Accommodation rates continue to increase significantly year-on-year with some students currently paying as much as £95 per week for a single room. Aside from tuition fees, rising rent is one of the biggest expenses facing young people in higher education. Getting the best value for money is only part of the problem. Challenges surrounding a shortage of spaces in some cities and towns, combined with the need to find the desired standard of accommodation, is piling the pressure on students.
All universities recognise the stress surrounding accommodation selection and any new entrants are usually offered substantial advice and guidance to ensure their needs are fully met. From the basic practice of circulating lists of available places or directing them to dedicated websites and online forums, information is generally sufficient and plentiful.
One of the biggest trends among students is to conduct their accommodation research digitally. Perhaps unsurprising, given that many of today’s younger generations tend to run most of their lives on their mobiles. The so-called digital generation have come to expect everything to be available literally at their fingertips, with the same level of accessibility, speed and efficiency they get from their mobile device.
When it comes to other university-related tasks – such as selecting specialist courses, applying for student union cards or signing up to the library – the internet and mobiles have become the ‘go to’ tools. So, is the answer to the accommodation challenges in the online sphere? A logical step would be to provide the entire student accommodation process on the internet, or via an app, from accessing specific properties to viewing rooms and reserving spaces.
Many student accommodation management agencies do already have an online presence, with comprehensive websites detailing the specific sites and spaces available, and other relevant information regarding costs and the surrounding area. Many of these websites also offer additional features to take a closer look at the rooms and flats, with photographs, floor plans, and occasionally 360 degree views to showcase the spaces. These are helpful, but the level of technology is relatively basic, providing two-dimensional views that do not give a completely true reflection of the space.
Historically, the only option for students to be able to get a genuine perspective on the accommodation, and its facilities, was to visit it in person. However, this is not the most practical solution for the proportion of students who either live abroad or a considerable distance away from the university. One solution that could overcome these obstacles and make the accommodation selection process easier, simpler and clearer is an emerging trend in 3D visualisation technology.
The fast growing market for 3D visualisation on both website and smart device apps present students with a far more life-like and realistic view of potential accommodation. The new technology is a highly visual and engaging method that allows students to gain the best possible perspective without physically having to visit the property. Students can view an entire room, flat or building in an interactive and immersive way and even take a virtual walk around the room to get a real feel for what the property offers.
One of the obvious benefits of the technology is that students can view accommodation at any time from any device with internet access. The navigation aspect will also appeal as there is an element of gaming to touring the accommodation – viewing the space from different angles, zooming in and walking around will feel very familiar to this digital generation. Students can also see beyond their own rooms to gain a wider view of the building as a whole – seeing where their rooms are situated in terms of common areas and staircases, and where their neighbours are located. They can also take advantage of the social media channels as, depending on the type of 3D visualisation software used, the most advanced will allow viewers to take screen grabs of rooms and view and post them on their preferred platforms and student discussion forums.
This level of technology will also enable students to view developments that are still under construction in the same way as existing accommodation, allowing them to take a virtual look in and around the property in advance of the scheme’s completion date.
The application of 3D visualisation in areas such as filmmaking, gaming and graphic design has been in use for several years, and now for the first time all of the benefits of this technology can be harnessed by student accommodation websites. For any students struggling with their accommodation choices, all of the complexity can be taken out of the process and 3D visualisation technology will give them a clearer view of their future university life.