Why virtual Open Days are more accessible than ever

Geographic distance and long travel times are no longer a challenge for prospective students seeking to learn more about courses at the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.

Exploring a campus and discovering its facilities, viewing studios and students’ work, and questioning alumni and staff about course options and the realities of student life – by migrating online, traditional Open Day experiences can proceed safely despite the impact of COVID-19.

In addition to being COVID-safe, University of Melbourne’s digital Open Days program is also more accessible than ever, with travel times no longer inhibiting potential students from attending the event.

‘Normally there is the geographical distance that people would have to travel, but this time, it’s all at people’s fingertips,’ explained Donna Lyon, Associate Director, Teaching and Learning & Operations at the Victorian College of the Arts and Master of Producing Lecturer – Film and Television.

People with a desire to contribute to the cultural fabric of our world are especially encouraged to attend the Open Days programs at the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.

‘We want students who are keen to develop their own voice … and I think what that automatically requires is a sense of bravery, a courage to be you, and adaptability – somebody who’s agile, resilient and curious,’ Lyon said.

University of Melbourne’s Open Days run throughout early September, meaning that would-be students have ample opportunity to visit the Southbank campus where the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music are situated from the comfort of their own homes.

‘They can virtually explore the campus and really start to curate their experience in a deeper, more sophisticated way,’ Lyon said.

‘There will be virtual workshops; panels featuring academics, students and alumni; showcases of student work and virtual campus tours, course information sessions with academics, and student Q and As.’

Melbourne Conservatorium student orchestra perform Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 5 from home.

The Open Day program for undergraduates runs from 5-6 September with activities and events for graduate students taking place from 14-17 September.

‘Just as they would do if they were physically going to campus, they can build an itinerary – and they won’t miss things. There’ll be lots of events and activities on repeat,’ said Lyon.

Potential University of Melbourne students attending the Open Day will have plenty of opportunities to see and experience the creative output of the current student cohort.

‘People will be able to view a lot of the work that’s been created in lockdown, which is really exciting because there’s been some incredible, innovative works made, from student films and artworks through to dance students collaborating on choreography and screen works. And of course there will be music theatre and music performances as well as industry panels of alumni. People will start to see the output of students in a deeper and richer way.’

While conversations around course structures and student activities are perennial, Lyon expects to see a greater focus on resilience at this year’s Open Day.

‘Artists always have one foot in the unknown; they’re trained to work within uncertainty, to have resolve and be adaptable. So I think that this year we will be looking at how the VCA’s training prepares our graduates to face these aspects of the unknown, and also, what kind of work are people able to deliver when working within constraints and boundaries? And what opportunities are there? I think those are the kind of things that we’ll be really interested to hear from our graduates and our current students, which I think will be fantastic for audiences,’ Lyon told ArtsHub.

Learn more about University of Melbourne’s Open Days program, running from 5-6 September (undergraduates) and 14-17 September (graduates).

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts