In our monthly blog series Mobile Leader of the Month, we sit down with organizations that are creating exceptional mobile experiences. You’ll learn from people of all skill sets who are utilizing the Modo Labs platform to improve engagement and communication with their target audiences.
This month, we spoke with Becca Benson, Associate Director of Student Engagement, and Dave Shirer, Student Life Specialist, of Mississippi College to learn about the Mississippi College mobile app, which launched in June 2016.
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About the organization:
Mississippi College, affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention, is a private, co-educational, Christian university of liberal arts and sciences serving thousands of students from 39 states and 23 countries.
Location: Clinton, Mississippi
Established: 1826 (the oldest institution of higher learning in Mississippi)
Student population: nearly 5,000 students
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Modo Labs: Can you please introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about your role on campus and your involvement with the Mississippi College mobile app?
Becca Benson: I’m the Associate Director of Student Engagement, and the app was something that I’ve worked on from the ground up since January when we were deciding which vendor we were going to work with. I oversee the entire app project and have been there “from conception to development.”
Dave Shirer: My title is Student Life Specialist, and I have created most of the modules and pages for the app since it launched, working in Publisher.
Modo: What was the need for mobile on campus?
Becca: MC has used a few different apps over past years, but we saw a great need to be able to communicate better with our students. That was really missing on our campus. There was not one central hub where they could get all information they needed, aside from the website. We know that students get their info from phones more than anywhere else, so we wanted to meet them where they were and get them the info they needed.
Dave: We did a survey last spring and found that students didn’t often know what was going on around campus. We felt that communicating with them through an app would be the most useful and effective way to share what’s happening.
Becca: Yes, that was a primary need—getting information out about events and special activities going on around campus. But as we learned more about what we could do with an app, and after talking with large numbers of students, we saw that an app could also offer much broader functionality. This is actually why we went with Modo, because you hit on all areas that students wanted and were interested in.
Modo: What type of feedback were you getting from students? What were they asking for?
Becca: We just had our Phase I launch at the beginning of Summer. In June and July, the app was used for Summer Orientation for new students. Our main goal in getting started over the summer was Orientation. Now in August we’re on to Phase 2, which is adding all the different info that would be applicable to current students for day-to-day life, such as Banner, Moodle and the course catalogue. We also added Alumni and Admissions modules. Since students are back on campus and have started classes, we’ve had great feedback. They really like getting grades, seeing the syllabus, and being connected with the registrar and seeing their accounts. The students are also really big fans of being able to easily access the campus dining menu on their phones. And, it’s great for the students to have access to the one campus event calendar where they can see all of the activities taking place in a given day.
Modo: What were the challenges in creating a mobile app, and how did you overcome them?
Becca: The process has involved a lot of collaboration from different departments on campus. Bringing so many different people together was a challenge, but it has been successful in increasing communication and collaboration across departments. This is not something Dave [Shirer] or I could undertake on our own. For the first time we are attempting to gather all of the info about campus events and special activities into one spot, which has has been a shift in the way the campus communicates. We’re seeing good progress and are excited for what is coming as far as people working together in greater ways.
Modo: What’s next in the app?
Becca: We’re currently working on Publisher pages for events on campus in the coming months, such as Homecoming pages, and next week we will roll out a module for the rush process on campus.
We’re also thinking about what more we can we do with the app for alumni—to pull them back in and give them info to keep them connected.
We’re also considering a creating module for our Preview Days to connect with prospective students.
Modo: How do you decide what to include in your app and how it’s designed?
Becca: A lot of what we’ve been trying to do initially is just make things convenient and easy to find. Students are looking for ease of access for whatever they’re looking for—this is one of the top things that we are considering. We’ve also done a lot of work to make sure the app looks like and reflects life on campus at Mississippi College. So we use that to guide us in the way things are set up and designed.
Dave: We’ve been reaching out to other universities that use Modo and taking inspiration from their apps in terms of how they look. We’ve also been asking questions about their processes and their teams. Things like, how do they get buy-in across different departments on campus and get everyone on the same page? Or, how do they provide the best possible experience for their users?
Becca: We also try to be mindful of who our end users are. We’ve used students to design a lot of the different icons for the app and help with different design elements throughout.
Modo: Any advice for others pursuing a mobile solution?
Becca: It’s exciting. Start with a really great team on campus, have a lot of great conversations up front and communicate your vision of what you’re hoping to accomplish through your app. Know your end goal. Having a good team of people who are willing to work together—who see the worth and value in it—is key.
Dave: I would say working with helpful people is especially important, as well as having great communication back and forth. Also, I don’t have a ton of programming and technical expertise, but the interface for developing Publisher pages is easy to use. The team at Modo is super helpful, giving directions or helping when we have hiccups.
Modo: To end things on a personal note: What are your own favorite apps (besides Mississippi College’s, of course)?
Becca: The apps I use the most, other than straight social media apps, are Spotify and Audible.
Dave: It’s a toss up between various social media apps. I love Instagram, because I’m a very visual person. I also like simple puzzle games like Two Dots.
Modo: iOS, Android or other?
We thank Becca and Dave for sharing their insights and experiences. Stay tuned for our next Mobile Leader of the Month
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