How can a mobile app help improve the student experience?
Students expect their university to provide them with information using technologies they are familiar with. Combine this with estimates of 62 million smartphones in the UK by 2015 and it is clear that the mobile app is a technology that most students will be comfortable with and will have access to. Importantly, a mobile app is typically an add-on service rather than a replacement, as the information available can be accessed in other ways if required, i.e. via the web or on campus.
Access to information is a big incentive when considering a mobile app. The Open University recently won the Guardian University Award for their app, which allows students to access course information, materials and even textbooks anywhere using their mobile app. Other universities, such as Manchester Metropolitan University, allow their faculty to give their students anywhere access to teaching materials and supporting resources such as reading lists, online articles, audio and video clips, etc. through their university mobile app.
All university mobile apps offer slightly different core information, but the basics are usually a combination of class schedules, campus maps, staff contact details, library search option, and event notifications. Each helps the student find what they want to know without having to locate a PC/laptop or come to campus. All of this contributes to the student being able to get involved when and where he wants.
A mobile app also opens up additional opportunities for student collaboration with universities such as Manchester Metropolitan University, giving students access to chat rooms and discussion forums. In this way, students can continue discussing outside of the classroom without having to be on campus. As a rule, employees are also active in these chat rooms/discussion forums and give advice and answers to questions. With Queens University’s NPulse mobile app, students can ask live questions, engage in class discussions, record lectures, and even rate their classroom experience in real time. This type of live online environment, which includes both staff and students, helps improve student engagement inside and outside of the classroom and improves the student experience.
Some universities have added something different by providing information that is not necessarily geared towards their studies but still benefits the student experience. Oxford University’s Mobile Oxford provides information on travel and events within the city, while others such as the University of Westminster’s iWestminster allow students to find each other using GPS.
Something that has already been touched upon (but is worth repeating) is the way the information is presented. A mobile app allows a university to choose what information is displayed and customize the design to suit the student. These two aspects are very useful to improve the engagement between the university and the student, since only student-oriented information is provided.
This article has focused on current students, but the mobile app can also be useful for attracting prospective students as it offers a chance to become familiar with student events and the community before you become a student at the university. In addition to prospective students, it can also be aimed at alumni to keep them up to date on news and events and to offer a way to stay in touch with each other. A good example of this is AberWorld by Aberystwyth.
There are clearly potential benefits of a university mobile app, particularly the positive impact it can have on student engagement. It is very likely that one of the first thoughts is the cost – be it time or money (or both!). However, as the Guardian article points out, the cost and time involved are not necessarily as great as you might think, and the potential benefits are certainly worth the time and investment involved.
Thanks to Ben Moreland | #Mobile #Apps #Helping #Improve #Student #Experience