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September 22, 2011 8:57 am

Virtual tour will help promote Northwest College

Written by Ilene Olson

Chayce Goton of Greybull (left), a sophomore at Northwest College, talks about his experience at NWC and what the college offers students during filming for a virtual tour of the college on Tuesday. Visiting with him is Tony Pombo, and filming is Adam Fernandez (not visible), both of Realview TV, based in Georgia. Chayce Goton of Greybull (left), a sophomore at Northwest College, talks about his experience at NWC and what the college offers students during filming for a virtual tour of the college on Tuesday. Visiting with him is Tony Pombo, and filming is Adam Fernandez (not visible), both of Realview TV, based in Georgia. Tribune photo by Ilene Olson

Prospective students wanting to know more about Northwest College soon will be able to learn about the college, its facilities and what it offers students through an online virtual tour.

A crew from Realview TV, based in Atlanta, began filming on campus for the tour Tuesday and continues through today (Thursday).  Additional filming Friday will include scenes at Yellowstone National Park and other outdoor attractions.

“We’re really excited about it because it’s cutting edge. We feel it’s going to help meet the needs of our students,” said Sean Fox, NWC vice president for student affairs.

Fox said researching online is the main way students learn about the colleges they are considering attending.

“Many, many of our students find out about our institution by electronic means,” he said.

The virtual tour will offer a real-life look at the college, much of it presented by students — how well they’re doing and testimonials about the college.

That’s more appealing to potential students, who often prefer other students’ viewpoints about the college over those of faculty and staff, he said.

“If one student says something to another student, they’re more interested,” he said.

Fox said the college he formerly worked for had a similar virtual tour, and it was an effective recruiting tool.

“We found it was truly amazing how students really liked that type of information from students rather than staff,” he said.

There is no script for students to follow during the filming, Fox said.

“Nothing is staged; there will be questions, but they will give the true answer.”

West Hernandez, NWC admissions manager, said the virtual tour will be available on Northwest College’s website. It will include about 20 short videos featuring about 30 people who will provide insight into each area of the college.

Most videos will last a minute to a minute and a half.

“That’s what people want,” he said. “They don’t want to watch video for an hour.”

The virtual tour, or virtual campus experience, is expected to be completed by about January.

The tour will include information about the college’s programs, such as music, photography, art, criminal justice and broadcasting, as well as activities and outdoor life available to students.

Hernandez said he selected students and staff based on their availability and experience. Students featured include members of NWC Student Senate, Block and Bridle Club, ambassador students and many others. Faculty and staff in charge of specific areas also are featured.

NWC Registrar Brad Hammond said most students are surprised at how big the NWC campus is. In addition to the videos, the project will include an updated map of campus.

“This will give them a better idea of its size,” he said.

Hernandez said Realview TV was chosen for the job because of the company’s experience in filming similar tours for more than 20 colleges and universities. The virtual tour, or virtual campus experience, will be compatible with electronic devices such as the iPod and iPad, and it will include features that integrate with social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

According to information from the company, the tour videos are encoded for optimal load time and delivered via reliable cloud technology.

In addition, “The really good thing about this company is, the CEO is so approachable. It feels like a small-town company,” Hammond said.

The initial cost of the project is $35,000, with a $2,000 yearly licensing agreement.

That’s money well spent, Hernandez said.

“The biggest goal is to drive traffic toward students applying for admission, making a campus visit and increasing enrollment,” he said. “Having students find out from other students, it’s a very good way to get students engaged, to get a deeper understanding of Northwest.”

Periodic updates will be required to keep the virtual tour up to date, but that cost will be minimal, Fox said.

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