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Virtual open days – how to show the campus and accommodation experience online

03 July 2020  
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Like so much, open days have gone virtual. And for a while at least, virtual content will still be the first source of information for future students and their parents.

We know that accommodation and the “feel” of a campus can influence a student’s final choice of university. And accommodation is currently more important than ever, because to start with at least, students will study and socialise mainly where they live.  

While the focus of virtual open days is understandably on the academic offer, universities need to bring the campus and accommodation to life and give students and parents the opportunity to ask questions.

Here are a few tips shared in CUBO’s recent round table on virtual open days, led by David McKown from the University of Sheffield and Oliver Harrison from student engagement experts Campuslife:

  • Make the most of your existing digital material – 360-degree tours of rooms, student blogs and videos work well
  • Have the accommodation staff live to answer specific questions – or these will be diverted to other staff who may not know the answers, or give the wrong answers
  • Have a friendly profile picture on the open day platform – pets in pictures work well!
  • If possible use one platform for a smoother user experience
  • Be mindful of potential traffic and system ability to cope
  • Expect fewer questions than on a regular open day, and fewer than you might think about Covid-19
  • Use student-made content where possible - students want to hear from other students.
  • Spend time on the build-up to event – the information for parents and students and the channels to use. What gaps have you got? Is it video content, blogs by students, campus maps, student testimonials? Build on what is missing.
  • Post-event, encourage students to go back and experience it again and ask follow-up questions. This is one big advantage of a virtual open day.
  • From now, have constant communication with students, and gather virtual material to show the next set of students what campus life is like.
  • Consider that the future could be permanently blended – with virtual open days complementing actual open days.


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