More than 3 million people tuned in to the University’s first-ever online Open House, which took place from 26 February to 5 March.
Visitors thronged the websites, livestreams and social media sessions hosted by faculties, schools and programmes across the three NUS campuses. They also dialled in to the dedicated hotlines to speak to students and staff.
The event, lasting more than a week, meant there was something for everyone.
Raffles Institution alumnus Diong Wei Chong, who is serving his National Service, appreciated the online format which meant that he could visit the various faculties’ websites despite being in camp.
"I was pleasantly surprised by the in-depth information available at the e-Open House regarding the courses as well as student experience at NUS. It will definitely be a great help to my university decisions," he shared.
The online format was also a boon for prospective international student Rucksikaa Raajkumar, who tuned in from Sri Lanka.
“This format was really convenient because I don't really think that I would have been able to attend a physical Open day, and this e-Open House provided me the opportunity to interact with the professors and friendly students,” said Rucksikaa.
Hearing from students, alumni, professors
What better way for prospective students to learn about NUS, than hearing from current undergraduates.
Instead of interacting with interested people at a nursing booth at Open Day this year, Year 2 NUS Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies (NUS Nursing) student Paula Say spent the day behind bright lights and cameras as she hosted three different Facebook live sessions for NUS Nirsing as part of the NUS e-Open House.
Paula was very involved in the conceptualisation and planning of all the sessions, taking reference from her experience at last year’s NUS Open Day. “When I was thinking of the focus for each live session, I thought of what will be relevant to students — those already interested and those not interested yet — as well as parents who have some sort of anxiety regarding the profession of nursing. Hence, I came up with the three themes: admissions questions, student life and myth-busting.”
Year 3 NUS Nursing student Isaac Tan was one of the panellists for the first session focused on admissions. “Having had my own personal journey and love for what I do and what I am learning here in Nursing, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to share this passion with other people and hopefully inspire those who have a similar interest or passion to join Nursing as well.”
He added, “In addition, being in Year 3, I have experienced most of the school's curriculum as well as helped out for the previous Open Houses. As such, I felt I was in a good position to talk about the curriculum, share my experiences and discuss admission and career matters.”
Over at NUS Science, a group of Year 4 undergraduates discussed their academic and student life in a “Mukbang” style production. They spoke of their experiences while over plates of yummy chow bought from the Frontier Science canteen, in a broadcast format popularised in South Korea.
Jaymond Tan, a Mathematics major, shared on his course as well as how NUS enhanced his interest in social issues and have him the chance to start his own project that works with migrant workers.
Jaymond described filming as “a whole new experience”. “I am generally a more casual person so I was glad we could do it in a casual (Mukbang) format,” he said.
“That made me a lot more comfortable and less nervous in front of the camera and I definitely had fun filming with the other 3 students!”
Student-to-student engagement at the University Scholars Programme (USP) took on a more intimate tone with small groups of one or two USP student ambassadors answering questions from two to five prospective students, via video chat. The groups were deliberately kept small and cosy so as to encourage more open sharing.
Stephanie Leong, a recent graduate of Eunoia Junior College, said that the USP hosts were very friendly and willing to answer lots of different questions and provide very detailed answers.
Faculties and programmes roped in alumni to share their experience. This included the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme, which hosted live video chat sessions with graduates who have gone on to forge a path in entrepreneurship, as well as current students attending NOC overseas.
“Going overseas for a year-long internship would not have been possible without NOC, I've learnt so much and my perspectives have been completely widened by the experience,” said NOC Shanghai and NUS Arts and Social Sciences alumna Cordillia Tan, who shared at the NOC sessions.
Going online was also a new experience for the professors, but they quickly took to the task.
“The academic staff enjoy a great deal of support from the administrative staff. As such, I did not feel that there is much difference in terms of preparation for the e-Open House (compared with a physical Open Day),” said Associate Professor Chew Eng Hui, who hosted question-and-answer webinars with Dr Ong Pei Shi.
The two NUS Pharmacy lecturers handled queries including admissions criteria and options for further study and career, tapping on their previous experience as practicing pharmacists before embarking on careers in academia.
“We received a good mix of questions enquiring about the undergraduate courses that NUS Pharmacy is offering. Questions came from both prospective students and parents... Addressing the questions posted on the webinar session would collectively have allowed all participants in the same session to understand and appreciate more about the undergraduate courses,” Assoc Prof Chew reflected.
Dr Ong shared that the lecturers had a robust set of FAQs on hand, as well as slides that could be shared from time to time, and that these proved to be useful.
“It is refreshing to be able to engage with prospective students and parents on an online platform,” she said, adding that the format allowed participants to benefit from hearing the responses to each other’s questions.
NUS Business conducted live chats over several days, featuring a mix of panellists— students, professors, alumni, industry partners and staff from its career services office – to present a holistic understanding of what is on offer.
“I like that during the live streaming session I was able to clarify any questions I had through live chats, and at the same time learn from other prospect students’ queries as well,” said Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Teo Kai Xin.
Victoria Junior College graduate Shivani Sivaganesh tuned into the livestreams of NUS Business and the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. “I found them informative, and they gave a wide range of perspectives on the various aspects of university life from the professors to students,” she shared.
Besides hosting live question and answer sessions, faculties also took the opportunity to give potential students a virtual tour. Students from NUS Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) including Year 4 student Lee Rui Ching hosted a live tour on Facebook.
As this was an entirely new experience, she recalls repeatedly going through the route and practicing the script with her schoolmate to ensure that they “properly introduced the facilities FASS had while also incorporating our personal experiences for the audience”. While they were not able to answer every single question that was posed, Rui Ching felt that reception was good and that the tour was an effective way to introduce prospective students to different parts of the faculty and how they were used.
“Being a student ambassador under the FASS Dean's Office, I've always enjoyed sharing my own personal experiences of being an FASS student with prospective students or their parents. Knowing what they were worried about or what they were curious about also helped me to reflect on my own time in FASS and to appreciate some of the programmes or opportunities that FASS offered… I was glad that I could still share my FASS experience to prospective students and I hope it would help them make a wise decision.”
Live campus tours were also conducted by USP, Yale-NUS College, NUS Science and NUS Dentistry, while the NUS Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music brought viewers into their recording studio and NUS Medicine students demonstrated a simulated training session. Additionally, the NUS Institute of Systems Science, meant for working adults, offered online taster classes of their programmes.
Recent Raffles Institution graduate Rama Venkatesh, who attended the NOC, USP, NUS Science and NUS Computing webinars, had fond words for the overall e-Open House experience.
“I really liked that it was interactive and we could have a conversation with the professors and students at NUS. It felt just as informative as a physical Open House would have been, and all my queries were answered, and that too from the comfort of my home!”
“Thank you for hosting it so well!”