Sep 16 2015

Tech-Powered Tours Connect Classrooms with a World of Possibilities

Communications technology is broadening the materials higher education students have access to.

With today's connected classrooms, field trips aren't limited to your county, your state or even your country. Students are taking virtual field trips to some of the world's most amazing locales with experts as their guides, thanks to Skype.

Skype field trips allow educators to let their students experience the world. The website hosts a series of tours covering a wide range of educational subjects, ranging from elementary school through college and beyond. The tours are free and last from 15 minutes to an hour.

This week, students will interview a Yellowstone National Park Ranger to learn more about geology, ecology and more from the historic park, and learn about the endangered African penguin. Next month, students will speak with an underwater videographer and shark diver. Lessons geared specifically for older students and adults include interviews with authors, artists and foreign-language immersion.

But the possibilities of Skype don’t end there. Some colleges are using the online video chat service to host college tours and to interact with prospective students and alumni. Wake Forest University uses Skype to conduct 25-minute interviews with students as part of its admissions process.

The video conferencing interview has grown so popular that U.S. News and World Report created a list of tips for prospective students.

Some colleges are even taking a step beyond video conferencing and into virtual reality. For the next generation, touring a college campus from the comfort of their home is already closer to reality than science-fiction.

The virtual reality (VR) startup YouVisit was built by three international college graduates who wanted to design solutions that ease the travel burden of touring college campuses.

Since 2009, YouVisit has been designing virtual university tours using 360-degree panoramic photography. It's akin to Google's Street View tours of the world's roads, only focused on more scholarly locales. More than 1,000 institutions have given the VR firm access to their campuses, including prestigious names such as Harvard College, Yale University and Vanderbilt University.

Skype in the Classroom

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