With the advancement of virtual communication platforms, taking virtual tours of a university is now easier than it’s ever been.
Virtual tours originally took off in the housing market. In much the same way, many people don’t have time to go view multiple houses in a day. And since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for these types of virtual experiences have gone through the roof according to education firm EAB.
Why take time out of your day and risk getting sick? Many companies and organizations have become more interested in virtual tours to supplement this concern.
This shows even more so in university enrollment numbers. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows a 7.8% drop since the fall of 2019. To incentivize students to come check out their university and get them excited about enrollment, many schools have introduced their own virtual tour systems.
Capital University is no exception. While Capital has had a virtual tour option in place for a few years, they created a new, self-guided tour very recently.
“Being a remote campus for a few months in the pandemic definitely encouraged our university to supply a virtual tour option that gives students a good picture of what Capital looks like!” Summer Slusher, associate director of Admissions for Capital University, said.
“We encouraged high school students to visit our website and schedule a zoom with a virtual tour guide (a student ambassador) who could not only walk through the virtual tour with them, but provide some quick facts about the university, such as class sizes, student organizations, Capital superstitions, etc.,” Slusher said.
While Capital was remote, there was an increase in prospective students signing up for the guided virtual tours. Now that Capital is once again allowing for regular tours, the numbers for the guided tours are down to two to three a week.
Capital’s tours excel over other tours in a few aspects. A direct comparison would be Ohio State’s self-guided tour. While Ohio State uses a 360-degree single image for numerous places on campus, Capital uses Google Street View to guide you around campus, allowing for more options for viewing areas of campus. The outdoor section of campus is very well covered and is high quality.
While viewing the outdoor section of Capital is very easy and seamless, the same can not be said about much of its indoor areas.
There are several areas still unavailable through tour view. Most building interiors are uncaptured, as are nearly all dormitory buildings. This includes such buildings as Battelle Hall and much of the Conservatory. Both first-year residence halls, Schaff and Lohman, have mini-tour videos available on YouTube. No other dormitories are covered.
For many upper-class students, it can be very difficult to find out what your housing will look like unless you know someone who already lives there and will let you look.
While you can still find video tours on Capital Residence Life’s Instagram, these are often very barebone and will not give you a complete picture of what living there will look like, leaving students unsure what their residence will look like until they move in the following year.
Utilizing virtual tours for other aspects of campus, including dormitories, would be very beneficial to both Capital and its students.
As mentioned before, some huge benefits to virtual tours are that it saves a lot of time, but it also can save parents and students a lot of money. Traveling the state, or even multiple states, to visit multiple schools can be costly, both in time and money.
Another benefit is that prospective out-of-state and international students can really decide if they want to go to school and live at a place they’ve never personally been to.
There are a few cons to virtual tours. Firstly, if the school decides to produce one in-house, then they have to deal with all the technical problems that show up during the process, and they have to figure out how to host it.
If they go for a third-party option, then they are limited to whatever features those services provide and that can often be just as frustrating.
Students also don’t get a chance to really see how students go about their day and interact with one another, which can be a huge part for a lot of students on why they would go to a school. A lot of students really like Capital for its small-town feel, and it would be hard to express that in a virtual tour.
Most universities use either still pictures or non-interactive 360-degree pictures. These universities are missing a huge opportunity to use interactive 360-degree pictures. Something that could easily be done by taking multiple pictures shortly after another to have a very similar experience to Google Street View, but indoors.
Schools like Ohio State and University of Cincinnati both use YouVisit, a third-party company that specializes in 360-degree virtual tours, mainly for colleges.
YouVisit only allows for an interactive 360-degree picture, with usually only one per area. YouVisit is fairly user-friendly and the upside of using them is everything is hosted on their site, and you can customize features through them, but there is a definite advantage to being able to move around like Google Street View allows.