How to Make the Most of a Virtual Open Day


With normal service suspended for the time being, many higher education institutions (HEIs) are shifting their planned open days online. This isn’t a new format, as many institutions have been offering these as part of their re- cruitment programme for a number of years. They can prove useful even under normal circumstances, particularly as face-to-face open days for different institutions often clash and the cost of travel can be prohibitive for some.

How Does an Online Open Day Work?

Virtual open days are usually held on specific dates throughout the year and learners will generally need to register for these by providing some basic information, as they might with a physical open day. UCAS has a handy directory of open days, physical and virtual, which can save you from trawling through multiple institutions’ websites to find dates and times.

A virtual open day in this format will often have a schedule of events, with talks throughout the day on specific subjects as well as more general topics such as student finance or campus life. Attendees are free to dip in and out of these at their leisure.

While many virtual open days are dates for the diary, some universities make them available 365 days a year. Take this example from Birmingham City University; learners can type in their preferred subject or area of study, and the website will direct them to tailored content, allowing them to meet tutors and further explore the course and facilities.

What Are My Other Options?

Lots of institutions across the country offer virtual tours of their campuses and facilities; these can be accessed at any time and UCAS has compiled a helpful list of these.

A number of HEIs are using advances in new technology to allow prospective students to explore their campuses through virtual reality. Oxford Brookes University, for example, has developed an app that learners can use with a VR headset, such as Google Cardboard, and explore over 45 locations around the university in 360 degrees.

Many HEIs make use of Unibuddy, which enables learners to chat online to current university students. This can be accessed through the UCAS website, or through individual institution website widgets (such as this example from the University of Leicester). Many institutions also host their own instant-messenging service, where you can talk to either current students or admissions staff.

When travel restrictions are lifted, learners can always visit a HEI in person at a time that suits them. There may be limited opportunities to meet current students and staff, but they may be able to explore the campus and the local area at their own pace, without rushing from talk to talk. Some institutions, such as the University of East Anglia, actively encourage this and have even created their own resources for self-guided tours.

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