COVID-19 has led the Office of Admissions to suspend all visits to campus for prospective students, however, they have developed a live, online tour on their website for admitted students to gain a greater feel for life on South Mountain.
The live feature offers an environment where admitted students can experience Lehigh’s campus, while being able to ask questions and receive answers in real time.
This virtual tour features photos, videos, and 360 degree panoramic views of different locations throughout Lehigh’s campus, said Neil Gogno, senior associate director of Admissions. Lehigh has had a form of a virtual tour on its website since May 2015, Gongo said, however, the older form of the tour did not have live features that the Office of Admissions recently added.
“What we’ve done recently for admitted students, specifically, is offer some live versions of the virtual tour,” Gogno said. “We’ve had our tour guide directors and coordinators work with the live tour guides to essentially use the photographs, the 360 view, the walk-through campus (in the old virtual tour), but mute the prerecorded tour guide and give a live Zoom session for admitted students.”
Bruce Bunnick, Lehigh’s director of Admissions, said Lehigh tour guides are hosting these virtual tours on Zoom to allow prospective students to use the chat feature to ask questions. The addition of Zoom makes the older virtual tour more interactive.
Bunnick said the tours have the feel of a live webinar session, and said its been a reliable resource for admitted students unable to travel in light of the pandemic.
While the online tour will be popular among students who live far away, Bunnick is looking forward to welcoming visitors back to campus to experience the beauty of Lehigh’s campus in person.
“If there is one key signature of the university besides its academic profile, the physical beauty of the campus is something that visitors really really wish to engage in, and that’s the part at present that we cannot show off,” Bunnick said. “We are really trying to use the virtual tour as a means to allow students to see us in that space, but once the dust has settled and COVID is clear and we’re back to a normal campus environment, we’ll see more visitors coming to campus to engage in walking tours.”
Staff on the admissions team, as well as tour guide coordinators, were responsible for training student tour guides to adjust to the new format of live online tours.
Lehigh student tour guide Heather Keyser, ‘22, said while it was an adjustment to move from in-person tours to virtual tours, she believes Admissions handled the situation well.
“I’ve given two virtual tours so far with one other tour guide, and the tour always goes smoothly,” Keyser said. “The pictures used are a great representation of campus. We actually get to show more of campus on the virtual tour than in person to make sure we give all the prospective students as real a feel of Lehigh as we possibly can,.”
Bunnick said Lehigh is planning on adding a virtual information session to coincide with the tours so that the admissions department has the same format virtually as it does in a live environment.