At our connect2 academic user groups in early July, customers were enthusiastic to share experiences on how open days could be structured to best effect when enticing students to apply for media-related courses. With planning for undergraduate open days set to ramp up again in a few weeks’ time, we’re sharing the collective wisdom gained from the raft of open days staged and supported.
Of course, open days remain incredibly important as universities look to maintain or increase student numbers, especially with some institutions seeing declines in some media subjects. We should mention that such dips are often offset with increased admissions in those disciplines riding a current wave of popularity, for example, courses that build digital media skills in VR and gaming technologies are certainly getting a lot of interest at present.
Even still, the pressure is definitely on to make the most of any open day opportunity. Universities want to demonstrate how they provide the best prospects for starting a creative industries career and they can really get their message across to an open day audience.
For media subjects, the equipment available for use is often a key part of the syllabus, with many courses having a highly practical element. Open days are immensely important as prospective students are unlikely to fully appreciate what a university’s equipment and studios represent both in monetary value and the skills development supported. While a glossy prospectus and website can cover this to some degree, it’s only by seeing and, where feasible, handling the equipment that prospective students begin to appreciate just how impressive the kit really is!
Some institutions’ media technicians display equipment examples on an exhibition stand as part of an open day. We’re pleased to hear from our customers that their connect2 booking systems are also often showcased, to demonstrate how easy it is for students to access resources, and the range on offer. Seeing a display of resources, such as DSLR and GoPro cameras, either in person or online, is a good start. However many students – and their parents – are going to be more easily won over if they also get to see industry-standard equipment in use in a studio setting. After all, it’s bound to be more captivating when seen in action and in context. At the same time, point out the price tag of an Arri Alexa digital cinema camera, and few would fail to be impressed by a university’s investment! Not least, this helps conclude the quandary of whether the tuition fees are justified – a judgement being weighed up by most attending any open day.
Of course it’s not only about the equipment. Many prospective students are attracted to a media career by the creative processes involved and where they might fit in. As one of our connect2 customers pointed out: “The tool doesn’t make the masterpiece, the craftsman does.” By demonstrating how undergraduates get the opportunity to work on projects (many that have life beyond the classroom and sometimes for real-world clients), the concept of the course is brought to life. Using the equipment as part of a practical workshop gives prospective students a taste of how they might hone their skills using the equipment on offer as the vital tools. Workshops that recreate the experience of a live programme production, including sound engineers, camera operators and broadcasters (think Question Time or The One Show!) will certainly make the right impression.
Some institutions may struggle with working out how best to keep prospective students engaged when they visit the same department more than once, for example during a post-application day following an initial open day. One thing’s for sure – if you’re short on ideas on what to include, ask your technical teams for their input! After all, they’re very much incentivised to make open days successful.
Each new student secured on their courses means there’s more creative talent to engage and possibly more funding for better kit. And technicians know how to showcase an institution’s facilities to best effect while getting prospective students to continue interacting from one event to the next. The right activities and workshops ensure prospective students begin learning from the start, and that they remain enthusiastic to further their knowledge and skills at the university that first won their interest.