The Oculus App Lab allows users to download virtual experiences straight to their headsets, providing a direct bridge between prospective students and Bucknell. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications
Since Bucknell launched its innovative virtual reality experience in spring 2021, high schoolers across the country have gotten an immersive look at the University's robust academics, high-tech learning spaces and community spirit — all without stepping foot on campus.
They've seen it all up close using Oculus Quest VR headsets mailed directly from Bucknell to their doors or to their school counselors. Widely used in video gaming, these headsets combine surround sound, split-picture imaging and head motion sensors to immerse the wearer in thrilling simulations.
"It's the epitome of bringing a school to a student," says Andrea Cova, a college counselor and high school program director at College Match Los Angeles, who recently shared the Bucknell Virtual Experience with her junior cohort. "When students are making decisions about college, the ability to see themselves on a campus makes a huge difference — especially when traveling isn't an option."
But direct mail isn't the only way to access this dynamic, 360-degree view of Bucknell. This spring, the Bucknell Virtual Experience became available to download through the Oculus App Lab, enabling anyone anywhere with an Oculus to explore the University in virtual reality.
A sister platform to the Oculus Quest Store, the App Lab allows users to download virtual experiences straight to their headsets, providing a direct bridge between prospective students and Bucknell.
"With engaging audio and video and spectacular renderings of iconic campus features, the Bucknell Virtual Experience gives others a feel for who we are," says Lisa Keegan, Bucknell's vice president for enrollment management. "Having it available for download is another step toward making Bucknell accessible to those who are curious about the University, eager to apply or want a deeper understanding of the experience here before they enroll."
Widely used in video gaming, these Oculus headsets combine surround sound, split-picture imaging and head motion sensors to immerse the wearer in thrilling simulations. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications
One such student is Nicholas Theobald '26, an incoming Bucknellian from San Jose, Calif., who confirmed his enrollment after exploring the virtual experience for himself. Enveloped in beautifully rendered environments that incorporate details from Bucknell's real-life campus, Theobald stood before the ceremonial Christy Mathewson Gates, gazed up at the iconic Bertrand Library bell tower and basked in the neon glow of the Campus Theatre marquee.
"My impression right away was that this was impressive. It's a unique opportunity that I don't think is offered at many other schools, and I'm happy to have been able to experience it," says Theobald. "It definitely supported my decision to attend Bucknell."
The Bucknell Virtual Experience was produced in collaboration with Chicago-based digital agency Next/Now, with generous funding from Marc Lore '93, who was then the president and chief executive officer of Walmart eCommerce. It's one of the first of its kind in higher education, cited in the Philadelphia Inquirer as a pioneering tool in college communications and admissions.
For Cova and her students, "it may be the only way a student gets a sense of your school, whether there's a pandemic going on or financial strains that prevent cross-country visits," she says. "A lot of our students were excited by this because they hadn't had a virtual experience before — and they hope that other universities can catch up."