Starting in 2018, the University of Oregon developed UO360 — a virtual reality experience mailed to admitted students. Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the app is a way for prospective students to see campus virtually. 

The last on-campus tours at UO took place on March 16, 2020. Since then, the university has had to adapt to offer alternative recruitment programs. Micah Howe, the Assistant Director for Visit Programs, said UO’s virtual recruitment currently includes webinars, one-on-one video conferencing appointments, Instagram tours and more. 

“While these experiences are not direct substitutes for guided tours, they each offer a glimpse of campus and student life,” Howe said. 

Howe said that a few weeks prior to the last on-campus tour, UO began developing other virtual recruitment ideas, including a virtual tour video

“About a week before everything shut down we were just being cautious, and then it’s just been like this ever since,” UO tour guide and student ambassador Hayden Spiegler said.

Spiegler said that while there are currently no in-person tours, there are still ways for students to interact with members of the UO community. Duck Days, where around 500 admitted students would come at once, are still virtual. 

“We also have a live Zoom panel where a student will come on, an advisor from the school and a teacher,” Spiegler said. 

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One of the self guided tour hubs, used to allow potential students the chance to roam the campus in a manner that is COVID-19 friendly. University of Oregon adjusts Ambassadors program in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Maddie Stellingwerf)

Speigler also said that prospective students can sign up for a 20-minute session with student ambassadors. 

Howe said that traveling to campus is discouraged while UO buildings are closed. However, if guests are on campus — after completing a symptom self-check — they can download a self-guided tour on the “Be A Duck” app. Guests must stay outdoors and wear a face covering. 

“The self-guided tour features audio and written descriptions of each building along the standard tour route,” Howe said. 

Howe said that as of right now, there is not an estimated timeline for when the university will be able to offer in-person campus tours. The university’s COVID-19 portal reported that, according to state guidance, students will become eligible for vaccines no later thanMay 1. Speigler said that he is optimistic that this opportunity will allow tours to slowly return to being in-person, and he said he is hopeful that in the fall, campus tours will be back to normal. 

Speigler said that while the changes made to giving tours were necessary, it has made explaining campus life to students different. 

“It’s definitely a different perspective and look when students ask what campus life is like right now,” Speigler said. “It’s hard to say because I’m hopeful that by the time they are here, campus won’t look like what it is now.”

As of right now, it is still unclear what IntroDUCKtion, the orientation program required for all new first-year and transfer students, will look like this summer. UO said it will release more information in April. 

Howe said that in the meantime, the ambassador program is looking to hire new students to welcome guests to campus “when it’s safe to do so.”

“Once it all goes back to normal I know that everyone will be happy, things will flow and we will be back to giving tours as the yellow jacket people,” Speigler said.