CORONAVIRUS STARTUP SURVIVAL STORY: Atlanta’s StudentBridge brings college tours to the digital space

COVID-19 is impacting businesses across the globe, including Southern startups. We want to know how you’re being affected, as a startup founder, employee, investor or general member of the community. We’re publishing selected stories sent directly from you, only making edits where necessary for grammar and formatting, so if you have a story to share, please send it to us through this form. Good luck! 

Today’s Story: Monisha Longacre, COO of StudentBridge 

How did the idea of StudentBridge come from? How did you get off the ground?  

StudentBridge was founded in 2012 and was born out of a company called RealViewTV.  RealViewTV was a pioneer in video production and delivery in the early 2000’s. StudentBridge leveraged that technology to focus on helping higher education institutions create engaging virtual experiences through compelling video and interactive campus maps. Over the years, our virtual experience specialists have created award-winning digital engagement solutions that have helped over 250 colleges and universities achieve their enrollment goals.


Why is digital storytelling important for campus tours? 

Especially now with so many closed college campuses and travel restrictions, prospective students are turning to school Web sites to make application and enrollment decisions.  Now more than ever, colleges must have robust and authentic virtual experiences on their sites to help students get a good sense of what the school offers and more importantly, determine if the school would be a good “fit” for them.  Students are yearning for a view into student life and hearing stories from students and faculty members about their experiences.  We integrate photos and videos directly into the interactive campus map to bring those stories to the forefront.


StudentBridge Team comes together during COVID to help students find their dream college
StudentBridge Team comes together during COVID to help students find their dream college

As colleges enter an uncertain semester, how do you think your business can make an impact? 

When COVID hit in March, colleges were in the middle of their enrollment season and were forced to cancel their in-person yield events such as Admitted Students Days.  We were able to pivot quickly and leverage our solutions to stand up a virtual Admitted Students Day event in just 10 days.  These virtual events proved to be highly successful resulting in a 35% increase in participation.  As the impacts of the pandemic continued through the summer, we have created virtual orientation sites as well as virtual open houses and most of our partners are planning to continue to provide virtual events even when on-campus events resume.

 We also created a self-guided campus tour app called VisiTOUR that prospective students can use as they walk around campuses.  By embedding audio and imagery, they can hear the voices of the student ambassadors and get a view inside the campus buildings especially now that many college tours have been cancelled or are limited due to social distancing guidelines.


What has been the most challenging thing for you and your team to overcome during 2020? 

 As with most businesses, there has been a lot of uncertainty in the higher ed space.  Not only did campuses shut down in March, but throughout the summer colleges and universities were concerned about plans for re-opening in the Fall.  Thankfully, this has created an opportunity for us since while virtual experiences were a “nice-to-have” prior to COVID, they have become a “must-have” in order for universities to continue to attract and enroll prospective students.  We are keeping a close watch on the evolving situation but recognize that this disruption is causing most higher ed institutions to transform how they think about their digital presence.


What are you anticipating is the best, most optimistic scenario for businesses/organizations like yours when things settle back into some type of new normal?

Our hope that this is just the beginning of the adoption of more digital technologies and experiences in the higher ed industry.  There are so many more opportunities for colleges and universities to continue to evolve and improve their interactions with prospective and current students online versus just face-to-face.  We are continuing to add products to our suite of solutions including a social chat service that will empower different affinity groups to connect and chat with each other online.