Virtual Open Days – Better than the real thing?

Jul 22, 2017, by Jemma

With technology developing faster than the speed of light, universities are investing more in virtual open days. They’re a long way off from matching the experience of the real thing, but there will be real benefits of each, especially for international students who can’t visit campus before they arrive, or when there are too many open days happening at the same time that you can’t visit them all.

What is a Virtual Open Day?

A virtual open day is pretty much what it sounds like. Along with events on campus, many universities now hold open days online, that can be “attended” from the comfort of your own home. These online open days might involve videos, presentations, and virtual tours, as well as live web chats with members of staff and university students.

All the usual topics that you’ll find discussed at real life open days are also explored in an online, virtual open day. You can learn about everything from funding, through to accommodation, and applying, along with exploring your various study options, at both undergraduate, and postgraduate level.

Some universities offer more literal “tours” where you can virtually walk around campus and see the facilities, but the most important and distinctive part of virtual open days are the live events. Online chat events are often organised around specific subjects, and at these you'll be given the opportunity to ask university staff and current students any questions you might have. They may be in video format, so you can see the people you’re talking to, or they might take the form of a  chat room type service, where you can see lots of different people’s questions.

The benefits of attending a university open day on your computer are fairly obvious. For a start, you don't have to face the inconvenience of leaving your house. In all seriousness though, virtual open days are great for students who aren't able to attend regular open day events, perhaps because they are out of the country, or because they're busy with summer jobs.

From the university's perspective, virtual open days allow them to connect with prospective applicants on a much wider scale, particularly international students who can't always afford to fly around visiting universities. 

The Limits of the Online Open Day

But virtual open days also have their own set of drawbacks. Virtual reality technology is nowhere near the stage where it can beat the feeling of physically being somewhere. Exploring a campus in person will provide you with a much more reliable sense of a university's atmosphere, and a better idea of what it would be like to study there. Going to an open day in person will allow you to meet more people, other than those who have joined online chat sessions at virtual open days.

You also won't be able to explore the area around campus as easily, and in big cities like London, or even in small towns, the surrounding environment is a large part of university life.

In summary, if you're planning on studying on campus, it's best to visit the campus too. But if you can't make your university open day, virtual open days are getting increasingly more sophisticated, and are a fantastic alternative if you can't make the real thing.