New self-guided audio tour creates cellphone visits to MU

A temporary Homecoming tour has been available throughout the week.
Jesse Hall is one of 16 stops on MU's new audio tour of campus. This is a free service offered through the Alumni Center and was made possible by the Pride of Place Campus Heritage Network.

For MU visitors during Homecoming week, a tour of the historical sites on campus is now only a cellphone call away.

A collaborative project by the MU Pride of Place Campus Heritage Network, the new audio tour allows visitors to wander campus on a free, self-guided tour. This summer, the committee explored how to better showcase the campus for larger audiences, and the new audio tour relays information in an accessible manner for almost all visitors.

“I had experience with this technology, which is available to people with both smartphones and regular phones,” said associate professor Clyde Bentley, who studied and suggested the use of the technology for the project as a Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow. “So it’s available to a large range of people, (because) 70 percent of cell phones are not smart phones.”

“The purpose is to give a visitor who hasn’t been to campus before kind of a background and a generic history of each of the sites," Nathan Hurst, who wrote and recorded the audio said. "(They) don’t have to visit on a weekday where there is a (walking) tour available."

Using the technology is as simple as pressing a couple of buttons.

“It is a cellphone-based tour where a person dials a phone number and presses a number prompt,” Coordinator of Visitor Relations LeAnn Stroupe said. “And then they hear a 90-second clip about that specific sight. (Callers can) hear various messages about the history of Jesse Hall, for example.”

After a period of testing the tour on historical sites around Francis Quadrangle, the project expanded to offer not only information on historical sites but also on the history and traditions of Homecoming.

“We piloted it on Sept. 18 prior to launching it for Homecoming,” Stroupe said. “It’s been in place for about two or three weeks now.”

“The original concept was to get it up and tested in time for all of the visitors expected for the centennial Homecoming," Director of Alumni Relations David Roloff said. "The original tour is on the Quadrangle. For the Homecoming tour, we have about 20 locations across the campus.”

The Homecoming tour, a temporary addition to the Pride of Place audio tour project, can be found at locations such as Greektown, Brewer Fieldhouse, Stankowski Field and Faurot Field, Hurst said. Information specific to the Homecoming tradition is available at these locations. For example, in Greektown, callers can find a campus decoration explanation with information on house decorations, he said.

Sponsored by the Alumni Association, users do not acquire any charges on their cell phone bill for using the service.

“It’s a totally free service, except it uses the minutes on your cell phone plan,” Roloff said.

Because of the accessibility of the tour, the committee plans to eventually expand the project further across campus.

“We plan to take that original group of markers and expand them across campus,” Roloff said. “There will be a marker probably at all the main historical places on campus.”

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