The buzzword ‘The Student Experience’ encompasses many aspects of academic and intellectual development; social and emotional life; and growth and refinement of cultural, political, sports and artistic interests. In Higher Education, academics is central to the student experience, which can be measured through retention.
A recent webinar, “Improving the Student Experience: Mobile is Essential,” discussed how mobile has become critical in enhancing student experience, and what students expect from their campus mobile apps.
To put campus apps in perspective, one must consider the mobile experiences that students have outside of higher education. Students use mobile devices for most of their day-to-day activities such as in banking, transportation, social, entertainment and more. These apps do not replicate the full website. Instead, they present a limited number of key activities targeted to the individual user that they can take action on easily. Students now expect a personalized mobile experience from their campus mobile app.
Additionally, a study by Flurry Analytics shows that the biggest growth in mobile usage is not linked to games or travel. Rather users rely on mobile apps that are personalized to help them stay on track with broader goals.
In campus mobile apps, the story is the same. More than 50% of campus mobile app use centers around academic efforts. For example, in a four year public university in the Northeast, more than 85% of all students use the campus app almost daily on average. The majority of the app’s use is engaging in academic content.
The app has a native Course feature integrated with the school’s SIS and LMS. for real-time course updates. The content includes Course Schedule, Class Roster, Grades, Course Announcements, Course Discussions and Course Assignments.
Improving the student mobile experience is contingent on several factors
Communication: Students and schools are looking for better ways to communicate with each other. Email is still the most popular, but quickly becoming least effective because of the number of emails students receive. Automated and integrated Push Notifications on campus apps are an easy way to keep students updated on course and account changes. These messages are succinct, timely, and should allow the student to take action from the app.
Functionality: Student engagement isn’t measured by total time spent on a campus mobile app. Instead, the objective is ease of use. Can the student get the information they need efficiently? Most schools’ web portals are inefficient, requiring students to spend too much time finding information or completing simple tasks. Many schools have chosen to replicate the portal experience within their campus app, resulting in the same bad user experience, but on a smaller screen. A campus app should not offer a portal like experience on mobile. Rather, it should provide a new user experience that simplifies access to the most relevant and frequently used portal content.
Banking apps, much like other customer-centric mobile apps, focus on five key functions: alerts, account balances, depositing checks, paying bills and transferring money. You wouldn’t create a new account or find a new bank through their mobile app. Similarly, don’t expect that students will use the campus mobile app to apply for admission, or write and submit a 10 page midterm paper.
Unified school app: Some schools provide multiple single use mobile apps (we counted one school with more than 30!). Let’s go back to the banking example again. You would be one frustrated customer and likely not use mobile if your bank had 5 different apps for the 5 key functions outlined above. Students feel the same way. They don’t want to download multiple campus apps. They also don’t want 50 features in one app.
Conclusion: What should a campus mobile app offer?
In a recent assessment of top mobile app features, students relied most on those that keep them on track academically. A Courses module, featuring SIS and LMS integration, notifications about academics and Library were the top features at this four-year public school in the Northeast.
In short, identify which key features students need through your mobile channel. Concentrate on making those features very easy to use, and students will find the campus mobile app valuable.