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 only requires an internet-connected computer, tablet, or phone.
- VR for VI- Virtual Reality and Vision Impairment
- Touring the 9/11 Museum with Virtual Reality
- Exploring the Life of David Bowie With Virtual Reality
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.
- College Search: Virtual College Tours, Virtual Reality Education (youvisit.com)
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Tablets
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Computers
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:
- Exploring the campus at your own pace and not worrying about exhaustion
- No need to worry about the weather affecting the tour- it’s less fun to tour a college when it’s pouring rain
- Students can visit colleges from outside of their area, not just whatever is within driving distance
- See how far apart buildings are on campus
- Get into areas that may not be on the normal tour
- How To Find Colleges To Apply To
- Online Activities That Help Prepare For College Transition
- Disclosing Disability In College Applications
- Blindness Canes and College Tours: Navigating College Campuses
- Places Every Visually Impaired Student Should Visit On College Tours
Examples of locations on the tour
While each college is different, all of the virtual college tours I explored included the following locations:
- Student center
- Campus landmark, i.e statue
- At least one residence hall
- Outdoor area
- Dining hall
- Arena/performing arts center
- Surrounding areas on campus
- How To Choose A Dorm And Pick College Housing
- Blindness Canes and Building Identification: Navigating College Campuses
- Blindness Canes and Dining Halls: Navigating College Campuses
- Preferential Seating and Low Vision
- Blindness Canes and Performing Arts Centers: Navigating College Campuses
Enabling accessibility view
Every tour on YouVisit has an accessibility version available that is designed for students with vision loss, inclusive of low vision/blind/nonvisual access. Features supported with accessibility view include:
- Support for screen readers/text-to-speech
- Support for screen magnification
- High resolution images with alt text
- 360-degree images that can be magnified (also available outside of accessibility view)
- Auto-play turned off for videos
- Transcripts and captioning
To activate accessibility view:
- Open a college tour
- Fill out student information, or click the “x” button to skip
- 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
- How To Create High Resolution Images For Users With Low Vision
- How To Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the Visually Impaired
- A to Z of Assistive Technology For Low Vision
- How To Make Virtual Museums Accessible For Visual Impairments
Finding additional college tours on social media
When I was a freshman, my college had several video tours posted across social media, including Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. 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.
Some colleges have an unofficial Reddit account that also includes images of dorms and other campus buildings- I posted photos of my freshman dorm for prospective students several years ago. This can be another helpful source for checking out housing, as these images are less “filtered” compared to official university accounts.
- How To Add Alt Text On Social Media
- How To Create Audio Description For YouTube With YouDescribe
- How To Make Your Instagram Feed Accessible For Visual Impairment
Follow up with additional questions
After finishing the virtual tour, it’s highly likely that students will have additional questions about the college and individual offices. Some examples of common questions I’ve seen come up include:
- How can I register for a Disability Services file?
- What is the bus system like on campus?
- Where can I get more information about applying?
- What AP/CLEP credits are accepted?
I’ve linked posts that discuss these topics and other common questions below.
- How To Create A Disability Services File
- How I Learned To Use The City Bus System With Low Vision
- Ten Questions to Ask When Choosing a College
- Ten More Questions to Ask When Choosing A College
- College Interview Tips For Disabled Students
- CLEP Exams and Low Vision
- How To Request a Course Substitution or Course Waiver In College
More tips for touring colleges with virtual reality
- When choosing a dorm, use Google Maps to calculate the distance between common classroom buildings and other campus locations
- Looking for more resources on campus accessibility? Run a web search for an accessibility map or ADA map for the college to learn about accessible routes and paths on campus
- Campus appearance can change frequently due to construction and renovations, and I recommend checking the campus construction webpage for more information about upcoming construction. This is especially important for students who use mobility aids
- Some colleges offer virtual tours which involve a tour guide doing a livestream with prospective student(s) and walking around various locations on campus- reach out to Admissions for more information.