Prospective Stony Brook students can now use a virtual reality headset to navigate a photo tour of the campus either online or on mobile devices. This is the product of SBU Admissions beginning to dabble in virtual reality software thanks to its partnership with YouVisit, a virtual tours platform that has been working with Stony Brook for nearly five years.
“It’s one thing to see pictures on the website,” Chris D’Orso, assistant director of Admissions, said. “Everybody’s got pictures on the website. Students who visit campus are vastly more likely to enroll than those who don’t. Not everybody has the ability to visit campus, and this gives them as close as we can get to that and really get a sense of what it is to be on campus.”
International students on temporary visas, also knows as students of Non-Resident Alien status, make up 16.86 percent of the University, according to Stony Brook’s Fall 2014 Headcount Enrollment. Out-of-state students comprise 24.2 percent of Stony Brook’s undergraduate enrollment and 44.2 percent of the university’s graduate students.
“I think people outside of the greater New York Metro area don’t quite know what’s going on out here,” D’Orso said. “They either think we’re New York City and it’s skyscrapers, or they think we’re farm country. To actually get that visual of what the campus is, walking around and getting a feel for somebody who’s in California or Chile, I think it could be a game-changer.”
This is possible by using a virtual reality headset such as the Oculus Rift or more affordable Google Cardboard. Although the technology is in its early stages, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has ideas for how to best utilize it as it develops.
“I’d like some of our recruiters to have the ability to take some of these with them on the road,” Stefan Hyman, the assistant provost for Enrollment Strategies, Communications and Analytics, said. “Simply going to Brooklyn and New York City where there are a lot of students who have a lot of interest in Stony Brook but haven’t had the chance to visit yet or whether they’re going across the country.”
“I think at least for now we would bring one or two of these on the road with us to a visit or a college fair or something along those lines,” Hyman added. “But the fact is, it’s a live public website, so if you happen to have a Google Cardboard, you could go bring this up wherever you are. The technology is not exclusive.”
The current version of the virtual campus tour allows visitors to course through various locations such as the Staller Steps, Zebra Path and LaValle Stadium and view them in panoramic 3D. Future plans are to “incorporate some more multimedia content in the form of video,” according to Hyman.
“In terms of other next steps: some focus groups with students, trying to talk to high school students or admitted students who are considering Stony Brook right now to get their impressions of it, try to take their feedback and incorporate it into future iterations,” he said.
Hyman believes Stony Brook’s deal with YouVisit is also economically beneficial towards both parties.
“Right now there’s no additional cost that we’re paying YouVisit for this,” Hyman said. “They’re very interested in piloting new technology, and that relationship has worked out pretty well in previous years.”
“I think one of the nice things about being who we are and where we are is that because [YouVisit is] based in New York City, we’re easy access for them,” D’Orso added. “And so it’s nice to be able to use a big public top-ranked research university as sort of a guinea pig for new technology. We’re happy to be the guinea pig for new technology.”
Although Stony Brook is merely taking its first step into the new technology, the admissions office is excited for what the future holds.
“I think if there’s something technology-wise that will help the admissions experience, it’s upon us to try it,” D’Orso said. “It’s the kind of thing that could provide a lot of value.”