As we head toward a new school year that will be largely remote or hybrid, educators are faced with new challenges: creating safe and healthy learning environments and designing welcoming, engaging experiences that are accessible for all students. Like graduations at the end of the year, new student orientation is an especially important experience that connects students, faculty, and administrators and sets the tone for the year.

Institutions from K-12 schools through universities plan events that often take place over the course of several days to help new students feel comfortable, show them what makes their school unique, and connect them to others. And beyond the fun and camaraderie they create, orientation events are often some of the best times for faculty and administrators to share important information.

Starting today, the Microsoft Store team is offering free support to help institutions drive engaging online orientations and help staff and students make the most of their tech for online learning. Sign up here to get started!

With the current need to limit in-person interaction, schools are recognizing that orientation shouldn’t be one single event, but an ongoing program that keeps students engaged. So, how will institutions present all their welcome and informational sessions when classes may be online or hybrid, and when many students may not physically travel to campus?

Online events will be their best bet. Starting today, the Microsoft Store team is offering free support to help institutions drive engaging online orientations and help staff and students make the most of their tech for online learning. Just tell us what you need to help your students thrive in an online or hybrid learning environment, and our team of nearly 3,000 talented Store associates will help you get the tech training you need to start the new school year with confidence. From smaller-scale sessions to large-scale orientations and trainings, including free Teams Live Events for up to 20,000 participants (until September 30, 2020), Microsoft can help you make the most of remote learning software—we’re here to help, so contact us today!

When you reach out to the Microsoft Store, you can be confident that you’ll get the support you need to make the most of your event. After working with Store associates to plan a virtual graduation, Sandra Ware, Community Partner, STEM Education Advocate, and state education consultant over Virtual Learning for the State of Michigan shared, “I’ve witnessed first-hand the impact that Microsoft’s virtual programs have made and continue to make. Through their video conference platform Teams, thousands of students across the country were able to hear their names called during the virtual graduation initiative. This may seem like a small thing in the midst of global pandemic, but it’s huge when you’re a student who’s worked extremely hard for the one moment when you, your family, and your friends celebrate the completion of a chapter and the beginning of a new one. It’s not just our students’ win; but it’s everyone’s win.”

For extra guidance as you plan for the new year, we’ve also put together an e-book with a handful of resources that provide strategies and ideas for preparing for the transition back to school and planning engaging events with Microsoft Teams that connect students, faculty, and administrators with a more personalized experience.

Preparing and presenting creative, engaging online events sounds like a daunting task—but many organizations are already designing and delivering unique experiences.

SUNY Empire State College in New York was founded specifically to provide individualized and distance learning, first with correspondence courses before launching their first online programs in 1995. So when the pandemic hit, their faculty, administrators, and students were already set up and familiar with Microsoft Teams for all of their remote classes and events.

“SUNY Empire State College is no stranger to online and distance learning, so we were able to make the transition smoothly to protect our students, faculty, and staff at the start of the pandemic,” said Kyle Adams, the college’s Vice President for Strategic Communications. “Communication was key to that transition, not only to deliver information but to hear concerns, answer questions, and establish a calm and deliberative tone in a time of uncertainty. Teams Meetings and Live Events helped us stay connected at every level, from class sessions to staff meetings and town halls for students and employees.”

Adams said that being able to meet, collaborate, and engage with each other and students in a rich virtual environment will be critical as SUNY Empire heads into the new school year and beyond, and continues to adapt to the times.

Though everything is new and different this year, thanks to Teams, Teams Live, and other tools like Flipgrid, organizations can welcome new students with energizing and interactive events of all sizes. To get started developing your plan for creative and engaging back-to-school events, complete the Microsoft Stores contact form and download the Orientation Kit e-book.