As we hear about yet another school shooting this week at a high school graduation in Virginia, this question is on the minds of many grappling with how to best keep students and staff safe whilst also providing the information required to market to and enroll new students.
In a social post I came across recently, a school marketer commented that she didn’t want to create a how-to guide for a potential shooter. Even if it is a small risk, one might conclude that anything one could do (or not do) to keep the students safe is worth doing (or not doing).
Campus virtual tours are commonly used by the admissions and marketing teams to showcase amenities, features, programs and spaces on campus to online visitors. Virtual tours were made even more essential during the pandemic when in-person tours were unavailable due to social distancing restrictions. Virtual campus tours come in all shapes and sizes, but a typical tour includes one or more of the following: an illustrated or aerial map, 360° images, a video or videos, text, photo galleries, a tour guide and links to more information.
And while it is true that individuals with malicious intent could potentially use a tour to plan or navigate during a school shooting, there are ways to present the information for marketing and admission purposes without providing a guide to finding one’s way on campus.
Here are a few techniques we at Circlescapes use to create a security-conscious tour:
- Create a point of interest tour. Unlike a Google Walking/Street View tour, a point of interest tour only highlights certain spaces on campus. In a walking tour, the online visitor can look around in 360 degrees and then click an arrow to virtually jump a few more feet and look around again. They can usually choose which path to take at intersections and can see how spaces are connected and where they lead. This type of tour is great for way-finding, but generally gives the user too much irrelevant information. In the point of interest tour, the highlighted spaces can be spatially incognito and instead focus on programs and individual spaces, like Science Lab, Turf Field or Performing Arts.
- Leave out any “connector” buttons. Many tours, including walking tours, feature arrows that jump you to an adjacent space within the tour. In our world, we call these directional hotspots. These can simply be left out of the tour, or they can follow a path that takes the user from one space to the next organized through a logic other than spatial proximity (i.e., alphabetical, by program or by age). You can also get your photographer to avoid capturing “connector” spaces like doors and hallways that allow users to see how the spaces on campus are connected. A good 360° photographer should be able to find a great shot even given that parameter.
- Use navigation other than an illustrated or aerial map. A campus map can be differentiating, eye-catching and can communicate all that your campus has to offer in a single graphic or photo. However, you can still have a virtual campus tour and not include a map. Other navigational constructs include thumbnail images, a drop down list, or forward and backward buttons, all of which allow people to interact with your tour without seeing how things connect spatially. You could also include a map but simply leave off the navigational pins.
- Selectively share your tour. You can password protect your tour or put a form in place that requires that user give you information before you allow them access to your tour. This has the added benefit of letting you know who is interested in your school.
In reality, the odds of school shooting happening at any given school are quite low and most of the perpetrators are connected to the school and already know the layout of the campus. But even one more is too many.
At Circlescapes, we can help you create a security-conscious tour that also meets your marketing and admission goals.