Virtual Reality: A new way to experience the Kent School story

Virtual Reality: A new way to experience the Kent School story
Image courtesy of the Kent School

It’s said time and time again that the best way to experience the Kent School spirit is to witness it first-hand. More and more, visitors claim there is no better way to convey the striking beauty of Kent’s setting, or the dynamic and down-to-earth warmth of its student body than by simply delving in.

Known for its encouraging character of participation, the School is a place where students are not only intellectually challenged, but also urged to embrace new opportunities, explore new issues and discover new ways to learn and grow.  Here, no learning journey is the same as any other, but ask any student and you will find an overriding, common denominator – that it’s a vibrant student experience enriched with opportunity.

At Kent, every student is given the chance to challenge themselves; to step out of their comfort zones and into brand-new possibilities. In fact, graduates increasingly report that, “Kent School allowed me to discover and become the best version of myself.”

The Admissions Office conveys this message to the world at large through the most traditional tools: thoughtfully-crafted written words express the strength of Kent’s program; artistic photographs capture the joy of the community and the stunning beauty of its setting; while two-dimensional videos tell students’ stories of how Kent has inspired them to embrace everything and accomplish anything.

This year, in Kent’s characteristic spirit of innovation, the institution was named the first School in the nation to embrace a new form of technology: virtual reality. Many schools are using this tool to show off their campus via 360° degree tours, but none has yet engaged this platform to tell its own visionary story – except for Kent School.

Image courtesy of the Kent School

Virtual reality is the perfect means to transport a prospective international student to campus without them having to travel. Immersive by nature, virtual reality places the viewer at the heart of the narrative, moving past the idea of telling and into showing what the School is all about. Here, potential students witness the joy, camaraderie and rewards on offer through the diverse opportunities available at Kent. Virtual reality enables the viewer to experience, first-hand, the immersive power of the Kent School spirit, as well as the many ways in which the journey helps them hone the ultimate version of themselves.

Kent partnered with three firms to bring this movie to reality. Co.Reality, a burgeoning virtual reality storytelling collaborative that seeks to inspire and connect creative individuals and ideas, spent a week on-campus capturing extensive VR footage of classrooms, studios, theater rehearsals, robotics practice, orchestra rehearsals, science labs, dance practice, jam sessions, riding practice, field hockey games, soccer games, football practice, crew practice, bell-ringing sessions, visits to town, chapel service, and of course, the breath-taking views captured throughout campus.

Edwards and Co., a talented US marketing firm, worked with Kent and Co.Reality to offer creative direction. The third partner in the successful production of this project was Kent’s own graduate, Patrick Buckley, Class of ’99, and his company DODOCase, whose mission is to “preserve the art of bookbinding with handcrafted cases for today’s modern technology”. DODOCase, in partnership with Edwards and Company’s creative team, crafted beautiful cardboard VR viewers to be included in each prospective student’s acceptance package.  While virtual reality film can be viewed via smart phone or computer screen, it is best viewed inside a headset, enabling the viewer to experience the full immersive 360-degree view, and witness the complete energy and enthusiasm of the School – an experience that perfectly recreates student life at Kent.

Image courtesy of the Kent School

Filmed in October, at the peak of the colorful New England fall, the movie opens with a spectacular view of campus. As the viewer soaks up the spectacular valley views, they can hear the chapel’s giant bells pealing, their momentous sound echoing through the landscape. As that scene fades, viewers find themselves in the middle of a student jam session, surrounded by jubilant students singing and playing guitar, violin, keyboard, and even a kazoo in the Middle Common Room. Buoyed by the music, the movie then takes the viewer through a day at Kent School; packed with study, stimulating dialogue, experiments, rehearsals, sports and robotics practice. The movie closes, as it begins, with the student jam session and the words, “We hope you liked that.”

Virtual reality will never take the place of an actual campus visit, where students can experience the beauty of the place and the tangible warmth of the community in person, but virtual reality transports the viewer to campus in ways other communication platforms cannot. Admissions Associates will now add VR viewers to their satchel of materials as they travel across the nation – and the world – to share the inspiring story of Kent School.

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