Bard College is known for its 160-year old history as a competitive and innovative undergraduate institution. Over the years, the College has expanded its programming to include high school early college institutions, the largest college degree granting prison education initiative in the United States and multiple international campuses and partnerships. Bard’s growing network is designed to offer high caliber liberal arts education to students all over the world because this kind of education can and should be available to all.
COVID-19 struck the United States approximately three weeks before Bard’s annual Open House for Accepted Students. The College was forced to reconsider in-person learning, student activities and important Admission events like this within a matter of days in March 2020. The Office of Admission immediately started to convert their in-person event into a virtual one to accommodate social distancing and prioritize public health and safety.
The situation required the Office of Admission to search for a virtual platform that would allow them to accurately showcase the opportunities Bard College has to offer and create spaces for students and their families to ask questions of faculty, staff and current students.
With a very strict timeline in place and extremely specific needs, vFairs developed a strategy to enable Bard College to set up an event without having to make any compromises on their schedule or content.
Let’s go ahead and see how this was executed.
1. Branded Landing Page
First things first – Bard College created an informative landing page for students and their families to log in and access all the details they needed in order to understand what the event had to offer. Most of the attendees had never experienced a virtual event before so clear instruction was crucial for this audience. Consequently, the characteristics of the landing page included:
- A simple login set up. Students could login simply by using their email address (no password required) in order to avoid any last minute confusion.
- A brief introduction by Mackie Siebens, Director of Admission. This introduction welcomed students and their families to the Virtual Open House for Accepted Students and outlined the features and activities that would be available throughout the day as well as the features that would remain accessible to students for the following 30 days.
- This was followed by a video from the President of Bard College to excite and inspire the event’s attendees.
- A schedule of the event was also available and listed all the various sessions and their start times to make sure that remote audiences could align their day accordingly.
- A directory of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) to provide attendees with further clarity with respect to event login instructions and what to expect throughout the day.
2. Visually Impressive Depiction of the Entire Campus
With the aim to welcome students to campus and provide them with a sense of place, the first page of the virtual platform was an aerial view of the entire campus. Moreover, in addition to the schedule of events, Bard College opted to provide the audience with pinned locations on the campus map, which allowed attendees to travel from event to event by clicking on specific buildings and facilities on the map as if walking from session to session in-person.
3. Opening the Virtual Open House with a Welcome Note
Bard College wanted to make sure they provided students and their families with an experience that was nothing less than that of an in-person event. Therefore, the Virtual Open House kicked off with a welcome note by Mackie Siebens herself, as well as Leon Botstein, Bard College President.
4. Info Booths to Access Various Courses
The virtual open house gave Bard College a number of opportunities that they would not have otherwise experienced. This included:
- An extension the period of time that event information was available to students and their families since the event was available for attendees to browse for 30 days after the live events finished on April 4, 2020
- The ability to offer content, including videos, podcasts, and brochures to more students
- Provide eco-friendly material, resulting in zero waste production
5. Live Chat to Maximize Interactions at the Virtual Open House
The very first concern usually associated with virtual events is the loss of human interaction. In reality, the reverse is often the issue. Bard College offered a LIVE chat feature at each booth where new students could interact with faculty, staff and current Bard students. This included private 1:1 conversations with a Bard representative as well as group chats in the available chat rooms.
6. Live Webinars to Address Attendees
A virtual auditorium was created to host live webinars and address the audiences collectively. The timings of each session were provided prior to the event on the landing page, as well as inside the auditorium, to keep the remote audience informed.
7. Campus Tour Video
Bard uploaded its video tour of the campus to the virtual platform to help students picture themselves on campus as if visiting it in person.
8. Campus Gallery to View Various Locations
When they say an “open house”, they mean an open house. Bard College made sure their audience did not feel shut out of spaces they would have been able to explore in-person. 360 images allowed families to explore the interiors of residence halls and student rooms, a range of facilities as well as wonderful views and outdoor spaces.
9. Resources made available to Access and Download
Just as students never come back empty handed from an open house, a virtual open house was no different. A Virtual Shop as well as a Video Vault were set up to make content available for students, either by viewing them on the spot or by saving forms for later.
Students could add these in something known as a shopping bag and could email chosen files to themselves for later.
In terms of global outreach, Bard College benefited from hosting a Virtual Open House in a way that was not possible with a physical event since travel usually makes it difficult for all students to participate in on-campus events. Therefore, they experienced a higher number of visitors as compared to previously hosted in-person events.
Moreover, the diversity of interactions and materials they were able to leverage – live chat, live webinars, printable documents, podcasts, videos, voice recordings, and much more, made the platform accessible and in addition, made it much easier for students and their families to get a full picture of Bard College.
In a nutshell, what initially seemed like a challenge amid a pandemic, turned out to be a successful experience, not just for the Bard Community but also for those entering the remarkable institution.
At vFairs.com, we strive to build a top-class online event platform that will help event organizers make memorable connections with their target audience. We’re obsessed with taking out the hassle normally associated with physical events and leaving organizers and exhibitors to focus on what’s most important: engagement with the audience.
Get in touch with an expert to learn more about vFairs here.