A premier university in Asia, the Singapore Management University (SMU) is internationally recognized for its world-class research and distinguished teaching. Established in 2000, SMU’s mission is to generate leading-edge research with global impact and produce broad-based, creative and entrepreneurial leaders for the knowledge-based economy. Home to approximately 10,000 undergraduates and postgraduates, SMU comprises six schools.
As with many organizations and universities, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Singapore Management University’s plans. In late January 2020, as the number of COVID-19 cases started to exponentially increase, the Singapore government began putting a halt to mass activities, followed in April by a partial lockdown in the country. As a result, many of the University’s events were unable to proceed as planned. But University team members understood that they still needed to be able to engage with the community — prospective students, incoming freshmen, alumni and members of the public — even when physical events weren’t possible.
The University faced a number of challenges. First was the last-minute pivot from organizing physical events like orientations and open houses to conducting them virtually, quickly making offline materials accessible online, while ensuring that technology enhanced the richness of the interactions. Additionally, the University needed to quickly transition to remote work, enabling distributed content authoring and flexibly integrating with other platforms like media streaming, live webinars and live chats. And they needed to do all this while keeping content reusability and web architecture capabilities in mind, so they could take advantage of these newly created resources long after the crisis passed.
SMU’s IT team collaborated with various business units to determine the feasibility and scope of moving events online. Understanding that live broadcast (for webinars and panel discussions) and live chat were part of most events’ requirements, the IT team helped with integrating third-party solutions. External vendors developed consistently branded sites based on a custom Drupal base theme created in-house, then the IT team assisted with deployment.
By adopting this solution, SMU was able to move several major events online including its open house, its Masters Day, a graduation ceremony and career fair, and its freshmen orientation.
The SMU Virtual Open House encompassed 52 live webinars, over 600 live chats and 35 information videos. The sites comfortably handled 53,000 visitors (about twice the usual number) and 245,000 pageviews during a seven-day period, double the number of visitors from the previous year’s in-person open house.