go away anytime soon and support the idea that they are a good way to get out information about certain things to new students. I am equally convinced that orientation staff members must be more intentional about what they put in these folders and spend a bit more time considering the logistical nightmares associated with stuffing endless packets. While Michael Scott may believe in providing “unlimited paper in a paperless world”, I do not think that universities should follow suite.