SpringloadMassey Virtual Open Days 2020
Submission # 125
Digital Design – Toi Matihiko
Impact – Reach / Results / ROI
Wildcard – Unique Projects
Massey University asked us to help them create a live digital event for their September 2020 Open Days, when they invite prospective students and their whānau to visit and explore the university. Due to Covid-19, Massey decided to do an exclusively digital event, so that they could assure it would be able to go ahead despite any lockdowns, and so international students who couldn’t travel to NZ could also attend.
Massey’s goals for Virtual Open Days were to:
1) Produce a multi-day live event experience, exclusively online, that showcases the university, their many campuses and study options
2) Produce a digital platform and design that could be utilised again in the future for digital events, that has interactive functionality including live chats, polls, and Q&As, and registration and ticketing
3) Communicate effectively to their target audiences
4) Encourage pre-event registration and event attendance.
Massey had research that showed 32% of students said their experience of university open days were an important factor in their decision to attend a particular university. So Massey knew the event was important not just for student acquisition, but also for making students feel welcome and excited. The virtual online event needed to be as fun and engaging as the real, physical event usually is.
Massey has the largest proportion of international students of any New Zealand university, and they expected students to tune into Virtual Open Days from all over the world, in addition to thousands of New Zealand students.
Choosing a university is a big decision, a life-changing journey. The university students choose will become their new home. We wanted to encourage prospective students to come to Massey by creating a genuinely welcoming digital atmosphere that was well-organised, showed manaaki, and by built whanaungatanga — connection and community — between the prospective students, their families, and the university. In 2020 having a great event felt especially important for keeping students inspired and hopeful for their futures, and for showing them that study and university education is still possible, even during a global pandemic.
In the past at physical in-person open days, attendees naturally “pick their own paths” throughout the day. Virtual Open Days intended to create that same independence in a digital experience by providing a well-designed user experience that allowed people to participate in whatever way they wanted, however much they wanted — whether that was watching a couple of livestream information sessions, having a live chat with a current student or lecturer, or winning a virtual prize pack.
We also needed to provide information about all aspects of university life in a clear way that didn’t overwhelm, so students could make informed decisions. We intended to ignite excitement and confidence, and make students dream big about what they could study, and their future could look like.
It was also important to show Massey’s te ao Māori values, and present Massey as proudly bicultural. Virtual Open Days was an opportunity to showcase these values through design and user experience.
This project was innovative and unique for Massey, and was successful. When we started designing at the beginning of Level 4 lockdown in 2020, there were only a handful of examples of similar events from around the world.
We designed and built a new website, with an embedded livestream video of presentations. We made sure the technologies used were accessible from anywhere in the world. We embedded pre-recorded videos showcasing features of the campuses, like accommodation, and a live chat section that integrated The Access Platform (TAP) software, where attendees could chat live with current students and staff. To keep some of the fun of attending a real open day, we made a Digital Goodie Bag. Throughout the livestream sessions, codes were released that attendees could use to claim vouchers, and go in the draw to win a prize pack.
Prospective students can feel overwhelmed with choice, so we created a clutter-free visual design. We used Massey’s signature brand colours blue and gold, and introduced black and white. We gave the site a background pattern, giving it depth and texture, and making it feel more like a real, immersive experience. We displayed key pieces of content in English and te reo Māori, showing Massey’s commitment to te ao Māori.
The virtual event was a success, with over 3,000 attendees signed in across over 200 cities around the world, over the two days. Massey has continued to use the platform for other events.
"This project is a good example of great innovation out of necessity. It's clear that the many aspects of open days were considered in the brief of this project. It's clear when this was being built as a functional site that can be used post Covid, that past, present and future were well considered in the design approach.
Although this was created in an uncertain time, where New Zealand designers had to adapt. We shouldn't forget the good that has come out of this adaption. It's important to keep challenging how something can be done differently."
"An excellent response and tool created from the limitations of covid."
Credits & Collaborators: Designer - Ben Wright Creative Director - Dan Newman Design Director - Lauren Skogstad Developer - Emilia Zapata, Liam Johnson, Matt Bilson Blank - Jonny Doig (Project manager), Kanhika Nikam (Experience designer)
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