About the HU
HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht (the HU) is one of the largest universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands. The HU hosts over 35,000 students from 125 countries, all with diverse languages and backgrounds. The individuals who partake in their educational programming and practice-oriented research, in partnership with governments, companies, and other institutions, make a significant impact on the region and society.
Traditionally, the HU hosts thousands of prospective students on campus during their Open Days and Open Evenings events. Designed to give a preview of campus life and community, individuals learn about entry requirements and program course content directly from professors and students. A meet-and-greet and a tour of the amazing campus and facilities follow, making these events extremely for prospective students deciding on a program and career path.
A Fast Transition to Virtual to Keep Everyone Safe
When campuses closed in March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, administration and professors worked very quickly to move courses and research online for current students while continuing to work in accordance with RIVM guidelines. However, Admissions teams were unable to host in-person open days and evenings on campus, eliminating one of the most crucial steps in the admissions journey. The team knew they needed to offer these virtually for prospective students to get the information necessary to make important decisions on attending the HU in the upcoming 2020 and 2021 semesters.
The good news was Blackthorn Events had just released an MVP update to help customers create and manage virtual events using Salesforce through their events app. The team, already using Blackthorn, could now create events that connect guests seamlessly to a zoom meeting (similar to the experience one gets when registering for a standard webinar) through a unique, unshareable attendee link. The most important part, which they already were benefiting from with their in-person events, was using Blackthorn's Salesforce-native registration forms to automatically create attendee records relating to new leads or existing contacts.
After working with the CobraCRM team – their long-time trusted Salesforce Implementation partner – to update and test Blackthorn's update package, the admissions team went to work creating their virtual events.
Importance on Engagement: Adapting To an Online Audience
The HU’s on-campus Open Day and Open Evening event formats are similar to a one-day “conference” for prospective students and their families. The team knew this multi-hour format was going to be tough to keep a virtual audience engaged; Teens and adults are dealing with competing distractions from home, social media, and other life events.
Because of this, the HU created a “series” of shorter, 30-minute to 1-hour virtual sessions, morphing the content covered during one Open Day event into over 200 targeted online events. Each session covers specific programs or topics that students typically learn about in-person. More importantly, they’re able to chat directly with the people most interested in talking with, and in a format that helped create engagement through different communication styles.
- Prospective students starting to explore the HU. An online “Open Day” and “Open Evening” Session lets individuals watch presentations live and learn everything about the HU and programs offered. Most individuals are just looking for basic information and aren’t ready to talk to someone. If an attendee has a question during the presentation, they are told at the beginning to feel free to ask in the chat window.
- Prospective students who are further into the decision-making process. “Chat Hour or Question Time” sessions work great for individuals who are likely going to the HU but are still considering programs and specific questions. In this hour, students get the answers to all of their questions from teachers and current students.
- Prospective students that want to experience the feeling of studying. “Orientation Day or Online Trial Study” lets prospective students shadow a student for a day by allowing them to join a live class during a lecture or project and chat with other students and teachers.
Making The Connection
The best part of the HU’s Open Day and Open Evening events for prospective students was the opportunity to meet the people they’d be spending time with in the future or talk with others who graduated from the HU and are now working in their potential career. It was important to the admissions and marketing teams to allow an open and interactive format identical to the in-person events, where professors, students, and even alumni to connect with students interested in attending the HU.
HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht helped over 9,000 attendees connect to their campus community through over 400 virtual sessions. A key finding to the admissions teams’ success was prospective students who normally couldn’t participate in on-campus admissions events due to lengthy travel issues now had the opportunity to get a similar, engaging campus experience online, from the safety and comfort of their home.
The virtual format increased the HU’s applicant pool for the upcoming semesters, proving that the Online Open Days admissions event format is here to stay.