Introducing Modo Communicate: An Interview with Our VP of Engineering

Submitted by on Wed, 06/15/16

Modo Labs is excited to introduce our powerful new messaging platform: Modo Communicate. In this blog we’ve interviewed our VP of Engineering, Marshall Vale, to learn why mobile communication is so important, features of the new system, and why those new features were developed in the first place (hint: because you asked for them!).

What is mobile communication and is it important?
Mobile communication is a broad term that refers to messages that are intended to be received on mobile devices through a number of notification types, such as push notifications, in-app banners, SMS, or email. Messages typically come from a specific mobile app and are used as a communication and engagement tools with end users of those apps.

Mobile communication is an incredibly powerful tool:

  • Push notifications cut through the noise of overloaded email inboxes by reaching users immediately.
  • Users who opt in to push messages average 3x more app launches.
  • Apps that send in-app messages show 2 to 3.5x higher user retention.

The vast majority of us own smartphones and younger generations rely on their mobile devices more than any generations that have preceded them. As Millennials are entering the workforce and Plurals are preparing for college, employers and universities can meaningfully connect with students and employees via mobile communication.

For colleges and universities this connection can aid in retaining current students with helpful messages or encouragement – particularly for those students who may be at risk or underperforming academically. Schools can also use mobile communication while recruiting prospective students – sending application deadline reminders or inviting them to tour the campus.

Enterprise organizations benefit from increased employee engagement by keeping an open line of communication with employees on their mobile devices.

Equally important is the power of mobile to communicate safety messages. Because push notifications reach app users immediately, an entire campus or office can quickly be alerted to any emergency situation – such as a tornado warning – or give the all-clear once any threat has passed.

Why did Modo Labs decide to start this project?
For several years, Modo Labs’ Kurogo Mobile Campus solution has had the ability to send push notifications and in-app banners to all app users.

In that time, we also added ways to target segments of app users with push notifications. However, those targetable segments were based only on what state the mobile app was in, and which group the user chose to identify with–for example, a specific Location or Persona. What we heard from our community was that they wanted a better way to target their users, with the ability to send a notification directly to a specific individual.

Another piece of feedback we heard was the frustration with the transient nature of push notifications. While push notifications do a great job of immediately reaching users, if the user accidentally closes the notification, they risk missing the message which has since disappeared from their device.

And finally, one of the other biggest reasons for developing Modo Communicate, was the desire to support organizational governance requirements. As mobile continues to grow and evolve, in order to maintain a scalable approach to mobile communication, our community asked for ways to delegate messaging capabilities to any department, yet still maintain central control of content and timing.

Can you expand on each of those key catalysts that propelled the development of Modo Communicate? Let’s start with personal messages.
Mobile devices are inherently personal experiences. While receiving broadcast push notifications can be useful for keeping us generally informed, they can be heavily abused by nagging apps that want us to spend more money on virtual crops or read trivial news, raising the overall noise that we have to deal with every day.

Personal notifications connect us in a way that the broadcast ones cannot. They say, “I have something important about your life just for you.”

On a college campus, it could be as simple as letting a person know they were accepted to the university or a waitlisted class, or that they are about to miss the deadline to submit their intent to graduate forms.

Enterprise organizations may want to send a special message to notify recently-hired employees of new employee events, to alert managers that employee reviews are due, or to remind certain employees who haven’t yet completed benefit elections to do so by the deadline.

The ability to send personal messages sounds great, but how do you manage requests from all of the different departments that will want to send them? How does Modo Communicate support delegation and governance across an organization?
This was one of the key design considerations that went into the system: to provide a system that enables administrators to extend access to the entire organization while maintaining the right amount of oversight.

This is where channels within Modo Communicate come into play. System administrators can create channels that correspond to specific end-user segments, then, at the channel level, assign authoring, editing, or approval privileges to the appropriate people. For instance, a Physics channel can be created and permission can be given to Deans, Faculty, or Administrators in the Physics department to create and send messages to only this channel.

Channels can also be set so all messages within that channel require approval prior to sending. In this case, certain members of the faculty can author and schedule messages, then submit them for review. Then an approver, such as a Dean, can simply approve the message to send. Once these roles are established with this channel, system-wide Modo Communicate administrators do not have to participate in the creation, approval, or sending of the message.

So, how have you addressed the issue of push notifications disappearing?
We’re excited to introduce the in-app Message Center. The message center is a central hub in your app for all messages that are sent, no matter the notification type – push notifications or banner messages. When a user taps through a notification, they can read the message within the message center, and revisit it later.

Won’t Message Centers become just as cluttered as their email inboxes?
One of the very consistent threads we heard from the community is that they wanted a central message hub within their apps precisely because students were not reading their email. Perhaps the most important difference from email is that in Modo Communicate, messages have expiration times. When a message expires, it is no longer visible to the end users.

Thanks for filling us in on all of these exciting new features!

Learn more by watching our webinar “Harness the Power of Mobile Messaging to Engage Your Students: Introducing Modo Communicate.”



Add A Comment


  • patrick

    7/28/2016 at 1:24pm

    Can this platform be installed at the school level or would the entire University need to subscribe, create channels for us, etc?

  • Amelia Morrill

    7/28/2016 at 1:42pm

    Hi Patrick, Modo Communicate can be used at any level within the university, or across the whole campus. I also recommend watching our webinar on this topic to see a live demo of Communicate in action: “Harness the Power of Mobile Messaging to Engage Your Students: Introducing Modo Communicate.”


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