As the continuously-evolving pandemic has restricted and closed campuses around the country, higher education has been at the forefront of reimagining community engagement. And while 2020 has surely been a year with many lows, here at Guidebook, we’re encouraged by the innovation we’re seeing as institutions adapt to a safe, socially distant way of life.
We’ve seen universities leverage Guidebook mobile apps to communicate to remote students, engage prospective students, and keep larger campus communities informed. Our mobile apps, which have historically supported large events such as Welcome Weekend or Commencement, are now keeping universities like Stanford, Centre College, and University of Oregon connected.
Let’s look at how mobile is stepping in to ensure higher education institutions continue to engage communities.
Campus apps today
For years, institutions have used mobile apps to support campus life and campus communities. Today, mobile plays a bigger role than ever. Nearly all incoming students today have a mobile phone; 94% of 18-29-year-olds in the US own a smartphone, according to research by The Pew Research Center. Further, individuals treat their mobile devices as their primary platform to access the internet for news, communication, entertainment, and more.
How are students accessing information? Mobile apps. Apps account for 89% of mobile media time, according to Smart Insights, and the younger generations are leading this shift.
Today, we’re seeing accelerated innovation. In the last six months, we’ve seen institutions iterate on existing practices and adopt mobile to support social distancing. Given this, institutions looking to best reach their audience have moved event communications, student life resources, and more to mobile devices.
Moving from live events to virtual events with mobile
Over the years, over 80% of the top 100 universities in the US have relied on Guidebook and our drag-and-drop Builder platform to create engaging campus apps. Generally, a school’s way of dipping their toes in the ‘mobile apps water’ is by first building an app for their large scale events, like New Student Orientation and Open House, and scaling usage into other departments and events over time.
As COVID-19 reached the US and graduation ceremonies went virtual, connection and engagement were more important than ever. With remote audiences now tuning into virtual graduations ceremonies, from around the country and world, our Product and Engineering teams quickly mobilized to supercharge our platform to support both Virtual and Hybrid events.
Our product allows you to offer virtual event-goers an interactive experience when participating in events such as:
- Welcome Weekend / Orientation
Mobile + Web
Guidebook’s mobile apps, packed with engaging features, including 1:1 chat, Interact social feed, surveys, polls, keep attendees focused on your event rather than scrolling through social media. Guidebook Web, our new and enhanced web version, offers attendees the opportunity to browse event information and engage from their computers.
Pandemic aside, events (both virtual and in-person) are ingrained in higher education. We’re confident we can continue to support universities in an even more expanded capacity for years.
Amarillo College Virtual Events
The College hosts 4 educational series conferences a year (1 a quarter). Due to social distancing, the first couple of conferences of the year will be held virtually, so they required a solution to host all of their information and live video links. They want something they can continuously make updates to, have general sessions, and breakouts all online. The College looks forward to fostering interaction amongst attendees, despite moving to virtual.
Maintaining student communication
It goes without saying that there’s a lot of uncertainty nowadays, both on-campus and off. The key, as administrators, is to help your community stay a community. A sense of community is important to maintain not only at the higher university level, but also within all of the micro-communities that exist. Clubs, athletics teams, majors, and on-campus residence halls all help to build a sense of community. How are you maining this sense of community?
Mobile can help support your goals, when looking to build and maintain community across physical distance. Administrators should ask questions like:
- Has participation in clubs fallen off the radar, compared to this time last year?
- Do our students within majors have the opportunity to connect with one another?
- Are we giving remote students the opportunity to meet and build community?
If this engagement has gone away since the pandemic, it’s important to think about how you can facilitate communication in convenient and safe forums. Scheduling informal video chats and providing the opportunity to chat with others build your community back up.
Effective communication among administrators, faculty, students, and parents is more important now than ever. That may sound obvious, but it comes up in every conversation we have with our GuidebookEDU clients. If you feel that your school has weak spots in this realm, now is the time to make the investment your campus needs to improve. Especially so because even after COVID clears up and things go back to normal, a strong focus on student communication will still be pivotal.
National University of Singapore (NUS): Residential Life App
NUS uses Guidebook to brand their Residence Life experience & create a community of engaged and informed students. Through mobile, National University of Singapore provides the 11,000 students living on campus with up-to-date information about residential life.
Keeping students informed
Email, website, and student portals are great for providing students with high-level updates and information. But does your university’s mobile app give students the resources they need to access year-round, at their convenience?
Above, we noted that students spend a lot of time on their phones. With this in mind, mobile can play an important role in keeping your student body informed. The device that students use to keep up with the latest social media trends is being used to also keep student bodies up-to-date on the latest school information.
