Mobile apps are an incredibly valuable engagement tool to connect students, faculty, staff, and alumni to the institution. Yet, mobile apps present university IT departments with a unique challenge—higher ed IT teams can be understaffed and are often facing tight budgets so they must carefully balance the value and potential of mobile apps with the time and effort that will go into developing and managing them.
The good news is that new rapid mobile app development platforms enable IT teams to delegate mobile app creation to relevant stakeholders, even those with out any technical skills, and empower them to create engaging mobile experiences that are tailored to the specific needs of their audiences. These apps or modules can reside within a main campus app, and can be dynamically updated in real time without IT involvement or lengthy app store resubmissions
As result, the features of a campus app are only limited by the creativity and initiative of the teams involved. Here are some great examples of how non-technical teams across many universities are contributing to mobile app “development”.
Admissions and Recruiting: Marketing and Admissions staff can create Admissions modules for prospective students with information about academic programs, admissions requirements, deadlines and promotional details about the school. Staff at Indiana State University, the University of Notre Dame, and Barnard College, as well as many other schools, have created Admissions apps that reside within their main campus app and provide insight into university life for prospective students. Staff can even collect and manage contact information for prospective students and have the ability to send Push Notifications with important reminders.
At other schools, Marketing and Admissions staff, and in some cases even students, have created mobile tours with rich media that allow prospective students to explore the school at their own pace. It’s so easy to delegate app creation responsibilities, that the University of Notre Dame recently hosted the VisitND Challenge, a student competition, in which multiple teams of students created unique campus tours and the best was selected and included in the Notre Dame Mobile app.
Student Life: Student Affairs, Student Life, and Marketing staff can create fun, engaging apps centered around special activities and events on campus such as New Student Orientation or Homecoming. Or they can create modules for various student organizations or residential life programs.
- At Colgate University, Marketing staff create and manage app modules for the numerous student events on campus such as New Student Orientation, Homecoming, Spring Party Weekend and many other campus events. In this case, IT “owns” the app but Marketing adds events and updates the app with no IT involvement. The process is so seamless, that Colgate uses a student intern to create most of its event modules.
- At Indiana State University, staff from the Student Rec Center created and manage their own app module that includes information on building hours, class schedules, club sports and more.
Alumni Outreach: Staff members from the alumni office can create app modules just for alumni featuring campus news, social media feeds, ways to donate and information about reunions or networking opportunities. For example, Fitchburg State University created a module just for alumni that allows them to stay informed, get involved, and make a gift. Other schools delegate admin control to alumni relations or marketing staff to create apps for alumni events and reunions.
A Win-Win Situation
Students are the ultimate users of your app and what better way to make sure your campus provides a mobile experience they love, and actually use, than by involving other university stakeholders and students in the development process. Today, it’s easier than ever for those without technical skills to contribute to mobile app development. And, by granting administrative privileges to relevant university staff and students, the university can redeploy its valuable IT resources elsewhere, while still maintaining control of the mobile campus experience and development process.