Berkeley’s virtual tour gives future students a way to interact with campus, from afar

Image of virtual tour space at Sather gate with Olufemi Ogundele.

The YouVisit online platform gives the Berkeley community and prospective students an opportunity to see the campus, and learn its history, when they cannot visit. (YouVisit Screenshot)

Prospective students can now soak in the sights, sounds and history of UC Berkeley through a new virtual campus tour, accessible through their laptops, tablets and smartphones.

The virtual space was recently launched by Berkeley’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Visitor and Parent Services to supplement in-person campus tours. The platform also serves as an accompaniment to Berkeley’s new admit outreach experiences, like Cal Day and Cal Week, that shifted online last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tour, which was developed even before the pandemic stopped in-person tours, provides 360-degree panoramic views from 20 different locations across campus and begins just steps away from Memorial Stadium, where Chancellor Carol Christ stands with “Sturdy,” a Golden Bear mascot statue and gives a formal greeting.

Tour-goers can click on interactive hot spots throughout the tour that include photos and videos that tell a deeper story about each Berkeley landmark — and meet Berkeley faculty, staff and students along the way.

Image of virtual tour space inside Haas Pavillion at the center of the basketball court.

To learn more about Berkeley’s athletic department and sports culture, users can listen to the Cal Band at Haas Pavillion from the center of the court. (YouVisit Screenshot)

“It’s really giving families access to the story of Berkeley like never before,” said Robert Penman, associate director at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. “Students and parents who couldn’t otherwise visit campus, no matter where they are in the world, at any time can walk around and get to know what Berkeley’s campus is all about, and realize that it is the right choice for them.”

Stops along the tour include Sather Gate. Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Undergraduate Admissions Olufemi Ogundele gives a history of Berkeley’s student activism on Sproul Plaza, where civil rights figures like Martin Luther King Jr. spoke and the Free Speech Movement started.

Users curious about campus resources can enter a virtual MLK Jr. Student Union on the southside of campus and explore student services, stores and the ASUC Student Union information hub.

Labs, libraries and lecture halls across campus are also accessible, said Penman. The locations highlight academic life through video lectures given by faculty like Robert Reich, a former U.S. secretary of labor who regularly teaches a popular undergraduate course on wealth and poverty.

Virtual campus tour-goers get a glimpse of academic life through recorded lectures like this one from Berkeley professor Robert Reich.

“He really looks into the camera, as though you are in the room,” Penman said. “It’s stuff like that, I think, that is just super-interesting and exciting. It reveals a deeper kind of perspective toward what Berkeley’s campus and culture is really like.”

The virtual space was created in collaboration with YouVisit, an online platform that specializes in virtual tours and is used by UC campuses across the state. Berkeley staff from the Student Union Event Services helped coordinate spaces on campus filmed for the virtual tour, which is also offered in Spanish and accessible for people with disabilities.

The hope was to translate in-person, student-led campus tours to a virtual space, said Erin Proudfoot, associate director of Visitor Services.

Image of virtual tour space at the Campanile bells.

Berkeleyans can peruse the bells of the Campanile and take in the views of the Bay from the iconic tower’s observation deck. (YouVisit Screenshot)

“During the pandemic, we’ve been using Google slides with picture presentations for people who wanted to visit. Student campus ambassadors give information about the campus and share their own student experiences. But it was never truly like physically walking through the campus,” said Proudfoot. “This new virtual campus format really gives an interactive tour that allows people, for the first time, to go inside a lab and see all the nuances of those parts of campus that you wouldn’t normally have access to.”

While the virtual campus tour has been billed to help prospective students get to know the campus, it will also be equally engaging for Berkeley staff, faculty, alumni and current students who have missed being on campus since the pandemic began.

And no matter how long someone has worked or studied at Berkeley, the tour gives members of the campus community an opportunity to learn something new, said Proudfoot.

“This tour really made me remember why I love working here so much, and I wish I was back on campus to see all of this,” Proudfoot said. “I do hope that, no matter if you’re brand new to campus or you’ve been here for 20 years, that you take a wander through this tour, because it’s for anyone who just wants to know a little bit more about UC Berkeley and the campus that so many of us have come to love.”