Mar 30 2021

Ensuring Quality Virtual Campus Tours for Everyone

As colleges anticipate a steep enrollment drop, here’s a look at some ways to improve the quality of virtual tours.

Even before the pandemic, college tours were often not accessible to underserved students. Families that visit campuses typically spend at least $1,000 on travel, food and lodging — an amount of money that is not easy to come by for low-income households.

Yet, studies have found that campus tours are the single most decisive factor in a student’s college choice. As higher education institutions prepare for a steep enrollment decline that is expected to start in 2026, it is worth exploring strategies that can expand a university’s recruitment base.

This starts with making quality tours accessible — for everyone.

Recreating a Friendly Environment During Virtual College Tours

For an underserved student that cannot afford to visit campuses across the nation, you want to ensure that virtual tours are near the same caliber as in-person visits.

Although many colleges found innovative ways to engage with prospective students virtually during the pandemic, some schools still said that virtual tours were significantly lacking compared with physical tours.

This was largely due to an inability to re-create an on-campus vibe. Studies show that the “hospitable nature of the community” and the “friendliness of the people” ultimately shape a student’s final decision. 

One way to address this is to have more current students do live Q&A sessions with prospective ones — even if everyone is still remote. Current students can do this by livestreaming their experiences on Instagram or sharing personal campus stories on TikTok. (Of course, the enrollment department should play a role in curating these stories.)

The Technologies You Need for Excellent Virtual Campus Tours

To properly convey their campus’s social environment, schools may need to invest in premium AV technologies, such as:

  • Strong wireless access: Having CAT 5 or CAT 6 cables crisscrossing the campus is no fun. The good news is, most universities and colleges already have the infrastructure and wireless capabilities they need to support a basic virtual tour. Keep in mind there are certain areas on campus that may need network upgrades to support quality livestreaming. Make sure most areas on campus are accessible to prospective students who may ask to see them.
  • Better audiovisual tech: Smartphones, tablets and budget computers can ruin the streaming quality of a virtual tour. It’s worth investing in more robust laptops and professional cameras that can ensure better quality. Pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras can be especially useful, as they offer the flexibility to zoom in on campus spots that may be difficult to reach.
  • Ample charging carts: AV carts are a cost-effective solution not only for hybrid learning environments but also for virtual tours. These carts are essentially a mobile collaboration system: They can support monitors, PTZ cameras and wireless microphones, and are great for places that don’t have AV equipment, such as gymnasiums and outdoor venues. Carts also work well with popular videoconferencing platforms such as ZoomGoogle Meet, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex.

To ensure these investments are affordable, working with a value-added reseller and managed service provider like CDW•G can help you find the technologies that are right for your university. To select the ones with the best price, we have partnerships with a wide range of vendors.

We also have a reliable supply chain, so we can guarantee that technologies are shipped together and will arrive when you need them.

We also offer 24/7 tech support services that can protect virtual first impressions — no matter what tech issues come up. Together, we can help optimize the virtual tour experience for every prospective student.

 This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

 

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