Thursday, November 6, 2008 | Category: Field Reports
Canada’s first virtual university fair was staged online on Thursday November 6, 2008 by the Globe & Mail, and Academica Group’s Ken Steele was there to check out the exhibits, the traffic, and the webinars. This is his “field report”…
Of course, Maclean’s staged an online college/university fair last month, but the Globe has been planning theirs longer, as I understand it, so we’ll let them keep the title of first “Virtual University Fair” (since there were no colleges). The interface is much slicker, and appears to be run entirely off the GlobeCampus.ca website, whereas the Maclean’s technology was clearly outsourced and repurposed from a more generic commercial trade show platform.
But that being said, I was disappointed by how “quiet” the Globe Fair seemed when I popped in to visit this morning. The opening shot of the lobby was impressive, with moving pedestrians and links to a variety of features, plus the audio-visual treat of the York University TV spots playing in the corner. (York University was a major sponsor of the event, with posters throughout the exhibit hall, TV spots in the lobby, and pride of place at the beginning of the exhibit row.)
But once on the exhibit hall floor, there were NO people — the booth counters were completely lifeless, whereas at least the Maclean’s booths had little avatars representing people you could chat with, and allowed you to create your own avatar as well. At the GC Fair it was also very difficult to tell at a glance whether others were at the booth with you, or were chatting with the reps, except for the “chat room” function. Although admittedly my visit was late morning, the consensus among the exhibitors I “spoke” to was that traffic was a bit slow. Apparently more than 2,000 students registered for the Fair, but during the morning hours, at least, few of them were showing up. At many booths, no rep was available for chat — perhaps it was lunchtime, but I was a little disappointed. Everyone was expecting the students to turn up by late afternoon, and the show itself ran until midnight in Atlantic Canada timezones. Unfortunately, I couldn’t check back later…
In all, there were 15 Canadian universities exhibiting at the Fair — Acadia, Brescia, Carleton, Concordia, Dalhousie, Laurentian, McGill, St. Mary’s, St. Francis Xavier, Trent, Trinity Western, UOIT, UPEI, York, and UBC’s Sauder School of Business. A third of these schools (McGill, Brescia, Trinity Western, UPEI, and StFX) were also among the 14 universities at the Maclean’s Fair — kudos to them for trying both.
Individual booths appeared to offer a bit more variety in their appearance, with similar functions — video, documents for download, chat room, one-on-one chat with reps, and plenty of links to the institution’s website. (I have to admit, I am still struggling to understand why we should go to this much trouble — or why the students should register and navigate this exhibit hall — just to wind up back at your recruitment microsite. But I digress.)
Most of the exhibits contained links to institutional websites, virtual tours, or video microsites on their own webpage. Brescia’s booth featured a video monitor that led directly to a downloadable directory of documents (brochures, annual reports, and the like) that one could put into a satchel-like “My Stuff” for review later.
Acadia’s booth featured an easel with messaging specifically directed at parents — I didn’t notice this elsewhere, but was left wondering whether it was visible to everyone, or just to participants like me who identified themselves as a parent. Acadia’s witty and touching messages to parents included “It’s like when they went away to camp. Only for way more sleeps.” “You can give them the world. It even comes with a meal plan.” “You always hoped their baby steps would lead them here.” and “Helicopter Parents? You are cleared for takeoff.”
Dalhousie’s booth focused on visuals from their current recruitment campaign, with links to the video section of their website. Carleton’s booth prominently promoted their student bloggers, with a poster that linked back to the blog section of their website.
Perhaps because of its unique sponsorship status, York’s booth included the only live video, although UOIT, StFX, and UPEI also had 5-minute pop-up video running right off their booths.
UOIT’s video, a wordless slideshow set to pretty funky music, seems best suited to run behind the trade show booth, while discussion takes place in front of it:
UPEI’s video focuses on campus construction and renovation completed this summer:
Like the Maclean’s fair, the GlobeCampus fair offered scheduled presentations by a range of speakers, from Simon Beck on the University Report itself, to Elizabeth Church on enrolment trends and yours truly on careerism and student motivation. The presentations were typically 15 minutes or so, with IM questions to be answered at the conclusion.
If you missed the Virtual University Fair, it will remain online for several weeks at www.GlobeCampus.ca. Check it out, and share your experiences and observations below in the “comments” section!
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