Commencement Goes Mobile – How to Create an App for Graduation

Submitted by on Tue, 02/09/16


Commencement is a major, exciting event on college campuses. Graduating seniors are on to their next chapter, and friends and family gather to celebrate their accomplishments. As a result, commencement is an also an extremely busy time.

Activities often span up to a full week preceding the big event itself. There are social events and parties for seniors to say their good-byes. There are smaller ceremonies for individual colleges, majors, or honors programs. There may be a rehearsal for the commencement ceremony. And of course, there’s the big day itself.

With so many activities, schedules, locations, and guests how do you keep everyone informed and organized? One of the best ways, in today’s mobile-savvy world, is through a mobile app for commencement.

Why a mobile app?
Today’s students are mobile natives. They’ve grown up on mobile devices, and throughout their tenure in college, they’ve been using their phones for everything from finding out what’s for dinner in the cafeteria, to the shuttle schedule, to signing up for classes. wm-commencement-card-nav-25086% of college students regularly use smartphones. It’s only natural to provide a mobile presence for one of the most important days of their college careers.

Mobile apps also have the benefit of serving up only the most current, relevant, and actionable content and can be easily updated in real-time. This means students and visitors don’t need to dig through pages of a mobile-optimized website or worse-yet, a website that isn’t optimized, or (gasp!) even paper pamphlets. Apps quickly provide rich-media content such as photos, videos, or social media integration, and they can access mobile device features such as GPS for mapping and directions, and push notifications for instant communication.

Here are some key elements of a successful commencement app:

  1. Schedule of Events
    The schedule of events can be created within the app, or can pull on an existing calendar data feed. With either method, if any times or locations change, for instance due to inclement weather, it’s easy to update the information in the app real-time. Include every event from a goodbye BBQ to honors convocation. From the schedule of events, deep-link to a map so attendees can easily find where they are going with just a tap.
  2. nd_commencement-250Maps
    Although the graduating seniors are familiar with campus, their many visitors may not be. Outdoor maps can give an overview of campus, highlight key locations, and even provide pathfinding directions between buildings, or from parking to the main event. Indoor maps can show various rooms and amenities inside buildings. Highlight elevators, water fountains, restrooms, or accessible areas. Indoor maps can also feature a map of indoor event venues, with designations for specific seating areas.
  3. Weather
    With many graduation ceremonies planned for outside, weather is a critical factor in the events of the day. Include a weather forecast module within the commencement app so everyone knows whether to plan on sweaters, shorts, or rain gear. Additionally, create a “rain plan” module with details on the location and schedule of events in case of inclement weather.
  4. Shuttle Tracking
    There are often so many guests during commencement weekend that overflow or satellite parking is necessary. If you’re running shuttles to and from parking lots, or other campus locations, include real-time shuttle tracking within the app.
  5. Parking Details
    Traffic is usually intense during graduation, use your app to provide specific directions or even custom maps to the locations where everyone should be parking. Using some additional technology, it’s even possible to include parking availability information within the app.
  6. wm-commencement-3-250Push Notifications and In-App Banners
    Messaging in your mobile app keeps everyone up-to-date and excited. Send push notifications or use in-app banners preceding scheduled events as a heads up that they’re beginning shortly, or in case of a schedule or location change. Many graduation ceremonies are planned for outside, but in the event of rain, use a Push Notification to inform everyone the program has moved inside and where. When users tap on the notification, it can link to more information, a schedule, or a map.
  7. Live Webcasts
    Although everyone would like to make it to the main event in person, including a live stream of the commencement ceremony allows family and friends across the country to participate as well.
  8. News, Social and Photos
    The spirit of the event is captured through social media channels and it’s easy to incorporate existing news, video, social media, or photo feeds into a commencement app through simple data integration. Use your main campus social feeds, or, establish accounts and hashtags just for commencement.

A mobile commencement presence can exist as a standalone app or as a module or Persona within a main campus app. The important thing is to make sure that all graduating students, and their visitors, download it. Promote the app on the school’s website, or send a push notification from an existing campus app announcing the availability of the new commencement module.

In the past it, mobile projects could be cumbersome and time consuming and it was virtually impossible for non-technical staff to quickly create apps for the many different events on their campus. Today, using no-code app development platforms it’s easy for anyone on campus to quickly create mobile apps for any campus event, like Commencement.

One last thing…
As they graduate, encourage students to opt-in to the alumni version of your app—keeping them connected and engaged with the campus even after they toss their cap in the air.

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