Two New Noel-Levitz Reports Discussing the Virtual Campus Tour
Noel-Levitz has recently released two new studies for colleges and universities that provide more compelling data around the value of having a virtual campus tour of your school. The 2012 E-Expectations Report on The Online Expectations of College-Bound Juniors and Seniors continues the annual series that we have shared in the past. The other report Higher Ed Benchmarks on 2012 E-Recruitment Practices and Trends at Four-Year and Two-Year Institutions is a nice complementary report that provides benchmark data on what colleges and universities are currently doing on their website. The two reports independently are a wealth of great information, but when you put the two together they provide a nice macro-level view of prospective student interest and if they are being meet by institutions.
2012 E-Expectations Report
The 2012 edition of the E-Expectations report surveyed 2,000 college-bound juniors and seniors about their expectations for college websites, mobile usage, e-mail, and social media. Although you can find lots of interesting data across all of these subjects we mainly care about the virtual tour experience. 43% reported that they had viewed a virtual tour or interactive campus map on a school’s website. Although this is less than half of students, we’ll see from the complementary report it’s not completely the students’ fault.
Students also reported the following reasons for taking a virtual tour or checking a map:
- See how big or small the campus is – 32%
- Learn more about the area around campus – 26%
- Get a sense of the buildings, architectural style – 24%
- See the insides of the residence halls/dorm rooms – 11%
- See what the people look like – 4%
- See how far it is from their home – 4%
All this is well and good, but the big kicker is the following data point: 49% of prospective students stated that viewing a campus map changed their opinion of a campus! The vast majority of this group’s opinions were changed for the better.
2012 Higher Ed Benchmarking Report
This second report, 2012 E-Recruiting Practices and Trends at Four-Year and Two-Year Institutions, examines the popularity of social media, the web, and many other electronic recruitment practices across the main three types of higher education institutions, 4-year private, 4-year public and 2-year public. A total of 256 schools participated in this study. Once again there is a wealth of great information around communication mediums, budget towards online admissions-related web content and more. Even with all this great information, we only care about the specific data on virtual tours and interactive maps for our purposes here.
This specific report has a section in which it asks the three main audiences which of the following 33 practices your institution uses. Virtual tours and interactive campus maps are two separate line items and here is the percentage of schools using those features.
First of all the nice thing for us is this means that we have huge areas of growth with less than half of schools taking advantage of these features. Second, now we understand why 51% of prospective students have not seen a campus map because it’s not present on over half of schools’ websites. Finally we should quickly address the subject of whether you should create a virtual tour or an interactive campus map. The quick answer is we believe our product accomplishes both of these in one experience, but if you want the long answer then you should head over to this blog post on the difference between a virtual tour and an interactive map.
The Big Takeaway
Almost half of prospective students are telling us that a campus map changes their opinion of your campus. To stay competitive can you afford NOT to invest in this critical piece of content? There are very few recruitment pieces you can develop that will positively influence one out of every three people that view it. Despite this single tool that can greatly swing the final decision of a prospective student there are a lot of schools who do not offer this web feature as we see in the benchmarking data.
We personally believe the importance of this feature is all the more reason why you do not want to use a Google Map of your campus. It simply does not make your beautiful campus stand out like it could with a gorgeous map illustration.