Nicola Breeze, Events Officer at Edge Hill University, shares how the University has approached returning to running in-person Open Days, in a safe and Covid-secure way.
In March this year, after a year of delivering our Open Days, Applicant Visit Days and outreach activity virtually, we started to discuss plans for our June Open Day.
We knew we were unable to run an Open Day in the ‘normal way’ but we also felt it was important to get back to being able to give prospective students the opportunity to visit in-person and find out more about everything we offer at Edge Hill University (in a safe and Covid-secure way).
With this in mind, we decided to run a hybrid event in June with prospective students being given the opportunity to access subject content and information online, and tours of the campus and facilities in-person.
The in-person, on campus element ran on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th June, with each day having a strict capacity limit.
Visitors booked a particular timeslot (at 45-minute intervals), and all attendees followed the same programme, in the same order, to ensure that flow across campus was effectively managed. The programme consisted of a welcome talk, a student experience fair, one-to-one Q&As with academic departments/tours of academic buildings and a campus tour meaning that each visitor was on campus for a total of three hours. We used a text alert system to prompt visitors to move onto the next part of their programme.
Subject Talks in classrooms and lecture theatres did not take place during the event. Instead attendees were sent links to pre-recorded presentations available via our on Virtual Open Day platform to give them pre-arrival information about their programme(s) of choice.
We worked closely with colleagues in Facilities Management, in particular the Operational Risk and Environment Manager to ensure that all aspects of the event operated within the appropriate social distancing requirements and adhered to the latest government guidelines.
As with all our events the Open Day was thoroughly risk assessed and we took measures to control any risks.
These measures included registration taking place outside in a marquee, asking visitors to take two lateral flow tests prior to the event, and to not travel if they felt at all unwell. On arrival, visitors were asked to sign in using the NHS Covid app, or to confirm their contact details with us for the purposes of track and trace.
We also requested visitors wear face coverings (unless medically exempt) and maintain social distancing. Hygiene, cleaning and ventilation were also important control measures. Visitors were asked to bring no more than two guests and each group were given a different coloured wristband to identify their time slot.
Members of the student recruitment team and current students staffed helpdesks in each building and acted as marshalls, directing and managing the flow of visitors.
Our campus tour departure points were set up in marquees outside.
In terms of the rooms we used, seating areas were set up in a socially distanced format. In our Student Experience Fair, we used clear Perspex screens on our podiums to make it safer for staff to have conversations.
Alongside the in-person Campus Experience events we also offered a series of virtual live chats for each subject area and a number of support services in late afternoon/early evening slots the following week to enable anyone who wasn’t able to attend, or didn’t wish to attend in-person, to still ask their questions.
The coordination of the events was challenging at times due to the number of factors we had to consider running a COVID secure event, and due to the fact, we were organising the in-person event alongside a virtual offer. Support from academic and support services staff and our current students was key to ensuring these events were successful.
We had a significant amount of positive feedback from visitors saying how much they valued being able to visit, and it was extremely positive to see students and their supporters back on campus.
Plans are now well underway for our August Open Day and we will be running this event in person. Although national COVID restrictions have recently been lifted, this event will still be managed very carefully and there will be measures in place to ensure staff and visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience on campus.