Student residence experience goes virtual at the University of Guelph

A majority of first-year University of Guelph students will experience on-campus life on-line through Gryphons Nest program.

First year students to be placed in virtual community in Gryphons Nest program

The University of Guelph says around 500 students will be living on campus this fall semester. There are normally over 4,000 students. (University of Guelph)

Forget what you've heard about the life of a first year student living on campus at a post-secondary institution. The traditional student life experience is going online in September and the University of Guelph is one school that has prepared for it.

The university has created a virtual community program called Gryphons Nest, designed to help students living off campus experience the on-campus life.

"It's going to be new experiences that hopefully provide some unique opportunities," said Patrick Kelly, the associate director of residence life. "You know if there's a silver lining to all of this as well as is some of the virtual programming initiatives are just awesome that we've never really explored before."

Normally about 4,000 first year students live on campus but that number has dropped to around 500 for this fall, said Kelly. Most of the off campus first-years have decided to stay home.

The Gryphons Nest program puts up to 50 students together in a virtual community with peers in their academic program.  They'll be able to get tips on how to be successful in a virtual classroom, get help with their school work while they're at home —even advice on crafting a great resume.

Kelly says an online mentor student, usually a second or third year student, will be in the same virtual community, available to answer questions for the first years.

On-campus housing only in special circumstances

In past years, the University of Guelph typically has guaranteed first-year students will get a room in a residence. But this year only students with special circumstances will be given access to campus housing.

"Whether that's an international student coming to Canada or not being able to leave after last semester last year. Whether it's students who don't have internet access at home or the ability to be able be successful with virtual classrooms, or something associated with their living arrangements" said Kelly, of the students who are in residence this fall.  

"Or [it could be a] student who has a need to have in-person support. We have some students who are on campus who do have face to face meetings with with different resources on campus as well."

Kelly notes everything a student would have experience on campus will be available in the virtual community, from library services, student housing and residence life programs.

And what about Frosh Week?  Stay tuned, there'll be an app for that, he said.