Your Mobile App is Your Campus in the New Normal

Submitted by on Tue, 04/28/20

We are all adapting to operating in more virtual spaces during these ever-changing circumstances. After all, most students, faculty, and staff are not on campus anymore. Yet, almost everything schools and students had been planning to do this semester and school year is still going to happen. It’s just going to happen in a new way. A campus mobile app is the key to enabling this new normal.

Why engagement matters more than ever

Undoubtedly, it’s uniquely challenging at this time for institutions to maintain and grow relationships with existing, admitted, and prospective students and their families. But nothing could be more essential when, as The New York Times says, the pandemic has already cost universities millions of dollars as classes move online. Moreover, schools are rightly worried about student body attrition as both existing and prospective students consider delaying their attendance or look to attend schools closer to home.

In fact, much is at stake as schools are forced to shut down their physical campuses:

  • Graduation and matriculation rates
  • Student and employee retention and loyalty
  • New student enrollment
  • Enrollment and recruitment processes

Students and their families won’t necessarily demand engagement with your school during this time. But if you don’t encourage and enable it, you’ll likely see the result in future disengagement. For all these reasons alone, institutions need enduring connections to their existing and incoming students and their families – particularly in times of crisis.

Keep engagement high by bridging the virtual and physical

To keep current students engaged and win mindshare with new students and their parents, schools need to engage continuously with them now, through the summer, and into the fall. A mobile campus app is a means to do this seamlessly. Because this companion app is with a student whether they are on or off-campus, it bridges the virtual and physical experiences.

Remember: The device where your campus app is installed is with your users 24/7, providing limitless opportunities for you to engage with students and their families. In fact, as a virtual campus, a mobile campus app makes it possible for your school to build culture and deepen relationships with your community. Your school can deliver messages, information, and engagement through your campus app. So although your students and their families aren’t physically on campus, they can still feel connected, motivated, and excited to move forward.

Here are all the roles your mobile app can serve in this capacity:

  • Drive proactive communication and engagement. Beyond being learning centers, colleges are crucial information and organization hubs, often the center of a student’s life. A campus app allows schools to connect to and distribute critical information from trusted sources. Through the app, they can even fast track urgent announcements or news using push notifications or other priority channels. For example, schools can provide access to their COVID-19 hotline, online learning tips, and guidance for staying healthy.
  • Enable online learning. Like many schools, yours is likely delivering as many classes as possible online. With that in mind, set up your app to support your students in their coursework. This can include providing links to their personalized course schedule, notification nudges to keep up with their assignments, personalized communication for interacting with their professors and advisors, and even access to a dashboard showing their academic standing.
  • Continue serving community needs. Your app isn’t just for communicating with your students, families and employees – it’s a tool for informing and empowering them. Consider the new needs of your students, for example. Those still on campus need to know what resources are still available to them. While your study locations might be closed, perhaps the Amazon Hub Locker on your campus is still open. Knowing this is important for students needing a secure way to receive supplies during the COVID-19 crisis. Similarly, students on campus might be dealing with heightened food insecurity issues now that your dining halls are closed. You could create an opt-in channel to notify these students when you are able to make food available, as Sacramento State has done.
  • Maximize student attainment and enrollment. With so much uncertainty in the air, your school might be worried about maintaining its enrollment numbers as parents and students consider their options for the fall. This underscores the importance of ongoing engagement and proactive outreach. These actions can help you cultivate relationships to win the hearts and minds of students and their families in spite of the physical separation at this time. A campus mobile app is purpose-built to enable this type of connection and relationship building. Your school could use it to offer virtual campus tours, and host remote student orientations and Admitted Students’ Days. The campus app even provides easy connection options for students to get their questions answered through their mobile devices.
  • Maintain and nurture interactions. Even during this time, it’s important for schools to build excitement with admitted students and their families through the spring and summer, in preparation for the fall semester. Think about all the ways that admitted students will be participating at your school beyond the classroom. To that end, campus groups and clubs can build an active presence in the app to keep new students engaged. These groups can suggest activities and exercises that admitted students can partake in while waiting to arrive on campus. They can also promote and host social interactions via the app so existing and new teammates can get to know each other.
  • Hold virtual commencement. Through their apps, schools can provide access to an experience that reflects the personal, once-in-a-lifetime nature of graduation. Students and their families can stream live and pre-recorded commencement speeches, virtually partake in senior traditions, and stay fully connected while planning for the delayed on-campus celebrations that many schools are scheduling for the fall. Other ideas include encouraging students to dress up in their graduation gowns and upload their pictures to the app, and enabling a virtual graduation march via your app. Some colleges are even planning a virtual spring graduation to be followed up by a fall in-person event and using their app to bridge the two.

As you make plans to harness your campus app to keep your community engaged, revisit your home screen to make sure it best serves your community at this time. The idea is to enable students to keep learning and moving towards graduation, enable instructors to keep teaching, and enable your employees to keep working.

Humboldt State University in Northern California is an excellent example. From their app’s home screen, they feature three core topics to serve their entire community: keep learning, keep teaching, and keep working.

Remember: Make your mobile campus app your engagement hub now and it will continue to pay dividends when everybody returns to campus.

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