6 Steps to Becoming a Mobile-First Campus

Submitted by on Thu, 05/09/19

Students expect instant mobile access to the information they need most. Here’s how to give it to them.

The mobile-born generation is here: 99% of undergraduates own a smartphone. As smartphone adoption increases, so does the expectation for apps and user experiences, and users overwhelmingly prefer native apps to the mobile web. Recent studies show that smartphone users spend 87% of their time in mobile apps, not on mobile web browsers—a number that has been steadily increasing for six consecutive years. So if you already have a responsively-designed website, but not a native app, your mobile strategy is not yet complete.

The Mobile Mind Shift is defined as the “expectation that I can get what I want in my immediate context and moments of need.” This mindset is especially true among the mobile-born generation. Students expect and need access to glanceable and actionable information, readily available in a spontaneous moment of engagement. So it is critical for universities to meet their students on mobile with a native mobile app.

App development, which once took significant time and IT resources, is now easier than ever with new tools that allow even non-developers to create new apps in just hours. Numerous universities are now at the forefront of providing a comprehensive mobile experience for their students. Here are some best practices and examples to inspire you to become a mobile leader at your campus.

1. Give the students what they need (and want)

Students want access to important, up-to-date information that impacts their daily lives. Students will want access to features like shuttle tracking and the cafeteria menu on a daily basis, keeping them engaged with your app. The most frequently used features in a university app tend to be:

  • Courses (i.e., LMS integration)
  • Registrar (i.e., SIS integration)
  • Maps (Indoor and Outdoor)
  • Resources (e.g., ability to check computer lab or laundry availability)
  • Dining
  • Shuttle Schedules

It’s easy to keep your app up-to-date through seamless integration with existing back-end data sources, whether it’s your LMS, SIS, shuttle-tracking service, news or social media feed.

2. Create a personalized experience with Personas and Locations

Only a few years ago, it was virtually impossible to create personalized experiences for mobile users. Each user who downloaded an app would have the same experience as specialized features targeting specific groups were time-consuming and costly to develop. Now universities have the ability to create more meaningful experiences that their users need, and expect. Good mobile apps support different personas as well as users in different locations. Popular personas include Students, Graduate Students, Faculty & Staff, Alumni, and Guests with special personas for important events such as New Student Orientation, Commencement, and Reunions. Different locations can offer a unique experience for multiple campuses whether that is the main campus, law school, or campus abroad.

3. Engage users with Push Notifications and Banner Messages

Push Notifications and Banner Messages quickly alert students to campus emergencies, severe weather, important announcements, exciting news, or even new features within your app. They can also deep link to any screens inside the app, or an external URL, to make these messages more actionable.

Push Notifications immediately reach all app users, whether or not they are currently using the app and can be created from a feed, or written on a one-off basis. Push Notifications significantly increase user interaction and loyalty by providing up-to-date and urgent information or reminders.

Banner Messages appear at the top of screens within your app. They are less obtrusive than Push Notifications, and can be used contextually – on only specific pages within your app. For example, changes to the day’s menu can be announced just on dining module so only those users seeking information about dining will see it.

4. Enable non-technical staff to create apps

You do not need to be technical to create a Modo Campus app. The platform allows for technical and non-technical folk alike create and deploy new apps. Modo users can customize pre-built modules and even create new apps from scratch quickly and without any coding, which historically required specialized programming skills and experience in app store submissions, creating substantial bottlenecks in IT.

5. Empower students to create new apps

The Modo platform allows for different section of the app to be delegated to students. This means that not only can non-technical staff create apps, but students as well. Schools are engaging their student developers, as well as non-technical students, to create new apps for the student body. Students help to create new apps which is a win-win situation for the university: students gain practical work experience while the university deploys apps that students will actually use.

6. Market and promote your app

Getting your app into the hands of users is just as important as the effort required to produce it. Make sure current students, as well as those just arriving on campus, know your app exists and why they should download it. Marketing your app doesn’t have to be expensive: simple, social and grassroots efforts will do the trick.

The first step is creating a plan with the marketing team – set a launch date and organize promotions leading up to the big day such as email campaigns, videos, social media promos, advertisements, posters, and in-person events in high-traffic areas.

Don’t forget to target users early. Engaging students before they even step foot on campus, perhaps even before they enroll, ensures that by the time they’re on campus using the app has become routine.

Universities seeking to create interactive and personalized mobile experiences for their campus communities must address mobile as a leading consideration, not as an afterthought. Today, this is easier than ever as new tools allow apps to be created in hours without any coding. Universities can get started with pre-built modules that integrate with back-end data sources then add any module imaginable. In no time, you can create a comprehensive mobile app experience and become a mobile leader on your campus. Learn more about building a mobile campus app here

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