Welcome to the future: Virtual open days

The University of  Sheffield is pioneering a scheme that could save students many hours and more pounds of travel to prospective universities

Thanks to the University of Sheffield’s latest online scheme, prospective students need no longer worry about the troublesome – not to mention pricey – task of attending university open days.

This ingenious idea will allow both overseas and UK based prospective students alike to view information and virtual tours for the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Although in its infancy, the scheme will most probably be extended to other departments, provided it proves successful amongst this year’s crop of university window shoppers.

Based on a specification given by the university’s website, the interactive open day allows students to engage with academics through a series of live web chats, ‘walk’ the corridors of one of the university’s main buildings, while also providing any information related to the course itself.

With regards to the building tour, the university has produced a series of pioneering panoramic internal Google Street View images. So accurate are these images that prospective students will even be able to read the title of a book on a shelf.

According to Professor Paul White, the pro-vice-chancellor for learning and teaching, this revolutionary scheme should 'allow more people than ever before to experience the university as well as allowing them to revisit the campus as often as they like'.

For years now, university open days have long been the bane of prospective students. Not only do students have to fit each open day’s awkwardly planned date around their current further education studies, they also need to arrange a mode of transport to get to each venue.

Of course, every prospective student is in the same boat, but if a student travels from, say, Carlisle to Exeter, then the day of travelling can prove to be both exhausting and expensive. Although this new scheme is designed to be utilised simultaneously alongside the range of open days that the university already offers, it should, with any such luck, go to some length to eradicate this age-old issue.