How one university moved campus tours to Instagram

Guides took 'honest and genuine' approach to online campus tours
By: | May 28, 2020
Kutztown University's virtual campus tour guides couldn't enter locked down buildings but they could answer questions in real-time on Instagram.Kutztown University's virtual campus tour guides couldn't enter locked down buildings but they could answer questions in real-time on Instagram.

With prospective students unable to visit Kutztown University, the Pennsylvania school’s campus tour guides took to Instagram Live with their iPhones.

Tour guides, all of whom were graduating seniors who lived near the Pennsylvania campus, couldn’t enter locked down buildings but they could answer participants’ questions in real-time, says Krista Evans, Kutztown’s director of undergraduate admissions.

“Our tour guides acknowledged at beginning of the tour that this was not the ideal experience,” Evans says. “That honesty and genuine approach really made a difference in letting high school students know we’re empathetic and we understand what they’re going through.”

Despite the empty campus, the intent was to mimic an in-person visit as closely as possible. High school seniors first met virtually with an admissions counselor and then “headed out on tour” on Instagram.

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A member of the admissions staff helped answer questions during the tours, each of which was joined by about 200 people.

Even though participants could see inside classrooms or residence halls, the tours still gave prospective students a sense of the layout of the campus and proximity between buildings, says Warren Hilton, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs.

For example, at the building where one tour guide most of his classes, he described in detail the social media lab and TV studio. He later talked about the layout of the campus’ 24/7 dining facilities.

“He did an exceptional job of painting a picture of campus and what’s inside our buildings and what’s in town as well,” Hilton says.

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Kutztown also recently held it’s accepted student reception online on Instagram, Zoom, YouTube and other virtual platforms, Evans adds.

Prospective students and their parents connected with administrators, faculty and current students, she says.

As for fall enrollment, Hilton says the university is “cautiously optimistic.”

“What we’re seeing nationally is nobody knows what’s going to happen but right now numbers are looking good,” Hilton says.

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.