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SPEARFISH - A virtual tour of Black Hills State University, created to give potential students a preview of the campus, was recently honored with a four-star award by CampusTours, a national portal for students seeking information about universities.

"With virtual college tours proliferating online, Black Hills State has worked to set their online tour apart by integrating student narration and short Flash animations that help to build a more complete portrait of the university," CampusTours said in the award notification.

"The Black Hills State University guided virtual tour intersperses these 'Flash vignettes' between QTVR-based panoramic images of relevant portions of campus. Furthermore, Black Hills State University panoramas feature narration to provide context to the rotating image. And one stop even includes a small campus map alongside the panoramic image with an arrow that tracks the vantage point of the panoramic rotation - an extremely useful feature for anyone attempting to decipher exactly what it is they are watching."

The virtual tour is credited for melding several technologies into a single informative and impressive campus excursion, according to the notification.

"The CampusTours Awards Committee found this to be a tremendous online expedition, worthy of the CampusTours Four-Star Virtual Tour Award," the release said.

The BHSU virtual tour was created by Paul Kopco, university Web master and multimedia instructor, and Amber Heying, Web services student assistant.

The virtual tour includes student audio narratives, integrated Flash animation and navigation and user-controllable panoramic images of the campus. The virtual tour is presented in a 'guided' version in which the tour runs continuously like a movie, and in an 'unguided' version that permits visitors to navigate the tour at their own pace.

The BHSU tour debuted in the fall of 2002 and has been updated to keep up with changes and improvements on campus. Recently, Kopco added a component featuring Clare and Josef Meier Hall, the newest building on the BHSU campus.

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"It is sometimes difficult to capture the beauty of a campus through a virtual tour," BHSU dean of enrollment Steve Ochsner said. "I think this tour does an excellent job showcasing the beauty of the BHSU campus."

As technology-savvy students increasingly turn to the Internet for college admissions information, virtual tours are rapidly becoming an important part of the college selection process. In recent years, virtual tours have become an essential component of college Web sites, providing many prospective students with their first glimpses of a college.

CampusTours, a national Web service designed to help students with their college choice, has been at the forefront of the emerging trend since 1996, working with more than 800 colleges and universities throughout the United States to promote, enhance and build virtual college tours.

To view the virtual tour, visit, choose quick links and then virtual tour.

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