How to offer virtual campus tours during covid-19

In recent days, schools have been asking us for tips on how to showcase their campus environments “virtually” during the global COVID-19 crisis.

In the short-term, schools have been asking for a way to quickly create an online tour to replace their in-person tours. And for the long-term, they’re requesting quotes for a more comprehensive virtual tour solution.

In response to these requests, we’ve created an inexpensive, fast way to help you:

  1. Organize, and present your school’s existing videos, photos, maps and other content in one centralized virtual campus experience, and
  2. Create the framework for a more complete virtual tour in the future (when your campus is open again, and we can come photograph it)

So how does it work?

Step 1: Collect any content that showcases the points of interest on your campus 

  • Video clips & Photos — search your existing content library. Or, if your campus is still accessible, go shoot new photos and videos of key locations on campus that you would normally take people on an in-person visit.
  • Campus maps — This could be a campus rendering, illustrated map or aerial photo. Preferably, one that does not have markings (numbers, text, etc.)  on it. If you don’t have one, we can help create a rudimentary one for you.

Step 2: Organize the content

  • Name each point of interest as you would normally refer to it
  • Identify and mark the locations of each point of interest on the map
  • Create a digital folder for each point of interest
  • Save all the photos into the appropriate folder
  • Upload the video clips to YouTube or Vimeo

Step 3:  Send your content and branding materials to Circlescapes

  • Logo (in EPS, SVG or Adobe Illustrator format, of possible)
  • Colors (send up to 3 colors you’d like to use)
  • Fonts
  • All photos, maps and video clip links
  • Pick a page on your website that you’d like people to link to when the click on a “learn more” button

Step 4: Circlescapes creates your virtual campus experience.

Click the image below to view a sample of the template.

Step 5:  Promote your virtual campus experience

  • Add links to your main landing page, pop-up alerts, and drop-down menus
  • Schedule online webinars each week (i.e. – Mondays and Wednesdays at 3pm) for your admissions team to guide potential students through the virtual campus experience online.
  • Promote the webinars and virtual campus experience on social media and on school search websites


How long does it take?

5-7 days.  Once we have all your content, logos, maps, colors and fonts, we can create and deliver your virtual campus experience quickly. It’s all housed on your webservers, so there’s no on-going hosting costs or hassles.


What does it cost?

Without a future virtual tour

$2000 — Virtual campus experience with up to 10 map locations

Optional items

  • $100 each — Additional map locations
  • $1500 — 2D/Flat campus map rendering

With a future virtual tour

$1500 — Virtual campus experience with up to 10 map locations

Optional items

  • $50 each — Additional map locations
  • $1000 — 2D/Flat campus map rendering

We will send you an authorization for a complete 10-spin premium virtual tour to get the ball rolling. The project cost indicated will be $8,000 + travel expenses to be determined in the future.  The $8,000 equates to:

  • $1500 —  temporary tour
  • $3,000 — 10 spins at $300 each
  • $3,500 — Premium design package

When the time comes to shoot your future virtual tour, we will work with you to revise the project estimate to reflect the actual work and deliverables. 25% deposit will be due upon contract execution.



What kind of 360° virtual campus tour is best for your school?

When visitors tour your campus for the first time, where do you take them?  What do you tell them?  What spaces and stories are you most proud to highlight?

It’s difficult to translate that in-person experience to a flat webpage with simple text and photos. That’s why 360° virtual tours are perfect for schools!

An interactive 360° virtual campus tour enables you to tell your story to students who live far away and can’t take an in-person tour right away (or ever) before making a decision. The fully-spherical panoramas take students inside your classrooms, dorm rooms, sports facilities, performance areas and campus hotspots with the ability to look up, down and all the way around to get a complete view of the space — almost like they were there in person. Plus, you can add video clips, sideshows, text descriptions, voice-overs, and other interactive elements to make the experience even more informative and fun.

Your school’s campus is a special, beautiful place.
Make it shine online.


Point-of-interest tours (POI) vs. walkable tours

Google type virtual tours are “walkable,” meaning the photographer takes a new 360° photo every 15-20 feet, so you can move down a hallway, or “walk” across campus. There are a number of drawbacks to this approach:

  1. At 15-feet apart, many panoramas are essentially the same thing, so you may spend a lot of time clicking on the same sidewalk to get to the next point of interest.
  2. With so many panoramas to take, the photographer can’t take time to:
    • Stage each scene so it looks crisp, clear and amazing
    • Strategically place people around the camera to highlight the campus energy
    • Shoot multiple exposures to ensure you can see both inside the rooms, and out the windows
    • Photoshop any imperfections, remove the tripod, and color-correct the images in post-processing
  3. Most walkable interfaces are template-based or tied to the Google servers, so you cannot customize the look and feel of the experience to your brand identity.
  4. Since all the panoramas are connected in a spider-web fashion, it’s much harder to make changes to your virtual tour if you build a new building or renovate an existing one.
  5. Your audience may accidentally click in the wrong spot and get lost while moving from point A to point B.

Circlescapes tours are point-of-interest based, so we focus on highlighting only the spaces you think are most beneficial to your marketing and admissions efforts. We work with you to stage each scene, arranging people around the camera, and hiding clutter to make each panorama look its best.

