Increasing Engagement with Flexible Mobile Apps for Universities
When students, families and staff look for information they want, can they easily find what they’re looking for?
This diagram from the web comic xkcd shows something we all know to be true:
Universities are still figuring out how to talk to their communities in a way that resonates.
Students, parents, staff and alumni are looking for usable information that will make them more successful and organized–so they can enjoy the experience you’ve outlined in your school’s philosophy statement and find some of the activities from the campus photo slideshow.
Mobile Apps for Universities
Students and families are asking for mobile apps. Most schools use them–in fact, more than 500 universities and colleges run on Guidebook alone. But how can you make sure you’re sharing the right information in a way that will ensure your mobile program is worth it?
Fulfill the Promise
An out-of-date calendar is useless. It doesn’t take long for your community to lose trust in your systems if they aren’t accurate.
The Australian university La Trobe published a large online calendar to their website, but it was hard to edit and impossible to track usage. Adding and updating content for their mobile app was even easier than making website updates, giving them little excuse not to keep calendars and event schedules current.
And information should be everpresent to serve the needs of busy students and staff.
“Students are always desperate for information in those first few weeks. When they get it, there can be an overload,” said Laura Burge from La Trobe.
According to Laura, a mobile university app means that students can check back in on their own time to find important info–it’s always available, right there in their pockets.
Your constituents will be more likely to use the app and spread the word if they are able to reliably count on it to be accurate.
Mobile Technology is for More Than Just Students
Yes, students’ needs comprise a lot of the content in your university’s mobile app. 92% of college students will be carrying a smartphone by 2016, according to eMarketer. But the value of your university’s smartphone app should extend to parents, staff and alumni–and they all have unique needs.
How students use mobile
Students ask for mobile university apps to help them manage student programming and campus resources, and to access directories and maps. They want to know where the free food is on campus. They want to know which events they should attend during homecoming and orientation.
Parents want to use your app, too
Parents look to your mobile presence to influence decisions about enrolling their kids, and to get to know campus. They want to monitor students during welcome week and beyond. They want to feel like they can micro-manage a little.
Mickey Howard, Associate Director for New Student and Family Programs at the University of Florida, says of orientation week app use: “Parents love that they can see their students’ schedules, so when they meet up for lunch they can make plans and learn about the transition activities they missed.”
Mobile apps for university staff
Internal mobile guides allow staff and faculty to organize and store information to make them more efficient in their efforts at recruitment and retention as well as interdepartmental communication. They can access contact information, receive important messages and alerts, and keep updated policies and handbooks.
Help alumni give back and build a professional network while staying connected to the university. Alums can manage travel and itineraries and get all the info they need on fundraising trips or at alumni events. Internally, your school can empower fundraising and advancement professionals by putting prominent donor information and program info at their fingertips. Check out how NC State created an exceptional app for their Homecoming.
All In One App?
Thousands of people are looking to your app and there are unlimited potential use cases. You can’t make everyone happy… or can you?
The benefit of multiple guides living within your branded university app? Each guide can serve as its own portal for the information needed by a specific group at a given time. So you can have a guide for homecoming, a student handbook, an orientation guide, an internal staff directory, an events list for a residence hall… and the list goes on.
The key is to listen to your students, their parents, your faculty and staff, and the alums to find what they’re looking for. (Or you can talk to us and we’ll help. We work with hundreds of schools!) So the next time a student wants to find a usable campus map… she’ll reach into her pocket.