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HSE Virtual Tour: Stroll Around the University from the Comfort of Your Home

HSE Virtual Tour: Stroll Around the University from the Comfort of Your Home

© Daniil Prokofyev/ HSE University

In June 2021, HSE University and Times Higher Education (THE) held the online Young Universities Summit. It marked the first time the summit was held with support from a Russian university, and the choice of HSE University was no coincidence—it is the only Russian university to be included in THE’s Young University Rankings. Preparations for the forum included the creation of a virtual tour of several HSE buildings. We spoke to Deputy Vice Rector Marina Kozak about the content of the tour and the practical applications of VR technology for the university.

— Where did the idea of a VR tour come from, and which university buildings can people see?

Marina Kozak

—  The summit was held online, and we really wanted to show off our new campus on Pokrovka to the international university community. We are proud of it, and wanted to show students and partners that Pokrovka is one of the most advanced university complexes in Moscow and Russia. We wanted our audience to get a feel for our university, soak in the atmosphere, walk around the buildings and meet staff and students.

— The project allowed representatives of Russian and international universities at the summit to see more of HSE University remotely. How difficult was it to bring the project to life?

— While working with THE on the project, it was suggested that we use the Virtual Tour Company platform. We used it to create a virtual tour that allowed visitors to not only ‘walk around’ different university locations in the same building (including the library, coworking area, cafe and dining hall), but also to ‘visit’ various HSE University buildings in Moscow. The tour currently features 360-degree panoramas of Pokrovka and Shabolovka alongside video materials. And of course, visitors can watch videos about our programmes and faculties. In the future, we can add more digital content about other buildings so that anyone can familiarize themselves with the university’s campuses, faculties and programmes, as well as immerse themselves in the atmosphere and learn something new.

— Are there other tours like this? Will the project be further developed in the near future or expanded to include HSE University campuses in other cities​​​​​​​?

— The university’s first project like this was a virtual tour of the St. Petersburg campus created by the German company ICEF. It proved very popular among applicants. We spent a lot of time examining virtual tour technologies and best practices for VR tours. ICEF’s solution is one of the most interesting and interactive, and we have plans to develop an immersive virtual tour. Last year, our colleagues at the Public Relations Office created a 3D tour of the Pokrovka campus that was very interesting and popular with users. This year, we added footage of the building on Shabolovka and merged them into one virtual tour.

— Are virtual tours a good format for people who want to learn more about HSE University​​​​​​​?

— In our present situation, they are one of the most promising marketing tools in terms of appealing to prospective students. Virtual tours are also useful for HSE staff travelling abroad or to other parts of Russia who want to show off the campus using VR glasses. This lets anyone—no matter how far away they are from our campuses—to ‘walk around’ the university and ‘meet’ staff and students through video content. 

We’re in our second year of planning to film an immersive experience, but border restrictions have complicated matters. We plan to finish filming a new immersive virtual tour in the near future for release in 2022. Until then, those interested can take the virtual tour of Pokrovka and Shabolovka developed for the Times Higher Education summit and the virtual tour of our St. Petersburg campus.

Prepared by Alina Ageeva, Head of Marketing Communications Centre, HSE University International Admissions Office.

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