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Virtual reality headset brings campuses to students

New technology gives distant students a feel for campus
University Business, September 2014
Immersion in a long-distance tour is easy when videos are turned into 360-degree experiences through the OculusRift headset.
Immersion in a long-distance tour is easy when videos are turned into 360-degree experiences through the OculusRift headset.

Admissions officers: Would more students enroll if you could bring your campus and its top-flight learning spaces along on recruiting trips?

That technology—powered by’s online campus tours and a virtual reality headset called the OculusRift—is just over the horizon, now being tested by a small group of institutions.

“It puts you right in the heart of a facility,” says Kevin Phillips, associate vice president for enrollment at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. “You can turn to the left, turn to the right—it feels like you’re there. Our positives will really come out in something like this.”

YouVisit has enhanced the 1,000-plus panoramic campus videos on its website into 360-degree experiences that can be seen when users put on the OculusRift headset and are immersed in the tour. UNH used OculusRift on campus over the summer to rave reviews and plans to deploy it this fall at regional recruiting events, Phillips says.

Admissions officials at Yale, meanwhile, may send it out on recruiting trips, says Mark Dunn, director of outreach and recruitment, who explains that experiencing campus spaces through the headset produces “the same sense of wonder” as visiting, without the travel.

Acquired by Facebook earlier this year, OculusRift won’t be available to consumers until later next year, but already there has been huge interest from institutions wanting to adopt the technology, says Endri Tolka, one of the three former international students who launched YouVisit in 2009. They see it as particularly useful in reaching out-of-state and low-income students, he adds.

About a quarter of the students who now take the online tours eventually visit the campus. “This new technology is going to help our clients attract more prospective students, get them interested in campus, get them to visit and ultimately apply and enroll,” he says.

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