The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown have resulted in an adverse impact across multiple industries, and the education industry is one of them.
The pandemic has forcefully closed all schools and universities across the globe. They had to make a shift to remote learning. Amidst all, they lost one of its most vital recruiting tools: on-campus visits, which facilitate prospective students and parents exploring and getting a feel for student life.
A campus tour is essential. Due to this pandemic, alike remote teaching institutions had to move online for recruiting process as well. Schools and universities are turning to technology in creative ways to help replicate in-person experiences, from outreach on social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat to videoconference-driven online events and virtual tours of the campus.
However, turning to virtual reality technology to better connect and engage with potential customers is nothing new. Most organizations in the travel, recruiting, and education industries have been increasingly using it since pre-covid. The compelling nature of immersive 360-degree content has caught notice of the colleges and universities that successfully use virtual campus tours in impactful ways. This fast-evolving and scalable technology enable conversion-focused institutions to create virtual campus tours across mobile, desktop, and VR headsets that can virtually transport a prospective student to the middle of a beautiful campus—even if that campus is thousands of miles away.
This article will show how virtual campus tours can be one of your most effective student recruitment strategies.
We already know, VR is a suite of technologies that delivers immersive, 360-degree experiences simulating a place, situation, or environment. In the context of school/college admissions, VR is most commonly used by admissions professionals to provide prospective students with the opportunity to “visit” a college campus with their smartphone, desktop, or VR headset. And, building a virtual campus tour helps you get results too. All you would require is strong strategic thinking up front, smart and professional execution, a targeted distribution plan, and a concerted effort to measure impact and optimize the experience post- launch.
If executed properly, VR can be the next best thing to an in-person visit from a promising student. It also helps reduce schools decrease cost-per-enrolment as this initiative enables colleges and universities to connect with students who may otherwise not have the time or money to visit a campus. While increasing the likelihood that an admitted student will enrol, reminding them what they love about your campus.
So when planning to set up a virtual campus, answer the following questions first:
- What do you want the world to know about your university?
- How can your virtual campus tour set you apart from the competition?
- What campus spaces do you want to highlight, in what order, and why?
- What is the virtual “story” you’re trying to tell?
- What can a potential student expect in terms of campus culture?
Now, the question arises what the effective ways of recruiting students through virtual campus tour are?
Western Connecticut State University advocates replacing the 6-7 hours of the on-ground event with 90 minute or two-hour virtual events. According to them, it seemed the students warmed to them. According to Jay Murray, associate vice president for enrolment services at WCSU, the enrolment team states was prepared when the COVID-19 outbreak forced the university to move recruitment online. They had already recorded and posted an online video tour. Last year, WCSU also held several virtual recruitment events for the first time, including a Q&A session enabling recently accepted students to network with current students.
Not only this, WCSU had subscribed to cloud-based live event software. The school’s IT department had recorded a speech by the president using professional-grade cameras, while deans, the admissions officer, faculty and current students appeared via their laptops or smartphones. They had also held four virtual summer orientations and got positive feedback.
All the pre-recorded videos and live session have helped institution recruit students in a fairly easy process.
On the other hand, some universities are experimenting with different technologies to recruit students that include online video tours and cloud-based videoconferencing and live event software to hold virtual information sessions. Some have even experimented with using text messaging and social media to engage with potential students.
In California, San Diego State University’s enrolment services personnel relied on Zoom’s cloud-based videoconferencing software to hold virtual recruiting events. Since we know students are more available on phones, the university decided to reach out to students on their smartphones. So, the enrolment staff launched social media and text messaging campaigns. For instance, through Instagram and Snapchat, the university made use of content about college life generated by current students and shared with prospective students. The university staff also sent personalized text messages and important reminders to incoming newcomers.
Such initiatives have been a helpful way to assist students with their college transition and answer their questions.
While Texas Christian University has created a webpage for admitted applicants in light of coronavirus fears, the webpage highlights, "There’s nothing like being on campus, but taking a virtual tour of TCU is a close second!"
Videos follow, with the campus tour and specialized information for the forthcoming students- on orientation, roommates, getting involved on campus. It also has a parent question-and-answer section that leads off with information on whom to contact with questions but then attempts to answer a number of them on the timing and substance of admissions decisions.
In Wellesley, Babson College’s enrolment staff used Cisco Webex Teams videoconferencing software to give students and their parents updates and alleviate their safety concerns. The university also promises to offer both fully online and hybrid classes. According to Minden, Babson’s vice president of enrollment management and dean of admissions and financial aid, they have conversations with families, either audio or video calls every day, and promises to say in contact until the students are settled on campus and happy.” Minden said during an interview two weeks before classes began on August 24.
Furthermore, in San Antonio, Texas, Trinity University understands that students can’t always get to campus for a tour, especially during COVID. They also know that students want to revisit the campus twice or thrice before making a final decision. So, the university thought of inserting a smartphone into the front of Trinity’s virtual reality glasses and choosing a campus location. Prospective students can get a full three-dimensional experience of that campus landmark, whether it’s a classroom building, common area, or dorm room. University also decided to give out the glasses at college fairs and college-related events. All these allow potential students to connect with university ambassadors to ask questions and then explore the campus with virtual reality glasses.
As of now, most universities have opted for virtual campus tours to recruit students, and some are still looking for effective ways. If you’re one of them, then this post is for you. Also, try any of these top tools to create a virtual tour session on your own.
Do learn from these universities and choose the most suitable way for your institution.