How to Use Beacons to Engage Students and Visitors

Submitted by on Thu, 07/07/16

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Beacons are a hot topic for universities. They offer a great way to engage students and visitors with personalized, highly contextual messages. In fact, a pre-conference survey of attendees at the 2016 Kurogo Higher Ed Mobile Conference, found that beacon-enabled communication was the number one feature respondents did not have in their app yet, but planned to add.  

What are beacons and how do they work?
Beacons are low-energy Bluetooth devices that send proximity-based notifications to mobile devices with appropriately configured mobile apps. Because they are proximity based, they can be used to send hyperlocal messages to students and guests as they navigate your campus.

Messages can be set for specific time frames and the device’s proximity radius can be adjusted, ensuring that any messages received are relevant to the user in that exact moment of time and place.

In addition to sending notifications, beacons also receive a “ping” from devices with Bluetooth-enabled compatible apps. This “ping” can be used to get a picture of the number of devices in proximity to the beacon and determine things like crowd size or line length.

Are you thinking of developing a beacon notification strategy on your campus? Here are a few ideas to get your started:

 

  • Tour Stops
    Whether tour groups are following a guide, navigating on their own, or using a mobile app to tour campus, beacons can be set at each major stop along the way. Notifications can alert users that they’ve arrived at the correct destination, and provide a deep link to more information on each stop within their campus app.  Learn more about how the University of Notre Dame has implemented beacons to enhance their tour experience. 
  • Building or Campus Features
    What makes your campus unique? A statue, an architectural feature, an LEED certified building, or a spot within a building with special meaning? Place beacons in each of these locations so that when students and visitors are nearby they receive a notification that can take them to full details within your app.
  • New Student Orientation
    Welcome students and families to Orientation by setting a beacon notification to phones as they arrive on campus or at check-in. Link to the campus map or nearby parking locations.
  • Bookstore or other Campus Vendor Deals
    Offer special deals just for app-users.  For example, set up your beacons at the bookstore entrance so that when people  walk past they’ll receive an alert about 50% off sweatshirts or other promotions. This is great during Homecoming and Reunion!
  • Dining Specials
    Does tonight’s dinner have a special theme? Is everyone’s favorite dish on the menu today? Alert anyone entering the cafeteria.
  • Move-In
    Move-in day often means lines as students arrive on campus to check-in and find their way to their dorm rooms with their families. Use beacons along the way to let everyone know what the expected wait time is from that point in the line-up.
  • Scavenger Hunts
    This is a great way to engage a crowd. Set up a series of beacons and get everyone to visit each spot to win a prize.
  • Sporting Events
    Beacons near the field or in the stadium can welcome fans with spirited messages for the team.

The beacon devices are quite small, and waterproof models also exist, so the options are limited only by your creativity. These hyperlocal messages are a great way to engage your students and visitors to your campus by connecting them to their physical surroundings in a very digital way.

Learn more about schools that are already using beacons to engage their campus by viewing these slides from Matt Willmore, mobileND Program Manager at the University of Notre Dame, and Kris Rogers, Marketing Director at Indiana State University.

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