Our infographic reveals 8 ideas for improving your institution’s virtual tours (and eight things you should avoid)
By: Rohan Thakkar
Health concerns. Travel costs. Conflicting schedules.
These are just a few obstacles students face when it comes to visiting campus and participating in an in-person tour. For some, not taking a tour will inevitably lead to a lack of interest in learning more or even applying — impacting an institution’s key performance indicators (KPIs) such as application volume, matriculation, and melt.
Virtual tours are a great way to increase access, enabling prospective students to complete tours and learn key information that helps guide decision-making without leaving home — but only when done properly.
Below is some guidance for what institutions should and shouldn’t do to create impactful virtual tours.
1. Make your virtual tour accessible via any device — especially smartphones.
Cost continually proves to be the greatest barrier to prospective students visiting campus, so developing a virtual tour that is accessible and comparable to an on-campus visit helps provide a more equitable experience.
2. Put user-generated content (UGC) at the heart of your virtual tours
It’s not enough to only include professional photos or videos of students on campus. To truly enhance your tours and bolster authenticity, you need to leverage student-generated content.
Amplifying your students’ voices and putting them at the forefront of your tours helps generate excitement and sparks students to apply and ultimately attend your institution. Plus it’s a great way to authentically showcase your institution’s diversity, which is an important consideration for all students — especially first-generation students, according to a recent survey.
As stated in the report: “Saying that you are a diverse campus rings hollow if it’s not backed up with user-generated content and stories that show your diversity and stories that highlight first-generation and BIPOC students thriving.”
Leveraging UCG for virtual campus visits also saves your team time and money while providing your institution with content that is as unique as your students (which cannot be readily duplicated by another institution).
3. Personalize the experience by giving students options to customize tours based on their unique interests and demographics
While general virtual tours can be a great way to get to know an institution at a high level, they can’t be your only virtual tour offering. Depending on where prospective students are at in their search process, not all will find general tours useful — especially when it comes to learning more about their particular interests or other key components of student life.
Not to mention that some students may not know what your institution offers or what to look for, making the ability to serve up relevant resources even more critical in effectively engaging students and eliminating a common barrier that students (particularly first-generation ones) face.
Personalized experiences are key drivers in consumers’ purchasing decisions. Recent research shows 70 percent of consumers said it’s important for brands to provide them with more personalized experiences and 72 percent are more likely to buy from a brand if it can consistently provide them with a personalized experience.
Providing personalized tours keeps prospective students engaged in learning about the campus, helps them better understand if the institution is a good fit for them, and drives KPIs such as application volume and matriculation.
4. Want more strategies for improving virtual tours?
The above strategies are outlined in our recent infographic, which also explores 5 more must-read ideas for improving your virtual visits (along with five additional things you should avoid). It’s a great way to evaluate your institution’s existing tour offerings and identify critical improvement opportunities.
Rohan Thakkar (he/him/his) is a data empowered advocate who aims to develop tools that increase access and opportunity for students globally. During his 10-year career in higher education and education technology, Thakkar served in an array of higher education programs that have yielded expertise in institutional strategic planning, learning outcomes assessment, student services practice, and data analysis. He received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University – New Brunswick and has his master’s degree in college student personnel administration from Seton Hall University. He currently serves as the Director of Campus Visit Experiences at Full Measure.