With 90 percent of college students owning a smartphone (46 percent own a tablet), colleges and universities are no longer debating whether to develop their own mobile platforms. Instead, they are creating new apps for students who are consistently using their smartphones more and more. Recruitment-focused apps tend to provide prospectus-type information, while apps leaning towards engagement try to increase the value of a student’s experience itself.
On campus, recruiters are using new campus tour apps that allow prospective students to explore campuses on their own time, and at their own pace. The apps use GPS to guide users to key points on campus. When prospective students arrive at the points of interest—audio, visual, and other effects can be used to offer information on specific locations, interests, and events. Catholic University in Washington D.C., highlights its unique architecture, and Findlay University boasts of its equestrian and vet facilities. Other advantages of virtual college tour apps include tours being offered in multiple languages, and the use of real-time analytics to gather data.
Colleges and universities are also using apps to engage with students beyond campus maps and class schedules. The University of Notre Dame’s campus app provides multiple features for students such as modules for laundry availability, safe ride requests, and indoor maps—which help students navigate and find key locations such as offices, classrooms, and printers. UVA uses its smartphone application to help students connect to support services, such as peer counseling and mental health facilities.
Beyond the Instagram and Facebook pages of higher education institutions, mobile apps are becoming increasingly necessary for schools who want to attract and maintain relevance across their populace of potential students. As of last fall, 79 percent of colleges and universities had working mobile apps or planned to offer them by the end of the academic year. This is up 20 percent from the previous year, and 40% from 2012. According to Amy Boyd, project manager for the app at Texas State University Moblie, “Everything seems to be going mobile, and if you don’t have that, you’re really falling behind the times.”