virtual tour

5 ways to practically incorporate virtual reality

How higher education can harness virtual reality for services beyond the campus tour.

Right now, there’s a lot of talk about virtual reality (VR) across many industries, including higher education. Everybody seems to agree that VR is going to have a major impact, but when you ask “When?” the general answer seems to be…soon!

Sure, the potential application of VR in the classroom is massive. But in this post we’ll focus on how virtual reality can be used by admissions, marketing, facilities, alumni and other higher education professionals to improve the campus experience (and make their job easier).

The Timeline: Consumers are Ready for Virtual Reality

A recent report found that 69 percent of adults 18-60 are “excited about experiencing VR,” particularly to “explore places” and “experience entertainment more deeply.”

And while the affordability and accessibility of VR hardware make these experiences easier to develop, the 2016 NMC Horizon Report estimates two- to three-year time-to-adoption for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in higher education.

We’re really not that far off from seeing schools using virtual reality, as any 360 photosphere can easily be turned into VR-ready image. Schools do need hardware–a 360 degree camera–to capture 360 videos, but the conversion software is readily available.

VR hardware sales are likely to take off around the 2016 holiday season. The upcoming launch of Sony’s VR-enabled PlayStation 4 will open many more doors for the technology; prospective students will soon be able to use their PS4 console and headset to visit school websites and interactive maps and get a feel for campus life. Likewise the just-announced Daydream VR hardware/software platform from Google will be interesting to watch as it’s designed to help hardware developers create new VR headsets.

In the process of working with thousands of education professionals at schools of every size, we’ve seen how interactive campus maps – as well as virtual tours and other media and technologies – are used by many different departments such as marketing, admissions, facilities, security, and alumni relations.

3D model built by concept3D for a resort.
3D model built by concept3D for a resort.

The examples below apply what we know from building 3D models and VR-ready environments for theme parks, resorts, and other clients, along with the unique ways we’ve seen interactive media used by our clients.

Virtual Reality for Higher Education: Beyond the Virtual Tour

Today, campus tours are the most common application of VR. This makes sense because virtual tours can be an important experience for prospective students, influencing their decision to further explore a school and pursue a physical, on-campus tour, or request more information.

But as VR becomes more mainstream and accessible – and consumers demand more than a fixed tour compiled of static 360 photospheres (essentially a video) – we’re going to see new and practical uses that go way beyond the virtual tour.

By nature, education provides a unique mix: great storytelling opportunities and multiple digital and physical touchpoints to engage prospects, current students, alumni, parents, etc. Add a highly competitive market, and the environment creates powerful and exciting potential to use virtual reality.

(Next page: 5 ways to incorporate virtual reality)

eSchool Media Contributors