How do you handle sharing new information as it comes up? Push notifications are now the standard for ensuring information gets in front of audiences. With a mobile app as your information hub, you can alert your entire student body or specified groups when you have news to share.
Conferences and symposiums offer the opportunity for continued learning outside of classrooms. Supporting content, like articles, handouts, or worksheets can be made available for students to access at any time! By attaching content to an item on your campus schedule, that information is available to anybody who may be interested.
Ensure your students are able to share feedback with faculty. Surveys enable universities to close the feedback loop. Enable your students to be heard by making response surveys available.
Korea University College of Medicine (KUCM): Enhance Student Learning
The medical school uses Guidebook to streamline information and keep students informed. Course materials, like handouts, schedules, and reading materials are made available through an app that students have access to at all times. Cohorts of students know to look to the app for important dates like midterms and finals as well.
Thinking beyond the in-person campus tour
“The campus visit—be it a tour, an open house, a fly‐in, an overnight stay, or some other student‐oriented event—is overwhelmingly the single most influential source of information for students in their decision on college choice.” (Scott Secore, Strategic Enrollment Management Quarterly)
Much to the surprise of many Admissions and Campus Visits departments, prospective students and parents are still coming to campus for in-person tours. And while guided tours, led by current students, may still be a health risk, Admissions and Campus Visits teams are still looking to provide prospective students with a compelling campus experience.
Tours are a valuable tool in communicating need-to-know information, providing a student’s perspective, and getting students to see themselves on campus. The ability to offer no-contact, self-guided tours to campus visitors through a mobile app ensures prospective students are still getting that decision-making information. What’s more social distancing friendly than that?
Swansea University: Connecting with Prospective Students
Swansea University leverages mobile to connect with prospective students during its Open Days and throughout the year with Self-Guided Tours. With Guidebook, Swansea University benefits from a dynamic solution that reduces paper consumption and improves communication with prospective students. They now receive more, valuable feedback from students and their families to guide decision making.
Easy to create, scale, and adjust
What makes a great tour? Visitors should be able to access and take a tour at their own pace, whenever it works best for them. Using a tool like Self-Guided Tours is the safest way to face uncertain times ahead. Your team likely has all the tools and existing assets to create a robust tour – without our help (unless you’d like it!).
Since Self-Guided Tours are easy to create with our drag-and-drop platform, it’s common for schools to create multiple tours for different audiences. In fact, Rutger’s University built five different tours for their prospective students. You might start with a broad campus tour and create ones for secondary languages, Architecture, the First Gen experience, Athletics, or History. And the best part? With our Self-Guided Tours product, you can build an unlimited amount of tours for a flat rate.
Self-Guided Tours are also flexible and changing or updating your tour on-the-fly is easy. You can add new tours at any time, change routes, or add completely new ones in. Now, more than ever, Admissions departments need to be agile. One day you might have in-person classes, and five days later you might be closing dorms. Our platform provides you with this flexibility.
Simple contact info collection and export
Students and their parents often drop by and explore campuses without a scheduled tour. Offering mobile tours gives you the opportunity to learn more about who is stopping by. With an app, Admissions and Campus Visit departments suddenly have a way to gather names and add them to a CRM, like Slate.
Mobile offers continued engagement as well. After students and parents take a tour in person, they can re-take it at home. Visitors can’t reference traditional campus tours at home, and with eager prospective students visiting multiple campuses, a lot can be forgotten. However, with a Self-Guided Tour, prospects can easily reference your tour later on.
Safe, quick and easy to build, and inexpensive. In fact, it’s probably one of the most cost-effective tools that campuses are using that can be concretely tied to down-funnel revenue.
Control the narrative, even when you’re not there
Also remember, you’re not only selling your campus, but also your surrounding campus communities. When prospects visit a campus, they’re also going to restaurants, touring museums, and seeing if they can picture themselves in your community. The best campus tours don’t just sell prospective students on the campus; they extend outside the gates and into the overall experience of living in your area.
Think of a Self-Guided Tour as a GPS campus tour that enables you to communicate your campus story with prospective students, exactly as they would hear it from a tour guide, and seamlessly collect their contact information for lead nurturing.
Ready to rethink your campus’ communications strategy?
It goes without saying that we’re living in confusing times for everyone. We’re all forced to adapt to the changing landscape as COVID has proven, worldwide, that it doesn’t plan on leaving us soon. But we can control how we respond in these situations by taking actionable steps toward mitigating the issues we face. As higher ed administrators, think critically about the steps you take and the priorities you invest in.
If you’re interested in hearing about why colleges and universities all around the world have made Guidebook apps a top priority for their communities, get in touch with our team. We’d love to hear from you.