What do students really think of virtual events?

Posted by Liz on 25 May 2021

Last year the early careers market went virtual - virtual events, virtual internships, virtual everything.

But what do students think about this transformation? We surveyed 1,600 students to understand their experiences of virtual events, and find out if they think the future is virtual.

Here are four key trends we’ve pieced together from the survey results...

Trend #1 Virtual events are less intimidating/pressured

We asked students what they liked most about the virtual events and webinars they attended with employers, and 48% of them said ‘Q&A sessions with employers’, which was followed closely by employer presentations at 44%.

Students loved that they could ask employers questions, with 21% students commenting on how much easier, quicker and less pressurised it was to communicate than at face-to-face events.

"Theres no waiting around for someone to finish talking to an employer and it's in the surroundings of your own home so it feels less intimidating"

Trend #2 Accessibility

Virtual events are highly accessible for students; they can join from home, in their pyjamas from the kitchen table.

They specifically valued how virtual events give everyone an opportunity to attend, regardless of location or background.

The research told us that 76% of Non-Russell Group students had attended at least one virtual employer-specific event, in contrast to 60% of Russell Group students.

Non-Russell Group universities have a 3% rate acceptance rate for BAME students, so virtual events are a great pathway to engaging with a more diverse audience.

It wasn’t all positive feedback though, with 'poor internet connections' being a source of frustration for students. Also one student said, ‘for someone like me who is hard of hearing, it’s incredibly difficult to hear through a tinny speaker’.

So even though for the majority virtual events are accessible, it is worth noting that certain groups of students were disadvantaged.

Trend #3 Students miss face-to-face engagement

Over half of students (53%) said that virtual events are worse or much worse than face-to-face engagement.

That said, 47% of students thought virtual events were much better, better or about the same, which is very positive considering how quickly the industry had to adapt to digital-only campaigns.

When asked about how comfortable they’d feel about attending a face-to-face event in Autumn, the majority (56%) of students said they would feel comfortable. However, 35% of students said they would only feel comfortable depending on other factors such as vaccines and measures taken.

So, while just over half of students do feel safe to return, there are still a number of factors outside of all of our control that could affect the numbers of students attending face-to-face events.

Trend #4 The future is hybrid

One of the most important questions we asked students was ‘Would you like virtual events and webinars to continue in the next academic year?’

The majority (55%) of students said that they’d prefer a mix of face-to-face and virtual events, with 26% saying ‘yes’ and 19% saying no.

This suggests that virtual events are here to stay but as part of a blended attraction strategy. Students still want to meet you face-to-face when possible.

For the full report on what students think about virtual events, clickhere.

* * *

If you’re looking for inspiration and ideas on how to engage with students digitally, face-to-face or a mixture of both, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line here.