“Technology” is part of the name of Illinois Institute of Technology, so you might think the Chicago university would have plenty of expertise to create a campus mobile app on its own. But they had no campus app.
Vince Battista, the school’s Director of Enterprise Systems, responds with a quick reality check. “Like most institutions, we don’t have 50 developers sitting around waiting for something to do. We have one.”
Battista knows from experience what’s involved in creating a campus app. He once helped create one, and remembers “a lot of time spent hands-on-keyboard coding. Integrating the platforms – actually building the integrations and APIs to do things – was very arduous, as was testing.”
“So when I spoke to DubLabs,” he continues, “and learned their app was pre-configured for, in our case, Banner and Blackboard right out of the box, that was very attractive.”
Battista and his team were able to focus their time and energy on other aspects of defining the app, such as working directly with students to establish which capabilities they deemed most important.
Battista also likes that the DubLabs solution doesn’t affect day-to-day operations of the school’s administrative departments, such as academic affairs. “I’m able to take the information they already use and push it out into the DubLabs app with no changes in the way anyone does business,” he explains.
Students Are Strongly Engaged
The outcome for IIT has been exceptional. “In a year, we’ve gone from having no mobile to having an app that students are actively using,” Battista says.
He estimates that fully two-thirds of the university’s 8,000 students are active users, with around 1,800 consulting the app every day.
One of the app’s most popular features allows students to sync their course schedule to their phone. “They get a notification 15 minutes before they’re supposed to be in a class, even if they don’t have the app open,” Battista explains.
IIT’s success with student engagement is just the first step in a multi-year mobile plan that will ultimately involve the entire school community. “Next we’ll see what kinds of things our faculty and staff would like to see in the app,” says Battista. “Then we plan on integrating it to our prospective students, and finally to the alumni space.”
The flexibility to add new capabilities to the underlying app is another benefit of the adaptable, modular design of the DubLabs solution.
For Schools: How to Create a Campus Mobile App
When it comes to advice about how to create a campus mobile app, Battista focuses squarely on end users: students. He emphasizes the importance of reading and acting on user feedback from the app stores. But he believes students should be involved from the very beginning.
“Student engagement is critical,” he says. “If you can leverage your student government, or build a student panel to help you form and deploy your app, you’ll get invaluable information.” [Ed note: Mercer University had great success with this strategy.]
“I think that’s why we’re very successful with student use. Our app was actually branded by students,” Battista adds. “You want to engage the people that will use it, right out of the gate.”