Virtual Tours And Interactive Maps – How To Show Off Your Campus
Choosing a university is a big decision for both students and parents, and a huge part of this process is finding out more about where they will be living and studying.
In the modern age of online cartography, prospective students expect to be able to explore their potential new home before they arrive.
More and more universities are understandably turning to interactive maps and virtual tours to show off their facilities and the surrounding community. Sometimes these maps or tours are used to familiarise new students with the area, sometimes they’re used to highlight the historical or architectural features of a university – there’s a huge range of possibilities.
To get you thinking about the different ways you can use maps and tours on you website, we’ve collected a few examples for you…
The University of York have chosen to use a format that most people will be familiar with: Google Maps. Different categories can be selected such as department buildings, shops, accommodation, or parking.
Using a familiar technology such as Google Maps makes navigation easy for visitors, but the map is also available as a PDF download for those who still want a printable version – not everyone is as tech-savvy as we like to believe!
This interactive map is all about showcasing the different aspects of the university. Each section of campus has its own virtual representation, and each building can be zoomed in on to provide galleries of images, videos and student testimonials.
Each of the buildings includes links to further information about that department, making sure that prospective students are directed to information about the course they’re interested in.
The University of Birmingham virtual tour uses the Virtual Campus platform created by SMILE. It goes a step further than that of York by embedding social media posts into relevant points on the map. As well as using their own content such as YouTube videos and university tweets, the map also includes Instagram photos taken by staff and students. This is a great way to show off the campus to prospective students.
Adding posts from official social media accounts to a map or virtual tour exposes prospective students to those channels before they even apply to the university – so you could be picking up new followers very early in the recruitment process…
We’re jumping over the Atlantic for a couple of stops. New York University uses a campus map which is even more clearly based on Google Maps than any of the others I’ve shown you – but with good reason.
NYU is located in the centre of Manhattan, an area well covered by Google both from above and at street level. Prospective students can explore a Google Streetview version of Manhattan with all NYU buildings highlighted – so if you need to know the nearest sushi place to the NYU Law Library, it’s all right here (it’s Masamoto Sushi on West 3rd, by the way).
Harvard’s virtual tour is exactly that – a tour of the campus conducted online. As well as a standard interactive map for manual navigation, the user has the option of following Harvard students on a guided tour of different areas of the campus. It’s a nice way to showcase the history and prestige of Harvard, and it’s even available in Spanish or Chinese for their important international market.
I’m going to wind up with my own alma mater, Newcastle University. As well as a virtual tour – which, I’m sad to say, isn’t quite as good as Harvard’s – they also opened their campus buildings to the Google Streetview team, allowing prospective students to explore the interiors of buildings like the student union.
If you want to explore the wide range of interactive maps and virtual tours used by universities in the UK, the UCAS website helpfully gathers them all in one place: the sensibly-named Virtual Tours page.
If you’re planning to include an updated campus map or virtual tour on your website, make sure you think about what you want it to achieve. Do you want it to showcase your university to prospective students? Is it going to be a practical resource for existing students? How will it connect to the rest of your website? There’s a lot to think about…