Location-Based Services Create an Interactive Recruitment Experience

Prospective students on a campus visit start at your admissions office or visitors’ center, but instead of picking up a campus map and folder of information and joining a group lead by a volunteer, they check out a PDA-sized device. Welcome to the new world of location-based services (LBS). Given both the freedom of movement and depth of information impossible with a guided tour, LBS-enabled visitors are empowered to explore your campus, pointing and learning at will. Visitors select items of interest and receive in-depth, multimedia information based on the user’s geographic location and orientation. Your visitors can drill down as deeply as they like or move on to learn more about locations and topics that interest them more.

While LBS-based tours may not replace your guided campus tours for everyone, they can be a powerful experience for today’s technologically experienced students. According to University of Maine Provost ad interim John Mahon,“We’re in trials with an LBS system because it makes our entire campus an interactive recruitment tool. Incoming students are more immersed in technology than ever, so in addition to providing a superior campus tour, the LBS technology makes for a memorable differentiator when the student makes their final choice.”

Technology and Benefits

Equally important as your campus visitors’ on-campus experiences, the LBS system will give you an accurate and detailed map of where each visitor went and what interested them in the course of their tour. Generally, an LBS system will not only provide location-specific information to a user, but will also keep a log of places visited and audio segments broadcasted that will help keep track of visitors’ interests. Armed with this unique information, your admissions office will be able to send a custom-tailored, follow-up package to reinforce each visitor’s impression of your school. And as the LBS system provides visitors with information, it can also deliver messages or information related to end-user interests, such as on-campus or current events in the surrounding community.

For the system administrator, the LBS system uplinks end-user usage information for statistical analysis and trending. This enables your admissions office to determine valuable prospect information, such as foot traffic patterns, changes in user interests, facility use and more. The analysis of user data supports the ongoing development of tour information and an improved visitor experience. Instead of relying on surveys or guessing what incoming students are interested in, you will now have solid information as a basis for your admissions programs — in near real time.

Basic LBS Components and Use

An LBS system for campus orientation would consist of a handheld, multimedia computing device; a wireless network and a powerful geospatial database. The handheld device is a mobile computer — like a PDA — that integrates a digital compass (which records the device’s pointing direction), a GPS receiver (which records the user’s current location) and a wireless connection to the system’s database. The database contains geospatial, descriptive and multimedia data, and processes the data from the handheld device that identifies landmarks selected by visitors.

When users wish to identify a landmark, they point the handheld device at it and press a key. The device receives coordinate signals from GPS satellites and orientation information from the digital magnetic compass to identify the user’s location and the device’s pointing angle. These coordinates are then sent over the wireless network to the database. The geospatial database’s selection algorithms then identify the selected landmark and send information back over the wireless network to be displayed in text, visuals and audio on the user’s device.

LBS Makes the Grade

Recent surveys reveal that more than half of prospective college students say that their campus visit was the most important factor in their final selection decision. An LBS-based campus tour will give you the ability to harness your entire campus into an interactive experience. It gives your prospective students an opportunity to roam and self-select how much information they want on a particular subject or location: abilities that are impossible with proximity-based prerecorded tours. And it allows you to present your information without the wide degree of quality variables involved with student tour guides.

LBS tour technology also makes it possible for you to learn in-depth information regarding each individual prospect’s interests, as well as develop important trend information that will improve your recruitment rate and your admissions programs. Finally, as Dr. Mahon of the University of Maine points out,“it makes our campus tour memorable long after the jumble of images of dining halls and open quads fade.”

Chris Frank, founder and CEO of Intelligent Spatial Technologies (iST), is the innovator and visionary behind iST’s LBS-based products that deliver location-based information to mobile users.
Anna Nakova is director of operations for iST.
Markus Wuersch, is iST’s director of Software Development. For more information on LBS systems from iST, log on to .www.i-spatialtech.com.

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