We then combine all the panoramas into an easy-to-use, customized interface that is specific to your brand identity and needs. For navigation between panoramas, you can use a campus map, thumbnail images, a drop-down list, or a combination of them. Your online visitors will only see and experience what you want them to see.

This type of virtual tour is compelling because:

  1. Your website is usually the first touchpoint for prospective students and their families—your virtual tour will help your school stand out
  2. You can visually highlight, and quickly access specific programs like the performance arts, athletics or science
  3. Including students and staff in the panoramas can highlight the energy of your campus
  4. Compelling interactive content to like videos, slideshows, audio and text makes your tour a dynamic marketing piece
  5. Unlike your printed collateral, your virtual tour can be easily and inexpensively updated and can “grow” over time
  6. It is a perfect collateral piece to travel with your enrollment recruiters—it displays on mobile devices, and is an engaging way to introduce your campus to potential students

Why choose Circlescapes?

  • Circlescapes has photographed over 400 venues in 33 states and abroad and has been creating virtual tours for over 10 years
  • Affordable, one-time cost. No monthly or annual fees.
  • It only takes 2-3 weeks to deliver your virtual tour after we finish the photography.
  • Custom-designed interfaces that will reflect your school’s brand—not a template
  • Amazing photography
    • Big, bold, crisp 360° images
    • High dynamic range technique (HDR photography— so you can see both inside the room and the view out the window as your real eye would see it)
    • Staged scenes — with or without people— so your campus will have an appealing energy
    • Detailed post processing to ensure each panorama looks its best (color correction, tripod removal, sharp and detailed, using right combination of people, etc.)
  • Built-in analytics, request-for-information forms, and call to action buttons so your tour can generate leads
  • The ability for you to edit multiple components in-house — like image slideshows, videos and text
  • We can create an affordable VR app for your school, downloadable from Google Play or Apple App store (app vs viewing VR in a web browser is a more functional and smoother viewing experience)
  • We can design and procure custom-branded VR  headsets so you can add this really fun swag to your marketing mix

How much does it cost?

A Circlescapes virtual tour is more affordable than you may think. We can fit almost any budget with a “starter” tour as low as $3500, a more comprehensive tour averaging around $9000 or a campus tour + a VR experience for under $20,000.

And since you host the tour with your other website files, there are no recurring fees.

Add 3 spins to any virtual tour with 10 or more panoramasSpecial Deal Alert!!
We want to make it even more affordable for you to show off your campus this year, so we are offering
3 FREE panoramas when you sign up for any 10+ spin virtual campus tour by May 15th
(we can schedule the photo shoot anytime this year).

How Long does it take?

We’ll deliver your virtual tour about 2-3 weeks after we finish with the photography.

What’s the next step?

Schedule a demo, then fill out our wish list form to let us know how many panoramas you need, and what types of interactive elements you’d like in your virtual campus tour. We’ll send you a price quote, then pick a photography date.





360° Video Montages!

360 video is a fun way for people to explore your campus — experiencing the sights AND sounds AND movement all around them. Here are two 60 second montages we put together. Take a look, then give us call to get your own 360 video montage.

The Independence School

The International School of Denver

Every campus is different, and we can add as many scenes as you need to tell your story. Give us a call today!





Inspired Living launches 13 virtual tours

Circlescapes worked with Inspired Living to bring 13 of their senior living communities to life online in 360°. The communities are located in Florida, Texas, Georgia and Louisiana. Each community chose different locations to feature in tehir virtual tour, but all the tours have the same custom-branded interface design. Click the image below to take a look!



Where to Feature Your Campus Virtual Tour on your Website

Our clients often ask us the best way to incorporate a virtual campus tour into their school website.

Since Circlescapes virtual tours are best viewed in a dedicated browser tab, we don’t actually need to touch your primary website at all. All you need to do is add a link (or links) to your website to launch the virtual tour in a new window.

Where you place those links is up to you. Is it more relevant to the “Student Life” section? Would it fit in under “About Us?” How about a big button on your home page so it is sure to be seen? Well, there are no right answers so I want to share with you what some other schools are doing and where we see the best returns.

Most schools feature a revolving banner on their home page. This is a great way to showcase the virtual tour when it is newly launched. You could take a screen shot of the tour and add that as the visual, or use another image of your campus with a link that says: “Check out our new 360° virtual campus tour!”

Many schools have highly interactive home pages with lots of great information as you scroll down the page. This is a good opportunity to feature the tour on your “Home” page like Pennington and the Oregon Episcopal School:


We recommend that you have more than one path to get to the virtual tour. For example Oregon Episcopal School also has a button on their top nav bar that is accessible from anywhere on the website:


A natural place to put a campus virtual tour is on your “Admissions” page or in that section of your site. Some examples of this are The McCallie School, Lake Forest Academy and Brewster Academy.


Brewster has their tour available in a few places in the Admissions section. It is a button on their “Your Campus Visit” page.


And it is a ”Helpful Link” on the “International Student Programs” page.


