University re-creates an authentic campus visit experience

Posted by Kyla Ball on Nov 13, 2020 2:51:48 AM

Due to Covid-19 the University of Rochester realized that their popular in-person tours couldn’t take place - a serious blow to student recruitment. Research undertaken for the university website had proven that prospective students really valued these in-person tours, which give them an insight into living and studying at Rochester. Crucially, the choice to apply to or accept a place at Rochester was often made on the basis of connections made with current students during a campus visit.

The University of Rochester Medical Center is one of the foremost academic medical centers in the US, with 96 MD and PhD students admitted to its medical school annually. It includes 6 regional hospitals, including one with 866 bed spaces, and employs 3000 scientific researchers. But besides their impressive facilities, the asset that really sells Rochester as a great place to live and study is the people. Current undergraduates are passionate and knowledgeable about the medical school, and the most powerful asset in recruiting high quality students.



Challenge for the web team

The web team were faced with the challenge of creating a solution that was both dynamic and immersive, that showed the personality of current students as well as their world-class facilities. “We had to come as close to that in-person tour as we could - virtually” says Wade Holdraker, Assistant VP, Web Services.

It was clear that authentic student voices needed to come across in the online tours. For this reason it was decided that students should film their own pieces on GoPro. One of the first to sign up to present was Christian Griffin, who already hosted many of the in-person tours, so it made perfect sense for him to lead and introduce the virtual tour. Using audio on the introductory page means that his warm personality really shines through. “That was what our virtual students craved - to have that connection” says Wade.

The Solution

An externally commissioned, bespoke campus tour would have been expensive and taken more time than the web team had available - particularly with the added complications of Covid-19. Giving the students their own cameras saved time. It only took 2 to 3 months from start to finish scripting, sourcing and collating existing resources, shooting and editing new videos and the images and putting it all together. In part the process was delivered so quickly because so many users were involved in its creation. Because of the ease of use of ThingLink, the web team was able to divide the project between multiple students and staff and ask them to build it out according to certain parameters.

“What we loved most about the tool was that you don’t need to be a developer to build tours; you can build engaging interactions really easily. We needed to deploy a tour quickly and easily and ThingLink really helped us do that. It was a quick, easy solution to a really big problem”.  Wade Holdraker, Assistant VP, Web Services.

The tour is now embedded in their website and student pages. It was also emailed directly to applicants and to those who had been invited to interview. 


"The possibilities are endless...."

The web team report impressive use figures as well as great feedback. And that all-important personal, authentic connection? The web team found that the tour actually did a great job of connecting people after the tours. Call to action buttons were added at the end of the tour lead visitors to the admissions site; from there they can be put in touch with current students that they can connect with.

What’s next?

“We’re starting to discover we can use ThingLink for so many more things…”
The students, the marketing and PR department and communications team have all been inspired - the tour has started sparking further ideas of ways in which ThingLink could be used. For example, GoPros have now been given to all current residents so they can create their own personal video tours for their programme pages on the website. ThingLink is used within the videos, linking each resident to their social profile to learn more about them. Wade Holdraker, Assistant VP, Web Services.

Virtual Tours Made Easy with ThingLink

We have been wowed by the creative uses of ThingLink specifically for school, classroom or campus tours. Explore some of our featured examples from 2020. 

How to Tour Colleges During A Global Pandemic? Explore 10 examples of virtual campus tours

The Microsoft Education Showcase Blog featuring Penybont Primary School and Midlothian Council.

Keele University uses ThingLink to ensure new students can still visit, tour and explore the campus

ThingLink Spotlight: ClassVR and ThingLink Case Study: A Historic Virtual School Tour

The full University of Rochester Case Study in a PDF format is available here. If you have any questions about the use of ThingLink in Education for School / Campus Tours, Virtual Field Trips or  engaging content please get in touch, email or


Topics: Interactive video, Featured, virtual tour, 360, Spotlight, creativity, digital skills, higher education, Authentic Visit

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