Does Your School's Mobile App Meet the Expectations of Today's Students?


Not to make you feel old, but the majority of today’s higher education students who enrolled right after high school graduation were born in the mid to late 1990s. They grew up with smartphones and mobile applications. They’ve never had to wait to communicate with friends and family. They’ve never had to wait to hear their favorite song, watch their favorite videos, or deposit a check at the bank. The services and content they need are always at their fingertips and available on demand.

Mobile is very personal for this generation of students. Everything about their mobile experience is personalized, from the way devices look and applications are arranged, to the notifications they receive and the content they consume. Mobile is the center of their universe, and they have complete control.

Despite student expectations for a personalized, on-demand mobile experience, many colleges and universities continue to use technology that treats all students the same. These schools may have campus mobile apps, but they tend to be rather generic.

Personalized mobile apps can enhance the student experience and meet the mobile expectations of today’s students. Personalized push notifications can help students manage their coursework, finances and campus activities. When integrated with the institution’s student information system, notifications can be automatically triggered based on various data in the student’s profile. Personalized mobile apps also make it possible for students to access course content, add or drop classes, buy books, and collaborate with each other in the simplest, most efficient way.

Colleges and universities can also benefit by integrating mobile apps into their recruitment strategies. Instead of sifting through piles of marketing materials, students could access all the content they need through a mobile app. Unlike traditional tactics such as direct mail, billboards and college fairs, mobile apps allow for granular targeting based on academic record, activities, interests and geography. Mobile apps also facilitate personal interactions that lead to deeper connections with students and more virtual and in-person campus tours. Schools can also track and measure ROI from their marketing and recruitment efforts.

If you’re building or upgrading your mobile app, there are a number of factors to consider. What specific goal(s) do you hope to achieve? It’s a good idea to smart small, perhaps with a single use case such as campus visits, financial aid or academic management. Keep in mind that you can work from a template or have a custom app developed from scratch. Leverage built-in device features such as cameras, GPS and video streaming to enhance your app. Make mobile app development a collaborative effort that involves not just IT, but students and educators.

Use the mobile apps of other colleges and universities as inspiration. The University of California’s financial aid app simplifies the process of verifying information required to calculate eligibility and allows students to upload documents and provide electronic signatures. Florida State University collaborated with local law enforcement to create a campus safety app that supports the alerting and reporting of emergency and non-emergency incidents. Schools are using mobile apps for everything from dining hall menus to interactive navigation of campuses and local communities.

The average student spends 2.8 hours on their smartphone, according to Forbes, with 90 percent of that activity going through mobile apps, according to GMAC. By offering personalized mobile apps and integrating them with student information systems, higher education institutions can meet the mobile expectations of today’s students and improve recruitment, retention and degree completion rates.