New tour app lets potential students make solo visits

For potential University of Oregon students, a comprehensive campus tour is now easier than ever. No need to schedule a visit to Eugene around specific tour times — as long as you’ve got a smart phone and some earbuds, the UO campus is yours to explore whenever it’s convenient.

A new self-guided tour app is now live via the “Be an Oregon Duck” app, hosted through mobile app-developer Guidebook and compatible with Apple and Android smartphones.

If you don’t have the UO’s branded app already, it’s a two-step download — first, download “Be an Oregon Duck” from the App Store, then download the individual guide for “Oregon Campus Tour.”

Narrated by UO undergraduate student ambassador Frank Laro, the self-guided tour is complete with student profiles, admissions and housing FAQs, and landmark information. The app also has a GPS system built in, so as long as the app is open, it knows where on campus the user is and can then display the relevant information and photographs.

“We’re trying to reach an audience of prospective students that like to fly under the radar,” said Cora Bennett, director of Student Orientation Programs. “We want to capture the students that might want to visit outside regular tour times or are looking to have a more independent experience.”

The app was developed by Guidebook during fall term, with recent photographs of various tour stops around campus and up-to-date information, all narrated by Laro. The app is designed to be completely updateable as seasons change and years pass — for example, if building names are modified or when Laro graduates, the photos, information and audio narration can be easily updated.

As part of the preliminary product research, Guidebook’s Vice President of Strategy Alan Blank noted that 75 percent of prospective college students tour campuses on their own — and that tours are the most important factor in dictating whether a student will enroll.

One of the best parts about the new app, however, is that Guidebook has chosen the UO as one of the first beta-testers in the nation for this product.

“A couple of factors made the UO a good testing ground for our mobile self-guided tour,” Blank said. “First, it's a large, well-respected university visited by students from around the globe, which means that a lot of prospective students will use the app and give us feedback. Second, they have a forward-thinking administration and have already created a very successful mobile app for new student orientation, so we thought they’d be excited to be on the cutting edge.”

The partnership between Guidebook and the university has proven essential in understanding how prospective students choose a university, how they make that initial contact with administrators and other students when looking to apply, and ultimately, what they think of the University of Oregon in general.

As part of the app, prospective students can submit contact information and request additional application materials from the university. In the two weeks since the app’s launch, at least one prospective student — in Eugene recently to watch a Sunday Duck basketball game — has taken the tour and submitted contact info, according to Bennett.

“For us, it’s about meeting an unmet need in a tech-savvy way with tech-savvy students,” she said. “We’re delivering something that’s current and relevant. It gives really excellent directions; you move and it moves with you. It really is a regular tour.”

— By Nathaniel Brown, University Communications intern