Graphic: Touring Colleges with Virtual Reality

Touring Colleges with Virtual Reality

Using the YouVisit platform to tour colleges in virtual reality. Compatible with screen readers and magnification.

As technology continues to evolve, future college students now have an additional way to search for higher education by touring colleges with virtual reality. Virtual college tours can give students the opportunity to get to know their future campus, from the comfort of their school or home. This is especially beneficial for students with chronic illness or disability that may not have the time or energy for a traditional college tour. Today, I will be sharing my tips for touring colleges with virtual reality using the popular YouVisit platform.

What is virtual reality?

Virtual reality is known by many names, including 360 video, immersive video, spherical video, and augmented reality. It can also be abbreviated as VR or AR. Virtual reality allows for a user to immerse themselves in a virtual environment using technology. Videos are shot with multidirectional cameras from every angle, and put together using a technique called video stitching. Virtual reality allows for a user to be completely immersed in an environment, while augmented reality allows for a blending of virtual reality and the real world.

While many virtual reality simulations require special equipment, touring a college with virtual reality requires no special equipment. Users only need an internet-connected computer, tablet, or phone.

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What is YouVisit?

YouVisit is a platform that allows colleges to create their own tours using virtual reality technology. Over 600 colleges from all across the country have tours on YouVisit. Their virtual college tours integrate 360 degree video, photos, audio, and video so that potential students can explore the campus freely using their technology. Students also have the option to add themselves to the college mailing list so they can get more information.

YouVisit virtual college tours can be accessed on their website, with the option to use a VR headset. Tours can be accessed on any computer, tablet, or phone. No account is required to view tours. I tested YouVisit with my Android phone, iPad, and desktop computer with successful results.

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Why to use virtual reality to tour colleges

There are many benefits to going on a college tour with virtual reality, besides saving money from traveling. Some of these benefits include:

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Examples of locations on the tour

While each college is different, all of the virtual college tours I explored included the following locations:

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Enabling accessibility view

Every tour on YouVisit has an accessibility version available that is designed for students with low vision or blindness. The accessibility version works well with screen readers and screen magnification. Users can view high resolution images with alt text, though students with low vision may prefer to check out the 360 images in the traditional tour as well. Videos do not auto-play, and there are transcripts available for students to listen to on their own time.

To activate accessibility view:

  1. Open a college tour of your choice
  2. Fill out student information, or click the “x” button to skip
  3. Once on the home screen, click the shaded eye icon to open accessibility view. The location of the accessibility button varies depending on the college. I usually found it either on the bottom or the center of the screen

Strangely enough, NVDA did not recognize the accessibility button, but VoiceOver and TalkBack did. I’m not sure why this is the case.

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Using additional tools for virtual college tours

While YouVisit provides lots of great resources, students may want to use other softwares and websites to explore their future college. Here are some of my recommendations:

Finding additional college tours on social media

When I was a freshman, my college had several video tours posted across social media. These video tours included audio description and featured the same locations as the virtual reality tours, but with more detailed information. Some examples include specific dorm buildings, floors of the library, and individual department tours.

Important things to note about virtual reality college tours

Here are a few important things to remember when visiting a college virtually:

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Follow up with additional questions

Once you’ve done a virtual reality campus tour, make a list of questions you want to ask staff members that the tour did not answer. Some example questions may include:

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Final thoughts

Exploring colleges with virtual reality can be a great way for students to discover their preferences for their future college choices, because they can tour so many different types of campuses. It’s also a great way to help students think ahead for college and prepare for transition to higher education. I highly recommend that students try at least one virtual college tour and learn more about their potential college choice with the power of technology.

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes,
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