Virtual Open Days for Schools

Virtual Open Days for Schools

Introduction

Amongst the many challenges facing schools at the moment is the question of how to introduce themselves to prospective students and their parents when open days, and similar events, are impractical due to social distancing. Here we will look at a potential solution for schools and colleges and walk you through some key points to consider in order to maximise the impact of online video content, and consider the resources you will need to create to make a success of a virtual event.

Solutions

Many schools we have been speaking to lately are looking into the concept of a ‘virtual open day’. The idea is that in the absence of face to face contact video can offer a solution and even some advantages in terms of being able to polish your presentation and condense an overview or tour of any academic institution into a much smaller time than would be possible at an in person event. To many the idea is just to create a video and post it to their website and social media channels. I feel that approach reperesents a missed opportunity in terms of maximising the benfit of online video content, and also disregards the manner in which we all consume video these days as part of a multimedia online experience. Video should not exist in a digital silo but should sit alongside other resources, perhaps as a gateway to them, maybe as a means to explore something further.

With social distancing making open events impossible the English Faculty at Iceni Academy made this video to introduce themselves to next September’s new intake.

I often challenge people to consider whether video is the right medium for their communication before they even begin, but I think in this case, and in the current environment, it should undoubtedly form some part of any virtual event as it is the most effective alternative to a face to face encounter.

To deliver an effective piece of short video you need a very clear sense of the message you want to convey, and who that message is aimed at. You should probably limit yourself to two or three key messages per video as video is great for creating engagement, and providing ‘broad brush strokes’ but too much detail can detract from your message and is probably better delivered elsewhere.

You should also consider how you want that message to leave your audience feeling; excited, motivated, reassured – should there be a ‘call to action’ at the end? Even if it is just contact details or a web address.

Which leads me on to how your online event will be delivered. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • It could just be a short introductory video which can be used on your website and across social media.
  • Alternatively you could look to produce a series of short videos which could be hosted on a page, or pages, dedicated to your virtual open evening on your website or as a special sub-site of your main web presence.
  • These videos could then be augmented with text and additional resources perhaps? PDF brochures to download, examples of work, links to policies, staff profiles and any other areas of the website which might be relevant.
  • Discrete videos could each be dedicated to a year group, an area of the curriculum or a Key Stage perhaps? Whatever seems natural and right for your school and event!
  • Those videos could then also be used across social media channels as you think best. A week of posts perhaps: ‘Today we are looking at Literacy/Numeracy/Key Stage__/Year__…’ etc.
  • In your enthusiasm to cover all these subject areas don’t forget that many parents will be most interested in the overall ethos of your school.
    • So a message from the leadership team giving an overview of the school and its aims and ethos.
    • Explain the policy and processes around bullying and E-Safety.
    • How does the school communicate with parents, both individually and en masse.
    • How you support a child who is particularly gifted in a certain area, or provide for those that are finding things challenging.

Professional Video or DIY?

A question that often comes up is whether you need to engage a professional video producer or if you can film and edit it yourself. It largely depends on what skills you have available amongst your staff, but remember this: your organisation is presenting itself to the world and you want to convey a professional image. Just as with printed media there are occasions when something produced in house is thoroughly appropriate, but if you were planning to print a prospectus or brochure you would probably look to engage a professional designer and printer.

There is of course a middle way! You could consider that you don’t necessarily need to make a stark choice between a professional video and attempting to film and edit yourselves. We refer to material captured by smart-phones etc. as ‘User Generated Content’ and it can be powerful as people instantly recognise it as ‘authentic’. I have created a separate blog post about user generated content and capturing good video on smart-phones and tablets which you might like to take a look at here.

A mixed approach, where some key elements are professionally produced: some interviews or staff speaking to camera maybe, so you can be confident of professional picture and sound quality for those ‘building blocks’ of the project, and you could supply some footage of the school and class activities to augment this: a particularly useful technique at a time of social distancing as it can minimise interactions. Your producer could then put this all together for you in a professional package with title graphics etc, and professionally edited. This obviously saves a bit of money in terms of time spent filming at the school, but saves you valuable time putting a video together and guarantees you a certain level of professional polish.

I hope that the above provides some food for thought and helps you develop your plans. I would, of course, be delighted to discuss this further so please feel free to leave a comment or contact me via our contact form and I will get back to you promptly.

Whether or not you get in touch I wish you good luck with your project!

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