Start Your Journey with Virtual Visit
Students can explore the University of Edinburgh campus from around the world with the recently launched Virtual Visits platform
The University’s new Virtual Visits online platform, launched 2 November 2020, enables prospective undergraduate and postgraduate students to imagine themselves at the University of Edinburgh, touring through the campus, city and student life in general. The interactive tool provides a space and place representation of the University, which can be personalized to students’ subject and areas of interest.
Users can take a guided tour from Teviot Row House to Easter Bush Campus or explore for themselves filtering between Life in Edinburgh, Accommodation, Studying and Support & Wellbeing categories. The platform includes a variety of videos and 360-degree views of the University and Edinburgh, showcasing rich media content of the vibrant, inspiring and friendly city. Additionally, prospective students are able to speak to students and staff directly using the new UniBuddy application. As part of its phased roll-out, the Unibuddy platform was integrated within the Virtual Visits site to enable direct, peer-to-peer communication with student ambassadors.
It is useful to remember in these strange times that the University has been shaping a stronger concept of community, of belonging. The current challenges simply amplify the need for this. The Virtual Visit gives a sense of assurance as much as information to applicants on what life in Edinburgh is like, and really gives the sense of being able to ‘project’ yourself into life and study here.
The Virtual Visit began as an initiative within Student Recruitment and Admissions (SRA). However, given its particular value at a time when there are limitations on physical campus visits, it was identified as one of three new tools to support digital student recruitment and was given highest priority within the Adaption and Renewal (ART) Framework. This afforded the project dedicated support from IS that turned out to be key.
We have always had a strong vision for this tool and the impact it will have on our audience. However, as a business unit rich in recruitment expertise but less experienced with technology projects, we found it challenging to navigate the many requirements that form part of our internal processes, and in some cases our legal obligations. Procurement, information security, data protection, accessibility, EdGel, UX, and service management were just some of the areas we had to understand. However, the first-class support that we secured from the IS Projects Team and Service Excellence to address these tasks, meant that we could focus our effort on the area we know best – the prospective student audience.
Together with the Unibuddy and Large Events Platform projects, Virtual Visits significantly develops the University’s digital infrastructure for student recruitment, enabling online alternatives to traditional outreach and equipping the recruitment teams to adopt more hybrid approaches to student engagement in the future. These tools are designed to work together, and a key milestone for the project was to launch the website ahead of this year’s Virtual Open Days.
Over 4,000 individuals logged on to the new large events platform to access Postgraduate Virtual Open Week from 9th-13th November, and early feedback indicates about 99% of survey respondents would recommend the event to a friend. The platform was in action again on Saturday for the first of two Undergraduate Open Days, with the second taking place this Friday, 27th November. Both the Virtual Visit and Unibuddy tools are being promoted to these event audiences as part of a co-ordinated set of engagement opportunities.