Campus maps have become an increasingly important part of higher education communication for students, parents, and even employees. Far beyond showing some parking lots, they can help new visitors gain a better picture of the physical part of campus life—and today’s campus map trends show them taking an even bigger role.

These digital campus maps can help people find the many parts of the physical environment they might otherwise miss. Whether they integrate into Google Maps or feature their own solution, college maps become part of traffic management, accessibility, and anything else that might be relevant for in-person visitors.

Concept3D has long been a provider of university campus map software, and we’ve seen hundreds of interactive maps designed for almost every type of stakeholder. The environment is evolving, increasingly providing opportunities for enrollment marketing and student engagement alike. We’ve also monitored the emergence of campus map trends, which continually pop up to improve the experience. These are the most important trends we’ve seen in 2024 so far.

1. Interactive and Dynamic Maps

First, and perhaps most importantly, the interactive campus map has become the new reality. A simple PDF uploaded to your website will no longer be enough. Your audience expects to be able to:

  • Zoom in
  • Filter irrelevant information out of view
  • Integrate the map with GPS directions to your campus buildings and parking lots

From Move-In Day to Homecoming, interactivity has become vital in recent years. Online users now expect it, not just because it improves functionality but because it caters to their needs. Prospective students, in particular, are used to interactive online experiences everywhere. Encountering it on your map will help garner goodwill for them.

Indeed, interactivity can become beneficial anywhere from basic wayfinding to showcasing the more marketing-focused parts of your virtual map. It:

  • Keeps your audience engaged
  • Helps them more easily find the information they’re looking for
  • Builds goodwill as you look to convert them

2. Real-Time Updates

Real-time data feeds are one area of interactivity that’s become increasingly important for your campus community. In fact, these live data integrations are changing how we think about digital maps, making this one of the most important and cutting-edge campus map trends to monitor.

Real-time data can take a number of shapes:

  • Parking availability for important campus events like football game day or commencement
  • Bus and shuttle locations to help students track when they need to be where for pickup
  • Computer lab availability to help students find the best places to study
  • And more

These real-time data feeds can be immensely beneficial for students. They provide additional relevant information to the campus map experience, improving students’ decision-making as they navigate campus.

3. Enhanced Accessibility Features

It’s impossible to discuss campus map trends, or any other higher education communication trends, without considering accessibility. Digital accessibility, in particular, has become vital as institutions—from community colleges to doctoral universities—look to enhance their student experience.

Today’s interactive maps are increasingly up to the challenge. New options are compatible with screen readers, enable keyboard navigation, and include alt text descriptions. That unlocks the campus map for everyone, including anyone with vision, hearing, or physical disabilities still looking for navigational information.

4. On-Campus Inclusive Resources

Diversity, equity, and inclusion continue to be in the news. But at its most basic, it’s about making sure all of your students have the resources they need to help them succeed. It’s why we’ve consistently seen virtual maps as opportunities to highlight inclusive resources among common campus map trends.

For example, many schools use their maps to highlight the locations of gender-neutral restrooms across their campuses. The University of California Irvine leverages its map to showcase gender-inclusive restrooms and lactation rooms. Other universities, like Colorado State and the University of North Carolina, are following suit.

But that’s just the beginning of the possibilities. We’re now seeing some interactive maps highlighting resources like meditation rooms or providing the ability to connect students with disabilities to important resources in specific locations like the disabilities services office and mental health support. The possibilities in this space are almost endless.

5. Transit

New student navigating their campus and enjoying new features from 2024 campus map trends

Another college campus map trend that will continue to grow in 2024 and beyond is new transit displays. Schools can encourage the use of public transport and mass transit options with this tool. Rice University was among the first to adopt a new system allowing campus map visitors to see bus routes and real-time bus and shuttle locations from their mobile devices. In the years since, it has refined this map category to include the estimated arrival time of the next two buses.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M uses its parking category to highlight not only car lots but also bike racks and electric vehicle charging stations. The campus even uses a virtual tour function to create walking tours across campus that showcase history, residential living, and more.

No matter the exact application, including transit options on the interactive map benefits students. From easier wayfinding to creating a more comfortable environment, these benefits tend to translate to better student engagement and success in the long run.

6. Virtual Reality (VR) Tours

With modern students increasingly expecting immersive experiences, especially when going beyond the local community in your enrollment marketing, virtual tours have become a crucial communication tool. They go beyond wayfinding by enabling schools to showcase the most beautiful parts of their campus in unique ways while reaching audiences across the globe.

The appeal of virtual tours is immense for students. They can explore campus in an immersive environment that keeps them engaged, and even better, they can replicate a physical tour from the comfort of their homes.

Of course, virtual tours have been around for a while. They’re important among these 2024 campus map trends because of modern map integration. Audiences can seamlessly move between the more functional wayfinding and more engaging tour on their computer or mobile device.

7. Augmented Reality & Entertainment

Not least since Pokémon GO made augmented reality a common occurrence on college campuses, many schools have taken advantage of this technology for their interactive maps. Back then, that meant leveraging Concept3D’s flexibility to quickly jump into the fun, adding PokéStops and gyms on their college campus maps. But even today, those same benefits can easily enhance your map.

Augmented reality can overlay your campus map, providing real-time information and merging some of the traditionally separate benefits of an interactive map and a virtual tour. Also, as the Pokémon GO example shows, you can go beyond functional applications to bring some fun and entertainment into your map experience.

8. Sustainability

Gen Z cares about sustainability more than any other generation before them. That importance extends into their college lives. As a result, many universities use their maps to highlight sustainability initiatives, energy efficiency, recycling centers, and more.

One of the most popular sustainability features is helping lead students to recycling stations. However, the same technology and approach have also extended into more specialized areas, like profiling solar technology on the campus.

A great example of this is Middlebury College. The interactive map highlights the school’s organic garden, solar energy array, biomass gasification plant, energy-efficient buildings, and more. Even the dining hall gets a special shoutout for its sustainability efforts. That satisfies Gen Z students and encourages eco-friendly choices on campus—a win for everyone involved.

Elevate Your Campus Map Experience With Concept3D

A thorough review of these campus map trends shows that you need more than just a digital version of your printed map to keep up with other institutions and user expectations. Modern maps integrate technologies and play an active role in marketing and communication to all core stakeholders.

More than anything else, these campus map trends show just how easy it can be to communicate some of the values most important to your institution to your core audiences. From sustainability to accessibility, highlighting these features across your campus has never been easier.

Of course, that’s only true if you leverage the right solution for all these features. The campus map platform behind Concept3D can make this a reality, building a powerful digital campus experience your audiences will love. We have helped and learned from hundreds of university clients, and we are ready to do the same for you. Learn more about our interactive maps and start the conversation today.