NC State VR tour video still

This still shot from a new virtual reality video compiled by the UNC System shows a class at N.C. State University.

CHAPEL HILL — The UNC System is giving high school students a new way to take college tours.

The state university system on Wednesday introduced a virtual reality app that lets students learn about college and take immersive tours of the 16 UNC campuses without having to leave home or school.

The GEAR UP VR app is free and can be downloaded through Apple’s iTunes or app store, and Google Play.

Users who have a VR headset and headphones or ear buds will get the full virtual reality experience. Users without those accessories still will be able to watch these short online videos.

The app’s videos highlight each UNC campus.

There are also short videos about college applications, student life, and college majors and degrees.

The UNC System said it will provide VR headsets and ear buds to 21 GEAR UP high schools across the state so entire classes can take these virtual tours.

GEAR UP is a federally funded program designed to help and encourage children in disadvantaged areas to go to college. Twenty-six counties in North Carolina take part in the program.

In the Triad, the Rockingham and Alamance-Burlington school systems are GEAR UP districts.

While many colleges offer online campus tours on their websites, the UNC System said this effort marks the first time a university system has undertaken such a project for all of its schools. The system used a federal grant to pay for the project.

The virtual reality project is part of ongoing UNC System projects to help more students, especially low-income children and those whose parents didn’t attend college, aspire to an education after high school.

In a statement, UNC System President Margaret Spellings said this technology “gives every North Carolinian the opportunity to make more informed choices about where they want to go (to college) ... (and) helps them figure out how they’re going to get there.”

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Contact John Newsom at (336) 373-7312 and follow @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter.

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