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Durham University

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Virtual Freshers' Fair attracts almost half of DU students

(23 October 2020)

We’ve now completed Wave 2 of our Office 365 Engagement and Enablement project and we’re moving onto supporting the Faculties and students during Wave 3. Find out more about the work we did with Experience Durham, the Students’ Union and our Colleges in launching the University’s first online Freshers' Fair that attracted over 8k unique visitors and 28,000 sign-ups, and the plans for students in Wave 3.

Wave 2 was focused on supporting Colleges, Experience Durham and the Students’ Union to get ready for welcoming students digitally. We also completed our support for a small number of PSS departments who had been paused due to the priority to support the July Open Days during Wave 1.

But by far, one of the biggest achievements of this wave, was the launch of our very first Virtual Freshers' Fair.

Usually held over two days in the Students’ Union and Elvet Riverside, over 300 University clubs, societies and student groups came together to welcome students to Durham and show them what’s on offer.

Due to the current circumstances, we were forced to move this online and using Microsoft Forms, Teams and SharePoint we created an online Fresher’s Fair experience. This was populated and staffed by clubs and societies so that interested students were able to find out more regarding what was on offer and they could ask questions or have a conversation using Teams Meetings and Chat.

We are delighted that the SharePoint site proved to be a huge success. It was visited over 282,000 times by almost 8,000 students – that’s almost one in every two students attending the fair.

We also developed the Inspire Me! Power App to suggest clubs and societies at random, this attracted over 10,000 views.

The success of the Freshers' Fair was highly commended by the Experience Durham team who facilitated this event.

Phill Hancock, Experience Durham Manager said, “The support from the O365 project team was fantastic. They were tenacious in working with us to build a solution that would engage with our new students at this difficult time. And the outcome was a great success”.

Senior Programme Manager, Lynsey Finnemore was also glowing in her praise of the team, “We’ve never done a virtual fair before and it took a huge amount of work from the Experience Durham team and the Office 365 team, but we pulled it off and the results speak for themselves.

I’m thrilled at the way the students from all year groups got involved in this fair, and now we have the skills to set it up, we can continue to develop it further and there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do it like this every year. I would like to add my personal thanks to everyone involved in the project.”

Plans for Wave 3:

We have now started Wave 3 and our focus for this wave is to work with students to improve their skills on Office 365, as well as start to do some of the foundation work for the Faculties.

For students, this wave will include launching a “My Digital Skills” platform that will complement the “My Digital Durham” programme. Working closely with DCAD, Careers & Enterprise, Student Support & Wellbeing, Experience Durham and the Students’ Union, content will be developed across x 4 themes onto an accessible hub page.

For the Faculties, we will be using the next 12 weeks to do some fact finding and understand the needs the Faculties have. Of course, if there are any opportunities to put some of this work into practice quickly, we will do that too.

We are also welcoming anyone who is interested in learning more about Office 365 to come forward now and be part of our Digital Champions programme. Even if we don’t get to your team until next year, you will find it useful to be part of the programme and start learning about how Office 365 can support you and your colleagues.

To find out more and sign up today, take a look at our Durham Digital Champions page.

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