Nine ways to use virtual reality in higher education marketing and communications
The launch of three major virtual reality headsets this year has put the use of virtual reality into first gear. 360 video is now supported on YouTube, Facebook and most recently, Twitter, meaning that virtual reality experiences can be uploaded to social media channels that millions of people use every day. But what are the benefits of using virtual reality for higher education marketing and communications?
Well first off, it’s innovative. By using the latest technologies, you can show your audiences that you’re forward thinking and embracing digital trends. Although not a new piece of technology, VR is still not widely accessible to all, so it might be the first time someone has used a VR headset, making the experience novel and memorable. In addition to this, you can create a completely immersive experience, where the user will be locked into whatever you show through the headset, stealing their complete engagement.
Creating and developing virtual reality content shouldn’t be overlooked. It takes time, knowledge and budget to create exciting and innovative content, especially when you’re adding more layers, such as graphics for example. But, if you’re willing to invest, you can create immersive experiences that will leave your audiences wanting more.
So, if you’re thinking about integrating virtual reality into your into your marketing and communications strategy, here are nine ideas to get you started.
1) Virtual tours
Search for ‘360 campus tour’ on Google and you’ll get a long list of universities who already have 360 virtual tours of their campus and facilities available on their website. But, either with Google Cardboard and a dedicated content app or virtual reality headsets at an open event, why not show prospective students places they might miss at on an open day. What is your university surrounded by? An interesting city, countryside or glorious beaches? A student who is only in town for a day might not have a chance to see everything in the local area. Add in some interesting stats and figures to really show off what the area has to offer.
2) Showcase research
Is there recent research by your university that could be told visually through virtual reality? Trying to explain the latest piece of medical research to your audiences could be lengthy and not that compelling, but what about if they could see and experience it for themselves? Creating a virtual experience of groundbreaking research can help explain how it was developed and what difference it will make in the world.
In this example, the University of California San Diego showed off their breakthrough Shakeboarding technology at their annual admissions day for new students and their parents. The activity allowed users to experience earthquakes, surfing and wipeouts, all through virtual reality.
3) What it’s like to study abroad
Almost every university in the UK offers their current students the option to study abroad. For the more adventurous students, this opportunity might be the deciding factor when selecting a university. If you have a student at a UCAS fair asking about the Erasmus option, you can show them the universities you partner up with through a virtual reality headset, similar to what Mariott Hotel did with their Travel ‘Transporter’ campaign. Filming in ten different locations across the world probably won’t fit into your budget, so it might be worth purchasing or finding free 360 content of partner cities.
When I say events, I don’t mean just filming your impressive speaker that you have visiting next week, you can use Periscope for that. Give someone a reason to want to watch it through a headset and think about what content will transfer well into virtual reality. Take note from Topshop, who created a virtual reality experience for London Fashion Week, giving non A-listers the chance to sit on the front row of their latest catwalk.
5) Graduate careers
This is a great opportunity to work with your alumni to give prospective students a chance to see what they can achieve by studying at your institution. Get in touch with alumni in interesting professions and create a 360 film that showcases the impressive aspects of their job. Do they work in a state of the art office with views across London? Maybe they have their own studio full of their own creations? Or are they heading up a team on a busy construction site? Add a narrative to tell the story of how your university helped them get to where they are now.
6) Meet your tutors
Your university will no doubt have a collection of the some of the most intelligent and unusual academics in the world. And those academics will be teaching the next generation of students attending university. You’re probably thinking, a talking head of an academic might be quite dull. And you’re not wrong. That’s why I love this video from The Verge on Michelle Obama. They’ve included colourful infographics to support the narrative and to keep your attention on the right track.
The dreaded library induction. Let’s be honest, we know it’s useful but do you really want to waste time in your day when you could be watching the latest episode of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. Make inductions more exciting by including a virtual reality aspect. Using the library as an example, the video could include a student walking you around the library, showing new students key places and procedures. It would be a great way to break up what might be a dull service induction.
8) Student chill out zone
Exam period is full of stressed out students, desperately needing a break from revision. Create an environment with comfy seating (everyone loves a beanbag) where students can pop on a headset and headphones and zone out in a fully immersive virtual reality experience. A great example is the work from Guided Meditation VR, who formulate meditation experiences that help reduce anxiety and stress.
9) Google Cardboard give away
If you can’t afford to splash out on VR gear, what about investing in some branded Google Cardboard and an app full of the above content. In the retention stage of the student engagement journey, you want to keep the attention of your potential new students. Send students a Google Cardboard headset, with instructions to download the app and use the headset, and use the content to remind them of why they applied to your institution.
Has your university been using VR in a unique way? We’d love to hear about it. And if you need help communicating with your audiences, get in touch for a chat.