About University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College’s VR projects:
During the past year, Lennon Parker developed an interactive virtual campus using InstaVR technology which has become a successful recruiting tool. Recently, the Always Learning Librarian listed his work along with the Library of Congress, UCLA, Georgetown University and described his work for University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College as the most immersive virtual tour on the list.
To access all of UA-Pulaski Tech’s online VR tours, visit https://www.uaptc.edu/vr. And make sure to watch the below 30 minute webinar by Lennon Parker on how he builds and promotes virtual tours for the college.
Lennon Parker, Digital Communication Specialist at University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College
Lennon Parker is the Digital Communication Specialist at University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College. He manages the college website, digital signage, social media, videography, photography and virtual reality services. In 2007, University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College awarded him the Outstanding Employee Award for Service Excellence and later that year he received the Outstanding Staff Award from the Arkansas Community Colleges for his work and dedication.
University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College is a public two-year community college located in North Little Rock Arkansas. Founded in 1991, the college offers over 80 programs of study to 6,000+ students and is the largest two-year college in central Arkansas. The mission of the college is to provide access to high-quality education that promotes student learning and enables individuals to develop to their fullest potential
Parker uses InstaVR generated tours to promote campus without students having to physically visit. Takes VR headsets on the road to showcase at high school and community events.
Question: How did you first get interested in using VR at UA-Pulaski Tech?
Answer: Our director of admissions had contacted me about the idea and after discussing it, we looked at different colleges who were using virtual reality and we thought it would be a good recruiting tool to make available to future students who were interested in attending.
Question: What are the advantages to using 360 media for marketing/outreach in higher education?
Answer: One of the best advantages is giving prospective students the opportunity to experience your campus culture through virtual reality without coming to campus! Through virtual reality, users can navigate around different labs, dining areas, classrooms and more. While they are navigating, they can view photos of the activity that goes on in the room they are navigating around which gives the user a feel of what it’s like in person. Another advantage is your able to take your campus on the road and share it with high schools, community events or promoting a program that takes place in a particular building. For example, if you are promoting aviation and you can offer a tour of your hanger and even offer the user a chance to navigate inside an aircraft. Seeing it will make the interested student eager to visit in person.
Experiencing a VR campus tour at an off-campus event
Parker uses a Ricoh Theta S, uses Adobe Photoshop to lighten photos/add small edits, and each VR tour only takes him a couple hours to build in InstaVR
Question:What kind of hardware (ie cameras, tripods) for building your VR?
Answer: Currently, we are using a THETA S by RICOH and a Promaster tripod.
Question: How did you find about InstaVR?
Answer: Our Admissions office had researched and recommended InstaVR.
Question: What is your process for filming, uploading, editing, etc using InstaVR? How long does it take you per tour? How many people?
Filming – My process for filming is shooting the needed shots early in the morning during low traffic so I can get shots without people. When I shoot, I’m building the navigation in my head and try to take shots as if I was the user wearing a headset or using a computer. If the area I’m shooting has an item like a dentist chair, I’ll set the camera up in the chair and shoot it like I was sitting in the chair. The final product, the user will feel like they are sitting in a dental chair when selecting the chair in VR. This makes the virtual reality experience fun because users will get to interact with stuff other than just navigating around rooms.
Uploading – For uploading, I prefer to upload a few images at a time, based on the area I am working in. For example, if you are developing a virtual tour for a building that has multiple floors, you want to start working on the first floor first, and only upload photos from that floor. If you upload all the images for that building, it could be a challenge figuring out what’s what!
Editing – For editing, I use Adobe Photoshop CC. If the room is a little dark, I’ll lighten it up so it appears natural. If I see anything unflattering or something I forgot to move, Photoshop removes it easily. If I’m going to be using photos in my tour, I’ll compress them in Photoshop so it doesn’t take long to load when the user accesses it in VR.
Time – For time, it varies on the size of the building, space, and features. For a building with one floor and a couple of rooms could be done in a couple of hours or less. The longest I’ve spent was an entire day working on a three story building. Sometimes, my schedule plays a role where a four hour project could take a day based on interruptions.
People – For people, no team or additional people required! Only one person! That’s the beauty of the technology InstaVR has developed!
Aerospace Technology Center tour includes interactive hotspots
Expanding to showcasing facility rentals, with next step being 4K video showcasing cooking demonstrations for prospective culinary school students
Question: What is your distribution plan for your projects?
Answer: We originally started out doing virtual reality tours for our campus but since it has become a hit, we now use it for facility rentals. Since we started using it for rentals, customers who rented the room liked how they got to experience a feel of the room before making a reservation. Sales have picked up since we switched from photos to VR.
Question: What has been the feedback so far at UA-Pulaski Tech? Any success stories from using VR specifically?
Answer: Everyone seems to enjoy being able to get a feel of our different programs and labs we offer which has sparked interest in students enrolling in the programs they navigated using VR. I was told by admissions, we had a visitor who toured our culinary school who was so impressed with the facility that he visited it in person and plans to become a student. At events, many people are surprised after using the VR because they didn’t realize that we offered certain programs they saw. For high schools, getting to go inside a virtual big rig or an aircraft has been exciting because many of the students have said they had never been in one so this becomes a great experience for them.
The best feedback was receiving national recognition in an online article related to virtual tours online and seeing our college listed with other virtual tours such as the Library of Congress, UCLA, Georgetown University and out of the entire list, our tour was described “the most immersive virtual tour on the list.”
Question: Any advice for colleges considering utilizing VR for marketing/outreach?
Answer: It’s fun, its great exposure and affordable! Especially, if you’re on a tight budget. If you want to take your recruitment to the next level, virtual reality is it!
Question: What are your plans going forward? What new VR uses or projects do you have planned?
Answer: Our next wave is creating 4K virtual reality video! For students interested in culinary, they could watch a cooking demonstration or if you’re interested in welding, you can go inside a welding shop and get an experience of what it’s like. Wherever the VR technology is going, UA – Pulaski Tech is going to stay on top so we can offer the best to future students with the latest technology.
Parker easily publishes both a web & mobile version, plus offers optional VR headset use
Thank you to Lennon Parker for his time and insight! And don’t forget to attend the joint UA-Pulaski Tech & InstaVR webinar on “VR in Higher Education” on June 12th, 3pm EST at https://join.me/instavrandrew