With my Jayhawks entering the Final Four, I can’t help but reminisce about the first time I set foot on campus. I remember leaving Jayhawk Boulevard, driving away from Lawrence, KS, and calling anyone who needed to know to tell them that I was becoming a Jayhawk. My visit to campus left a lasting impression.

But what if I couldn’t have had that visit? What if, instead of all those years ago, it was 2022, in a semi-post-pandemic world, and I couldn’t visit campus because either campus wasn’t yet open to visitors or I didn’t have the resources to travel for the visit? Could I have known what it was like to be a student without visiting campus?

In 2022, as I support colleges and universities successfully engaging students digitally, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Think Beyond the Tour

A recent article in Inside Higher Ed highlights the latest Student Voice Survey, which identifies a need for both in-person and virtual options in the college search process. The idea is not to sacrifice one for the other, but to strengthen both to provide opportunities for all students to engage with the campuses of their choice.

While the article focuses specifically on the role of the virtual tour, I challenge colleges and universities to think beyond a tour as the only option to engage students digitally. Virtual tours often offer an interactive campus map, a video tour of campus and, sometimes, a video tour of the residence halls. This is an excellent use of a virtual tour and is the exact content that should be included; however, students have identified content that is missing from the virtual tour experience.

Students want:

  • messages from faculty and enrolled students,
  • videos of the dining halls and athletic facilities,
  • videos of classrooms and other academic spaces,
  • and opportunities to interact with your campus community.

To capture all of these experiences in one virtual tour is nearly impossible if you want to do it in a timeframe that will keep the attention of today’s students. So let’s consider an alternative to supplement your in-person activities and virtual tour: on-demand video streaming.

On-Demand Video Streaming

Think about Netflix and your ability to watch what you want, when you want to watch it. Now think about creating that same experience for your prospective students on a platform branded for your institution.

Instead of movies and television shows, you stream short, segmented (3-minutes or less) videos on the topics students want to hear about. They can now consume content on their own time and pick and choose the videos that are most important to them. They can come back again and again to watch content they’ve seen before or catch new content you’ve released. The content you create here is not as polished as what you’ve produced for your virtual tour or visit videos, but is less formal, more conversational, and authentically highlights the student experience. You’re now giving students the insight they need to make a decision.

Digital engagement as part of a comprehensive recruitment plan continues to evolve, but one thing is clear: students expect it as part of their search process. It’s time to think strategically and creatively about your in-person experiences, virtual tour, and digital content and their role in recruiting your next class. I guarantee you, if done right, students will leave your streaming platform feeling the same way I did that day I chose KU.