Why Virtual Admissions is More Than a Virtual Tour
Distance learning is the new norm of international education. Likewise, admissions offices around the world have been forced to set up remote services to families who might still be looking to choose a school for their children next year.
Back in the day when we actually travelled to work, we marvelled at the wonder of technology to bring fully immersive experiences of our campuses. Even if we didn’t go for 360 or the latest VR, we proudly filled our websites with images that showcased our sports and arts facilities, tree-lined paths, and glass walls.
We believed and encouraged prospective families to believe that if we had the best buildings, the most stunning views, and the latest technology, we were a truly great learning community.
The truth, though, was that it was rather like me selling you a car on the basis that it happens to be a nice colour and offers a bluetooth connection to your phone. Not that these things are bad reasons to buy a car, it’s just there may be other factors you might want to consider.
Two weeks since we closed our campus here in Brussels, the reality of virtual admissions - somewhat like distance learning - is not everything we imagined it was going to be. We feel awkward celebrating the facilities that, for now at least, lie silent behind locked gates. We fight for bandwidth with other members of our family, leading to disjointed conversations over Zoom or Skype. We manage our own children in confined spaces who are not always respectful of “office hours”. And then, on top of it all, we find ourselves facing inevitable personal anxiety and push away that little voice inside our heads that is asking What will become of us all?
The point is that, as we find ourselves stripped of our usual admissions toolkit, this might be an opportunity to focus on those other factors: What do we truly value as a learning community? What is our vision for the future of learning? How do good teachers accompany students on their personal learning journey? And how do we know our students eventually grow up to become happy, successful and ethical? Maybe this is a time to finally answer the questions that really matter as parents look to make an informed decision on behalf of their children.
More than anything we say or show, however, the most transformative virtual admissions experience in the coming weeks will surely be one in which we listen, rather than speak; give space to ask questions rather than give answers; offer support rather than try to sell.
This really is a time for virtual admissions to become unprecedented expressions of institutional kindness.
And if we take this opportunity, we will leave a truly lasting impression.