Since emerging as a dominate new technology in the past several years, virtual reality (VR) has been utilized across a variety of industries. Among the industries at the forefront of VR are colleges and universities.
Using VR to reach and engage prospective students makes sense for colleges and universities: Virtual reality has been touted as the next major technology, and teenagers and young adults are eager to try it. A recent YouVisit study found that 18 percent of 18 to 24 year olds have already experienced virtual reality, and an additional 46 percent are eager to try the new technology.
Because of its immersive nature, virtual reality helps prospective students connect with schools. The technology empowers students to virtually visit schools and then narrow their short list to those they want to physically visit in person.
For college recruiters, virtual reality has the benefit of being highly portable. Headsets like the Samsung Gear VR can be taken to college fairs or other recruiting events, and inexpensive Google Cardboards can be handed out or mailed to prospective students. Additionally, virtual reality experiences can be viewed on web browsers, meaning schools can include the content in email campaigns.
Below are ways top schools around the country are already using virtual reality in their admissions efforts.
Savannah College of Art and Design
This spring, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) became the first college to launch a large-scale virtual reality campaign. The school partnered with YouVisit to create interactive virtual reality experiences of its campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France. The school then purchased inexpensive branded Google Cardboard headsets and mailed them to students who had been accepted into the school, but had not enrolled.
“Virtual reality is one way you can not just see but experience a place,” Brad Grant, SCAD’s vice president of IT told the LA. Times. “If you’re talking about a painting studio, we can get a camera assembly inside that environment, and when you put on the goggles you can experience what it would be like to be in a painting studio full of students.”
The school plans to expand its virtual reality experience by sending their Cardboard headsets to high school teachers and counselors. SCAD also plans to increase its virtual reality content by posting virtual reality videos of major campus exhibitions and events, such as its Chinese New Year celebration and its annual fashion show. That content will appeal to prospective students, the school says, allow current students to enjoy events regardless of where they are located, and share those events with family and friends.
Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, is taking a similar approach, purchasing Google Cardboard headsets branded with the school’s logo. Like SCAD the school has mailed headsets to students, but it also made a significant push to bring VR to events. In fact, this might be where Trinity shines, as the school hands out VR headsets at all major events admissions representatives attend, including high school events and college fairs.
The school also publicized its virtual reality content with its alumni, encouraging them to use the experiences to reminisce about their college days and explore new buildings and other changes on campus.
“As a university, we are excited about virtual reality. We’ve had a wide variety of people use our virtual reality tour experience, from faculty and staff to students, future students, and alumni,” said Michelle Bartonico, the university’s marketing and communications director. “We have a beautiful campus, so it is exciting to be able to bring it to life in a unique and convenient way.
“Prospective students are loving virtual reality … It is new, unique, and convenient to experience our campus in this way. We recently brought the headsets to a national high school conference, and students were blown away and couldn’t wait to bring their friends to our table to share the experience.”
How Other Universities Are Using VR
One area virtual reality seems to be gaining ground in universities is in athletic recruitment. The University of Michigan announced this summer that it was taking virtual reality experiences, including a virtual reality video of a day in the life of a football player and a game-day virtual reality experience, to potential football recruits.
Iowa State University is sharing similar experiences with football recruits who visit the school via its high-tech virtual reality lab. Iowa State’s virtual reality experiences also have been developed for the Oculus Rift, so recruiters can take virtual reality to potential recruits in faraway states.
The University of Las Vegas is also using VR to help recruit athletes. Like admissions professionals, recruiters are taking headsets with them to show prospective students what it would be like to attend the school.
As mainstream virtual reality headsets, such as the Rift, Sony PlayStation VR, and HTC Vive, hit the market, more and more universities are sure to find ways to incorporate virtual reality into their recruiting. Eventually, it’s likely that students exploring their college options will come to expect virtual reality experiences, as tech leaders have predicted that virtual reality soon will become a part of everyday life.
To learn more how you can use virtual reality to reach and engage your audience, contact YouVisit.