This was the first year a joint open day could be held for all courses at Campus Flemingsberg. But as the corona crisis hit, six months’ preparation was on the line. However, digital solutions offered an alternative.
“Afterwards, we just felt ‘wow!’ We did so well under the circumstances,” says Jessica Karlén, project leader, Södertörn University.
Jessica Karlén, project leader, Södertörn University.
This year’s open day at Campus Flemingsberg was supposed to be special. All the colleges and universities in Flemingsberg had provided their own activities in which large numbers of students, teachers, and staff were involved. The date had been set for March 18th.
“But the closer we came to the date, the more recommendations that were issued by the Swedish Public Health Agency about measures to reduce the spread of the virus. So about a week before the event was supposed to have been held, we decided to cancel it. But we didn’t have any back-up plan in place,” says Jessica.
The right decision
It turned out to be the right decision because on March 17th the government recommended that all high schools, universities, and vocational colleges switch to remote teaching.
All teaching institutions were forced to adapt to the new reality with a record-fast shift to remote teaching. Tutors, staff, and students underwent a crash course in digitalization. However, Jessica did not want to abandon hope of a broad-based open day at Södertörn University. So she came up with the idea of a marathon live webcast.
“Our open house became a five-hour improvised live stream. And suddenly my experience from working in TV became really useful again.”
A chat room was set up using the simplest possible technology: a phone and a web camera that streamed live on Facebook and Instagram, which minimized the risk of technical problems. The five-hour program was packed with student ambassadors who interviewed each other about their courses and told their personal stories of how they came to university.
“Meanwhile, our study guides joined by Zoom and were on hand to answer questions asked by those who were watching. We also answered questions in the studio that were submitted in the comment field of the chat and email. There was a great atmosphere and we managed to reach around 10,000 people during the day,” says Jessica.
The broadcast included a tour of the university and an impromptu visit to the police training college’s director of studies.
“Afterwards, I thought there’s no way anyone could do a five-hour live broadcast without extensive preparation. But we did it. And other universities have got in touch since to find out how we did it.”
Five-hour long chat session
Karolinska Institutet chose to set up a dedicated website for the digital open day. At the same time, they prepared two study and career coaches, Jeanette Söderberg Norland and Eva Feron, to answer questions during a five-hour long chat session linked to the site.
“It was the first time we had used a chat function,” says Jeanette.
The site was packed with inspirational lectures, education information, course details from students, and recorded tours of campus. And during the day, around 150 people asked questions on the chat.
“We sometimes had three to four people in the chat at the same time, but it worked well. Although you can’t beat meeting in person, lots of people had their questions answered and that was the most important thing in the circumstances,” says Jeanette.
In fact, it went so well that the chat was reopened for two days in the run-up to the deadline for applications.
“We’ll continue with this as and when we need to. Lots of people are being forced to learn new ways of working that in future may complement the old ways of doing things. Which is great in the long-run,” says Jeanette.
New hope for next year
The hope is that next year will see the first joint open house on Campus Flemingsberg. Being able to visit the campus does offer experiences that are hard to create digitally and lead to more personal conversations, explains Jessica.
“But perhaps we can combine the physical and digital in some way.”
A screenshot from the marathon live webcast on Facebook and Instagram from Södertörn University.