Team of the month 06/20: Online WU Master’s day

The process of digital transformation has now brought about major changes in one of WU’s most important information events – and it was our June 2020 Team of the Month that successfully organized and implemented these changes.

The WU Master’s Day is a well-established event for prospective students interested in starting a master’s program at WU, and it requires many weeks of preparations. It is held twice a year, and at each edition of the event, over 1,000 visitors are provided with comprehensive information about WU’s 15 English- and German-taught master’s programs. When comprehensive restrictions were put into place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it suddenly became completely unclear whether it would be possible to hold the next WU Master’s Day, scheduled for April 15, 2020, and if yes, what scale the event could possibly have under these new circumstances. At that time, the work for planning and preparing the event had been all but completed. Usually, around 40 people are involved in the organization of the physical event: representatives of the master’s programs, the Study Information team, and various external partners.

Organizing an online event for 2,000 participants in only 20 days

Immediately after the switch to teleworking for all WU employees (which completely changed everyone’s working conditions), preparations were launched for holding the WU Master’s Day in an online format. This involved much research, conceptual planning, technical and legal consultations, discussions with the program management teams, and work for redesigning the texts, graphics, and visuals needed to advertise the event.

Only a few days later, the project team of the Marketing & Communications office – Silvia Nekolar-Kobermann (project leader), Ulrike Überreiter (project management), Teresa Klicpera and Michael Wilson (content), and Gabriel Gmeiner (online marketing) – received the go-ahead for implementing WU’s first online information event ever.

“In record speed, we managed to transform an offline event for no more than 1,500 attendees into an online event for an unlimited number of participants. In these difficult times, the team took an extremely solution-oriented approach and broke completely new ground,” says project head Silvia Nekolar-Kobermann. “We had already been looking forward to the big day, as had many hundreds of prospective students. Cancelling the WU Master’s Day was simply out of the question.”

The online event was held on April 15, 2020, as originally scheduled, thanks also to the hard work and dedication of WU’s IT-SERVICES and Legal Affairs Office. Together with the program management teams, who contributed to the success of the online event from day one, the planned lectures were adapted and prepared for the live stream and online chat forums were set up. The event has set a benchmark for future online activities and has drawn much attention from outside WU.

International outreach and perspectives

The participation statistics for the online event are impressive and show how much interest there is in WU’s academic programs even in times of COVID-19, regardless of the prospective students’ country of origin or residence. WU is widely perceived as an international, excellent university, and the process of digitalization may help WU to reach even more students than before:

  • Almost 2,000 participants interested in WU’s programs
  • From 54 nations
  • 14 lectures broadcast live online
  • 1,722 questions answered in the live chats

The WU Master’s Day is the only large-scale WU event to date that has been converted to a digital format in a very short time and held with great success. “Implementing this event was an impressive team effort during challenging times. We kept looking ahead, saw an opportunity, and set an ambitious target that we were able to meet successfully in cooperation with everyone else involved,” says Christopher Posch (deputy head of Marketing & Communications), looking back at the successful event.

The online format turned out to be more successful than comparable physical events, and for this reason, WU has decided to hold information events on its academic programs primarily online in the future. “We were forced to think out of the box and gained valuable experience that will be very useful in the future,” says event manager Ulrike Überreiter.

Team of the Month

Research and teaching are the key areas of a university’s work, and the most visible. However, the work of the administrative staff is also very important for making sure that a university can operate smoothly and successfully. The members of our administrative staff may not be as highly visible as our researchers, but it’s their commitment that provides our researchers and teaching staff with crucial services like a powerful IT infrastructure, state-of-the-art library services, effective support services for faculty and researchers, tailor-made in-house training programs, or personal support in running the day-to-day operations of an institute – all of this requires careful planning and organization. To bring some of these people into the spotlight, we are naming a Team of the Month 6 times a year to introduce selected members of the administrative personnel and reward them for their important achievements in specific projects.