How to run a virtual Fresher’s week

Posted by Reza Mosavian

Due to the impact of COVID-19, large-scale events as we once knew them are a thing of the past. We recognise this will have a major impact on university freshers week 2020, with the typical fun-loving, drink-fuelled week now overpowered by institutions striving to follow the guidelines when it comes to meeting government social distancing restrictions.

All events organisers across the country have been faced with the uncertainty of planning a large-scale event in light of Covid-19 . We recognise that a lot of institutions will need to place the health and wellbeing of student membership as the number one priority when planning an event on this scale and complete comprehensive risk assessments to ensure the safety of thousands of attendees, stallholders and commercial exhibitors. We also recognise that all organisations are receiving a lot of questions about the events and it is great to see so many of you looking ahead to the next academic year.  

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However, if starting a new experience at a new university in a new location wasn’t bad enough, the student body now have added anxiety and uncertainty about what their first experience of university may be, and how it compares with what they expected it to be. They are crying out for clarity, information and any means of finding this information, along with any opportunity to build relationships before the start of the term.  

We recognise that institutions are under a lot of pressure to deliver, and with recent findings in our i-graduate barometer survey stating that 1 in 4 students are not satisfied with their institution’s communication during the pandemic, at Tribal we have delved into how institutions can meet the expectations of students this September, and provide a memorable Freshers’ week experience for 2020 for all the right reasons.


Ten tips for organising a virtual freshers week 


1. 'Bubbles'

If you are running a socially distanced freshers' week, consider ‘social bubbles’. Don't just apply this approach to physical settings, make sure it is followed through into the digital space. This should help alleviate the need for physical gatherings and allow individuals to continue socialising and building up relationship from anywhere, any time.

2. Maintain timely updates

Consider targeted or mass messaging to ensure all those effected are aware before they have the chance to ask the question. You can pre-plan, schedule or push out adhoc messaging to ensure clarity is provided and engagement is at a high.

3. Provide a structure

We all like structure. Consider providing a platform in which a separation between personal ‘social’ and ‘academic’ channels is seamless. This way students will have a clear understanding of when they should take note and also not worry about information getting lost amongst their other day to day activities.

4. Collaborate with organisations

The organisations you would have typically engaged with, will be feeling and sharing the same levels of stress and curiosity as you. Given the unprecedented time we all face, they will also be seeking new ways of working which can promote, enhance and continue their services. Consider pitching your new ways of working with the technologies you have to hand which can work in everyone’s favour, most importantly the students. Who knows, you may be able to continue that method throughout the whole year, where as previously, you would have been bound to 2 weeks of freshers – why not at a premium too!   

5. Avoid students blurring the lines

As students are crying out for access to information, try and be ahead of the game. Avoid accounts being set up by students on other social channels which are out of your control. This will help protect the users, content, misinformation, and your brand.

6. Ensure promotion of key services

Every year, we try to make sure that all of the fantastic key services are made available to students. For example if students become overwhelmed, stressed and or anxious, they know exactly where and how they can seek information, advice and guidance.  Have solutions and platforms in place which does not allow for this crucial service to get lost or forgotten. 

7. Don't reinvent the wheel

Even if you're planning a freshers week during coronavirus, you can still plan for drop-in sessions and promote those fantastic societies. Simply plan to convert these into online sessions. The important aspect will now be down to the promotion and awareness and in some ways could be easier, if you have the right means of doing so. You can encourage students to digitally drop in at some taster sessions and join societies to boost your social life and have some extracurricular fun, beyond the campus.

8. Provide a Freshers' Week 'Survival Guide'

Given the present circumstances, students will not only be feeling anxious about university life in general, but the added pressures of not knowing how the ‘new normal’ will effect practices and experiences will be an unwelcomed element to their preconceived views and thoughts.  

9. Theme your mass messaging

It will be helpful to all students to get adhoc updates from the university in the first opening weeks of the year. Consider having messages which can apply to all. Some of these could include ‘Before you arrive at Campus’, ‘Making Friends’, ‘Freshers week and beyond’, ‘Be sensible with money’, ‘Eat well’, ‘Staying safe’, ‘Make the most of student services’.

10. Merchandise

And finally, an exciting part to a lot of the student base will be something which they will probably be “gutted” about… Where can I buy my hoodie! Don’t forget to promote the opportunity for students to take more pride!  

For further support in welcoming your students this September and during Uni Freshers Week 2020 join our webinar: Engage for Education – Supporting Virtual Freshers

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