University of Oregon offers first-in-nation virtual campus experience

September 3, 2018
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Duck mascot wearing green as they stand next to a group of students making faces of amazement. Traditionally, the campus tour is a powerful recruitment tool -- especially for institutions with unique and beautiful campuses, such as the University of Oregon in the scenic Willamette Valley in Eugene, OR.

Because the U of O recruits nationally, however, long travel distances may prevent students and their families from being able to visit in person. 

“One of our best tools for enrolling is the campus tour,” said Steve Robinson, U of O’s Assistant Vice President for Student Services and Enrollment Management. “It’s difficult for many students to get to us physically, but the tour really sells people -- so we started looking for a way to engage students who couldn’t make it to the campus in Eugene.”
“There’s no beginning or end, like a traditional tour,” Miller said. “It’s ‘choose your own adventure.’”

Lauren Miller, Director of Strategic Communications and Marketing for Student Services and Enrollment Management, suggested an interactive virtual tour that goes beyond the linear online videos offered by other institutions. The virtual tour gives students a self-directed, immersive virtual reality (V2) experience.

Next best to being there
“We partnered with some of our faculty in the school of journalism to develop content, and worked with a Portland-based company to develop the app,” Miller said. “We got feedback from the academic colleges and students in its creation, as well.”

Highlights of the app include:

Aerial view of campus. The app opens with a drone-filmed perspective of campus with pins all over, like a map where the viewer decides what to explore. 

“There’s no beginning or end, like a traditional tour,” Miller said. “It’s ‘choose your own adventure.’”  

“Ducks-eye” goggles. Mailed to all admitted students, the goggles are used with the student’s phone to create an interactive viewing experience with just the push of a button. (The UO 360 app can be downloaded and used without the goggles as a handheld app, as well.) The cardboard goggles are designed to look like the U of O’s mascot, the Oregon Duck.

Cheer on the Ducks. “One compelling bit of content for sports fans is that students can ‘go into’ the stadium on game day, hear the sounds, look all around the field, and when they look down, they have duck feet,” Robinson said. “You get on a motorcycle and ride with the duck, and you can sit in the student section and take a 360-degree view.”

The Walk. “People actually ‘walk’ over the Willamette River and through the woods to Autzen Stadium-- a pre-game tradition -- in a hyperlapse version,” said Miller.

What’s the ROI?
The app went live in March of this year, and has a little over 11,000 downloads -- far surpassing the original goal of 5,000 downloads. Development costs were around $80,000.

“We heard from one out-of-state student from New Mexico who was talking about how difficult it was for her whole family to travel here,” Miller said. “She knew she wanted to come here and she wanted her grandma and aunts to experience it -- and this was the only way they could share her experience without having to take a flight. The whole family wanted to be a part of the decision for that student, and the app helped them do that.”

“The ultimate feedback will be when we start looking at the fall class,” Robinson said. “Once we see who actually enrolls in the fall -- less than a month -- we can see the impact of the VR tour.”  

Learn more
Miller and Robinson will talk about their experience -- and share more results -- at this November’s AACRAO SEM Conference.

In their session, they’ll also discuss how they promoted the app and tied it in with a texting initiative for admitted students.

Join Miller and Robinson to learn about this and many more creative enrollment management strategies at the 2018 AACRAO SEM Conference, November 11-14 in Washington, DC.