You might have a special page dedicated to your campus. That is also great spot to add a text link or button to your virtual campus tour, like Chadwick International:


Your “About Us” page or section is one frequently visited by prospective families, students and faculty to get introductory information about your school. This is also a great place for a link or button. An example of this is Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn:


Even if your tour is featured as a button on your home page or in various other subsections, it is good to have a link in your Quicklinks drop down list, on your site map, and available in search:


You can also feature the panoramas from your tour on Google Maps, like in the following example of Brewster Academy. This is what you will see when the user searches your school’s name:


And when “See photos” is clicked, a tray of 360° photos pulls up:


You can also post individual panoramas on Facebook or deep link to relevant panoramas. For example, you may only want to show 360° images of your dorm rooms on your “Residential Life” page or show off your new Aquatics Center on your “Athletics” page.

To recap, here are some recommendations for where to feature your tour and remember, multiple locations is best!

  • Home page
  • About us
  • Admissions
  • Campus
  • Residential Life
  • Facility Rentals
  • Visit Us
  • International Students
  • Google Maps
  • Facebook

Let us know if you have other ideas for your tour or if you would like more information on creating an interactive campus tour for your school: Circlescapes Virtual Tours (



Add panoramas from your virtual tour to Facebook

Now you can add 360° panoramic spins to your Facebook page. We will send you the format that you need and you simply upload it as you would post any other image! At this time, Facebook downsizes the quality of the images, but it is still fun to share these spherical images with your Facebook friends and fans. See on Facebook.

Screenshot from Facebook

Screenshot from Facebook


This is the virtual tour on client’s website:



Add our panoramas to Google Maps

Whether it’s a full-blown virtual tour or a series of Google photospheres on the Google Maps platform, we can create the virtual tour you’re looking for.

Below, you’ll see examples of each type. The client is the Lakeside Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Jacksonville, FL

Sample: Google Photospheres embedded into Google Maps

Sample: Virtual Tour on client’s website



KU Athletics VR Tours for Google Cardboard

Circlescapes developed VR versions of the Kansas Athletics virtual tours for the Google Cardboard headsets.  The KU coaches will use the VR tours on recruiting visits, so athletes can immerse themselves in KU’s facilities, living spaces, campus and community.

If you have a Google Cardboard headset, go to:  

And if you don’t have a headset, why not?!

Each of the 12 sports has it’s own VR tour, consisting of about 20 panoramas each.  Here’s how to view them:

  1. Browse to the link above using your phone
  2. Turn off your phone’s sleep mode
  3. Select a sport to view
  4. Turn your phone to landscape mode (horizontal)
  5. Place the phone in your Google Cardboard headset
  6. Place the headset on your head and start exploring!

To navigate the to a new panorama

  1. Look Down
  2. Place the cursor on the NEXT or BACK buttons and stare for a couple of seconds



Awesome VR Experiences


Student exploring a VR campus using the cardboard viewer

Can a low cost, folded up piece of cardboard make your campus shine in VR?

Google cardboard headset

Google Cardboard headset

Absolutely, with Google Cardboard! Google Cardboard is a virtual reality (VR) platform that allows the user to look through a headset reminiscent of the ViewMaster (remember that from your childhood?) and navigate through immersive images with a tilt of the head. A smartphone is inserted into the headset and surrounds the student with panoramas from your campus.

The headsets are relatively inexpensive, and can easily be purchased online. Fancier ones are made out of plastic and include a strap that goes around your head.

How does it work? The content on your phone is split into two screens- one for the left eye and one for the right. The term is stereoscopic imaging. The two screens are synchronized, so when you rotate your head, both images spin up down and all the way around. The Cardboard viewers allow you to transport potential students to your campus from anywhere in the world and immerse them in your surroundings.

Click to see a sample VR Experience on your Google Cardboard headset

So picture this, you are at a recruiting event and at your table the potential students and families can put on one of your Google Cardboard viewers and take a 360° tour of your campus. Or better yet, you can send them home with one that has your logo and virtual tour address printed on it. Or, you may have a family in another country who can’t make the trip to see your campus in person, so you just pop a Google Cardboard viewer in the mail to them with the URL they can visit to take your tour in virtual reality. Now that is memorable!

If you need help setting up your 360° tour so that it is viewable on a Google Cardboard headset, or if you need a 360° virtual campus tour, drop us a line!





add3spinsSpring is in the air!  And to celebrate, we have a special virtual tour deal.  Our “ADD 3 SPINS” special is simple:

  1. Order any virtual tour package with 10 or more spins by the end of April 2016, and
  2. Schedule our photographers to visit your campus before the end of September 2016, then
  3. We’ll give you 3 additional spins at no cost – a value of $750

So 10 spins is now 13.  15 is 18.  24 is now 27.  You get the idea.

But you may ask, “what does a 10-spin virtual tour cost?”

  • A deluxe 10-spin virtual tour is $4,500 + travel
  • If you need more spins, that’s fine.  Each extra spin costs $250 . . . and remember, you’ll get the first 3 additional ones free!
  • You can add video clips, slideshows, maps, and clickable links to the tour, too.

call us (904.383.7746) or click here to get started!