Launchpad Online: How Student Ownership can Transform an Orientation Programme

Ahearn, Simon and Brandes, Martha Launchpad Online: How Student Ownership can Transform an Orientation Programme.


Students with disabilities supported by the Maynooth University Access Programme (MAP) are more likely to experience additional challenges as they make the transition to third level. Orientation programmes have a positive impact on academic and social integration in transitioning to college (Mayhew et al., 2010).

MAP delivers an annual 3-day on-campus orientation to enhance the experience of entrants with disabilities and entrants from widening participation backgrounds. Launchpad instils a sense of belonging at Maynooth University and has been shown to increase retention. Due to COVID-19, Launchpad moved online in 2020. This proposal outlines how the redesign became an exciting opportunity to enhance and elevate students with disabilities as co-creators and co-owners of Launchpad Online.

Launchpad Online adopted a collaborative approach to design innovative activities aligned to the Online Engagement Framework. MAP mobilised a team of four Coordinators and 165 student ambassadors to provide peer support and deliver Launchpad. The student committee identified the goals and challenges for entrants. They designed the timetable to incorporate interactive sessions viewable on online devices. They were informed by previous Launchpad evaluations, student reachouts, the Mitigating Educational Disadvantage Working Group recommendations and Jigsaw and SpunOut Youth Mental Health findings.

Launchpad comprised different elements including information sessions, virtual campus tours, field trips, panels, games & hangouts. The online format enabled real-time participation and recording of accessible content. eAccessibility was built into activities and social interactions to promote the inclusion of students with disabilities, by following a session template that required confirmation of accessible format, subtitles, narration, live chat, etc. across multiple platforms. The committee developed a support and training plan incorporating mentoring, online practice, newsletters and podcasts to prepare to facilitate sessions. This proposal shows how integrating students into the design and delivery of online orientations produces outstanding accessible and inclusive experiences for students with disabilities.

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