Castleton campus tours are going virtual with a new interactive tool that gives a 360-degree tour of the entire campus from any mobile device.
YouVisit, a 360-degree interactive experience company, allows students from across the globe to take a stroll through campus from the comfort of their own home.
The tour starts right outside of the Alumni Gate.
In the lower right-hand corner of the screen, a blonde woman wearing a Castleton shirt fades into view.
“Welcome to Castleton University,” she says. “We’re so happy you’re taking the time to get to know us better. My name is Mia. Let me show you around.”
“Mia” is an actress hired by the company and serves as the virtual tour guide through the campus. But she’s the only actress in this virtual tour. The rest are real students and professors.
“When you’re actually in the video and the tour, there are several Castleton students in it,” Katye Munger, director of digital media said. “Those interactive pieces – those are all real students.”
The project started in Nov. 2017 and the tour launched at the beginning of Feb., Munger said.
The tour officially became embedded on the Castleton website in the early part of March.
The tour itself highlights different locations on campus from the Fine Arts Center to the Spartan Athletic Complex. It ends just outside of the buildings in Downtown Rutland.
The tour is offered in both English and Mandarin, and according to Maurice Ouimet, dean of enrollment, there is consideration to offer it in more languages in the future.
“The opportunity to have it in two languages made sense for us because Castleton has partnered with a number of universities in China,” Ouimet said.
Ouimet said s tudents from Chinese universities visit Castleton every semester, which is why it made sense for the second language to be Mandarin.
For the Mandarin language option there is no “tour guide,” but instead a voiceover.
Munger said there are some plans for new features for the virtual tour in the future.
“You’re able to watch it on your computer, on your phone. If you walk around campus with it open, there’s an app that will be launching soon,” she said. “If you use that app, it’s geotagged, so it could give you the tour as you actually walk around campus, which I think is a great feature.”
In addition, prospective students can scope out campus in virtual reality and even better if they have a VR headset, Munger said.
“It has a lot of really great features, and I think it does a really good job of highlighting Castleton,” she said. “We’ll be able to update it on a yearly basis to make sure that it’s always fresh and it has the most recent information.”
One of those updates will come later this year. Currently, the outdoor footage used in the virtual tour is from late Nov., showing all the signs of a late Vermont fall.
Ouimet said that decision came down to timing, but it will eventually change.
“One of the challenges for us was the timing, that we wanted to get it done,” he said. “It would be nicer to see our beautiful foliage and green grass in the middle of the summertime. That is going to be something that’s updated late in the summer.”
Munger said she is pleased with how the virtual tour turned out.
“The virtual tour is something that admissions and marketing have been talking about for a long time and this year was just the right year for us to go ahead and do that,” she said. “We looked at a lot of different companies and we just felt that YouVisit was the best fit for us, for our goals, and we’re all really happy with how it turned out.”