Sarah-Jane Spooner25/01/2021

Our new Virtual Experience Platform brings together virtual tour and virtual open day content – as well as a live events platform with the ability to chat to staff and students – all in one place.

The Platform is the culmination of our 16 years of HE experience and the insight we’ve gained from our primary research programme, examining the needs and desires of prospective students.

We’re proud that all of our products are informed by research, but in developing our new Virtual Experience Platform we wanted to perform some specific user testing – so we commissioned education sector experts Cosmos Engagement to help us run some research in September 2020.

Our research group consisted mainly of year 13 students and had all attended at least one virtual open day.

In our webinar delivered on 20th January 2021, we presented our findings to over 120 HE marketing professionals. If you missed it, don’t worry, you can still catch-up. Here’s the highlights.

Watch the webinar in full? Click here.

VODs are important – now and in the future

A big chunk (70% to be exact) of the students we surveyed said virtual open days were either “important” or “very important” when choosing a university. The main benefits being ease of access from home without having to travel and the option to look at more universities in a shorter space of time.

Clearly a valuable asset now – but what about when you can run physical events again? They’re still vital. VODs – particularly those we build because we know the most about them – help drive event attendance. In one of our earlier pieces of research, 93% of students said they would be more likely to attend a physical open day having viewed a Revolution Viewing virtual tour. Students also use VODs after physical events as a reminder, so they’re useful in the conversion stage too.

Students need to get a feel for your campus, your staff and the student experience

The research showed that an opportunity to get a ‘feel’ for teaching staff (what they are like and how they would learn from them) as well as the student experience (from real students!) was crucial. There are loads of ways you can do this with engaging rich media content – such as course videos, vlogs and blogs – and by connecting them with current students via UniBuddy or TAP. Our Virtual Experience Platform lets you do this all in one place.

VOD navigation and campus exploration via 360° photography works best for nearly two-thirds of students.

When it comes to navigating your virtual tour, the majority of students prefer maps with 360° photography style navigation and exploration. Students want to get a feel for your campus, where parts of your university are physically located, and they trust 360s to provide an unbiased and authentic representation of what your campus is like. We’ve been capturing 360s at universities all the way through 2020 and into 2021, so if now feels like a good chance to get your general campus and subject specific facilities captured, we’re ready to go.

You NEED live chat, Q&A and student/tutor interaction

100% of students said that speaking to staff and students ‘one-to-one’ as part of a VOD was either “very important” or “quite important” – and the main reason by far was to “ask questions”.

Students want an opportunity to interact with tutors and other students as part of your virtual open day.

When we drilled down to why ‘live’ was important, we found that it’s about the live chat and having the opportunity to ask questions AND get them answered in real time. Students don’t want to rely on general, pre-prepared responses or information. Asking questions directly helps them to get a feel for your teaching staff, gain a variety of student perspectives and experiences, reduce anxiety and increase confidence.

Some clients we’ve spoken to have said their live chat feature is not as popular as other VOD features. And that’s OK. It may be that when a student attends your VOD they get their questions answered without having to proactively ask them (you are the experts afterall, so you’ll have a good idea of any themes in the things students want to know!) – but students won’t know that until they attend. So if an opportunity to ask questions is something that prospective students expect from a VOD, it’s something you’ve got to be offering.

Students don’t want it to end with your VOD

Students will still want to find out more about courses once they’ve explored your VOD – and as we’ve said already, they want to book onto a physical open day or online event.

With an account and their permission, students can sign up for events and Q&A sessions whilst universities can track sign-ups, content viewed, event attendance and more.

Action buttons are important; we’ve provided some insight into the likelihood of students clicking buttons if they had certain words on them in the webinar. Think about how you use action buttons on your VOD. They’re a great way for you to track ROI and direct applications – particularly for international and postgraduate students.

There’s more!

This is just a snippet of the insights we got from the research. The webinar goes into lots of detail that you’ll want to hear about. If you have any questions, comments or observations we’d love to hear from you.

Ready to step up your virtual open day game?

Higher education’s ultimate online university experience is already here – fully aligned with what students want and need from a virtual open day. Welcome to our new Virtual Experience Platform – our most advanced university virtual open day solution yet. Bringing your VT, VOD, rich media content and live events platform together into a powerful, memorable Virtual Experience for your future students.

Want to know more about our new Virtual Experience Platform?