Families can now tour some of Australia’s elite schools without leaving home.
The education sector is jumping on the virtual reality wagon, employing high resolution, 360-degree photography to show off campuses and classrooms.
The Knox School in Melbourne has been running virtual tours on its website for about two years, launching a new higher-quality version about a year ago.
The coeducational school in Wantirna South, east of Melbourne’s CBD, uses the online tours to communicate with prospective families.
“Given we are a day school, rather than boarding, the advantage these tours offer is they add a level of richness to the parents’ experience prior to them visiting,” principal Allan Shaw said. “We find most do still visit, and we would encourage that.”
“We’re finding at school tours, parents are talking about facilities with us almost like they know about them already,” marketing manager Debbie Butler said.
“They have clearly been using the virtual tour to find out what we have to offer.”
While both The Knox School and Mentone Grammar are day schools, Mr Shaw believes the technology has useful implications for the boarding sector.
“Whether it is an independent, government or Catholic school doesn’t really matter,” Mr Shaw said. “It is the fit between the child, the family and the school, and the three-way partnership that develops that is critical.
“In a boarding environment, those parents often feel they are the distant third party. So the more a school does to work with them and stay in touch, the better.”
With a background working in boarding, Mr Shaw said virtual tours offered yet another way schools can be transparent with parents.
Ms Butler said Mentone Grammar’s virtual tours also increased the school’s visibility to the wider community.
“We have opened a few new buildings recently, so we keep adding to the tour,” she said.
“Alumni can see how the school is developing as well.”
Information and service provider Good Education Group believes the technology is helpful for regional and rural families, who want to know more about a school before travelling to attend an open day.
Good Education Group CEO Chris Lester said while the tours didn’t replace in-person visits, the high-definition technology could help families make informed decisions.
“With parents becoming increasingly time poor, virtual tours make for a useful tool for parents to gain a perspective on the look and feel of a school and may help raise questions that makes the physical visit an efficient use of time,” Mr Lester said.
This article originally appeared in The Weekly Times – View potential schools from home with online virtual tours