Wendy guides the lost online

July 2, 2004

A US university is showing new students what awaits them when they arrive on campus by inviting them to pry into the life of an imaginary female undergraduate.

Dayton University in Ohio aims to soothe pre-enrolment nerves by supplying all its students with email addresses this summer before they come to campus and encouraging them to exchange messages. The most popular part of the "virtual orientation" is Wendy, a fictional undergraduate whose activities are being monitored by hundreds of new students from their home computers. Some 800 users have spent 183,000 hours following her.

Wendy was created with input from nearly 200 incoming students. She is a slob and has to learn to coexist with her extremely well-organised roommate, Sarah. She is nervous about speaking up in class and is a little homesick.

The orientation consists of 16 weekly episodes depicting the trials and triumphs typical of a day, as well as details of course requirements, examinations, housing assignments and textbooks.

Details of the orientation, but not access to Wendy, are at http:///vo.udayton.edu

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