Creating An App For Schools and Universities

Your students have gone mobile, and so should you! 

Not having a mobile app for your school or university essentially means that you are missing out on a crucial opportunity for engaging with the students. 

And it’s not just the students who benefit from the ease and accessibility of having a dedicated mobile app. It acts as a touchpoint of interaction with a number of different stakeholders including students, their parents, and the faculty. 

While it is true that mobile apps are the way forward, not all apps are created equal. The global app uninstalls rate over a period of 30 days is 28 percent. This essentially means that 3 out of 10 apps are uninstalled within a month of their download. 

In order to survive and render an engaging experience to the users, your school or university app needs to have a plan of action that sets it apart from the rest, revalidate the brand identity of your institute and provide a seamless user experience. 

Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the development process of your institute’s mobile app that would help fulfil the above-mentioned objectives and create a strong digital identity by connecting with the students, parents and the faculty at a more organic level. 

Pro Tip: Arkenea is one of the top mobile app development companies in America that can help you design and develop your school or university mobile application from concept to launch.

1. Define your target audience

Well begun is half done. Adequate planning and documentation lay down the groundwork for a successful mobile application and the first step in building one is determining who the stakeholders would be. 

College apps can prove to be useful to a number of different people and cater to a wide range of audiences at the same time including prospective students, current students, alumni, parents, faculty and even campus visitors. The intent and purpose of the app for each stakeholder would significantly vary. 

Instead of casting too wide a net in the initial app launch and compromising with the user experience, it is always better to identify who your target audience is and then shortlisting the features you would need to incorporate in the app to cater to their needs. 

An MVP approach that focuses on delivering quality in the minimum viable product, starting with app prototyping and incrementally adding new features and functionalities within the application is always a more fruitful approach in the long run. It not only improves the overall quality of app development in the long run, but it also results in significant cost savings. 

2. Document the purpose behind your app

Once you have decided on who your app is for, the next step forward is determining the purpose you want to solve by developing a mobile application. 

What do you want your app to accomplish? 

  • Should it be a tool for providing a guided tour for students during the orientation? 
  • Should it act as a platform for providing students and their parents with essential information and updates through push notifications? 
  • Is it going to act as a portal connecting students, parents, faculty, and alumni? 
  • Is your app going to act as an educational resource imparting access to training and resources for students and faculty alike? 

You may be targeting a singular goal or a combination of the above-mentioned ideas but documenting it beforehand is crucial to formulate the eventual plan of action in the long run. 

3. Do your research

Conducting in-depth research on what options are available at your disposal is a crucial step in the app development process. Evaluating the applications of other schools and universities that currently exist is a great learning opportunity that brings you up to speed on what the current trends are. It is also helpful in ascertaining where the possible areas of opportunities lie by uncovering the gaps. 

Deciding the development platform is another decision that you need to take in the research phase. You can choose to go native by developing different apps for Android as well as iOS platforms or you can choose to develop a hybrid app in which a single codebase is shared across multiple platforms. The former does lead to slightly better user experience but the latter is economical in terms of time and efforts involved in designing, developing and deploying the application. 

Related: React Native vs Flutter – the best tech for cross-platform app development.

Any major decision you need to take is choosing between app builders and custom app development. While the former is faster and more cost-effective, if you are looking to provide engaging experiences and integrating cutting edge technology and state of the art features, custom mobile app development is something you should be looking to pursue. 

4. Choose the features to be included

Mobile apps have the innate advantage of anytime accessibility. Since the users always have their devices on them, apps fit perfectly in the students’ busy lifestyles. Taking advantage of the phone’s native features within your application thus helps you take advantage of the mobile environment to the fullest. 

Depending on the purpose of your app, you need to shortlist the features that you want to include in your application. For example, if your app offers self-guided campus tours, leveraging features such as GPS can help the users better navigate through the campus. 

Push notifications and use of beacon technology are important for sending out important reminders about deadlines or intimations about any upcoming events and have the potential to boost user engagement. MIT’s mobile app has a real-time shuttle tracker that sends out push notifications to the students informing them about the shuttle schedule, arrivals, departures and delays. 

According to the latest mobile technology trends, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the field of mobile apps is going to continue further. If real-time support and query resolution is one of the objectives of app development, you can consider leveraging AI/ML and incorporating a chatbot within your application. 

5. Add elements to ensure engagement 

For Gen Z, user experience matters a lot. Students of today expect the same seamless ease of usage that they get while shopping through eCommerce apps, making monetary transactions through fintech apps and communicating through the social media apps. Your institute’s mobile app needs to put their school and college experience into their hands in a similar manner.

User interface and user experience (UI/UX) design play an extremely important role in determining the ease of use for your app. Data-driven UI/UX design can provide an enhanced app experience for the users giving you the ability to add elements of personalization within your mobile application, thus boosting user engagement. 

The data in the application is a treasure trove that you need to dive headfirst into. You need to plan dynamic content that leverages the existing data to offer personalized app experiences. Add push notifications to the mix and you have a recipe for user engagement on your hands. 

The dining app of University of Massachusetts Amherst- Umass Dining, is an excellent example of this. The app allows the users to mark their favorite dining locations for quick accessibility while letting them plan their menu according to their dietary preferences and restrictions. Using beacon technology, the app sends out push notifications about ongoing special offers and also gives real-time traffic reports for each campus dining location. 

Some other elements that you can include in your app arsenal to boost engagement include gamification, augmented/virtual reality, chatbots and use of video and interactive elements within the app. 

Closing words

Mobile apps aren’t a replacement for one-on-one relationship building but rather act as a supplement to the same. They are empowering the schools and universities to make better use of their resources while forging stronger bonds and enhancing connectivity at the same time. 

Technology has the power to act as a catalyst and mobile apps are the harbinger of change with their ability to spark new ways for students and faculty to discover, interact and engage. We are just scratching the surface of the possible applications of mobile technology to foster campus engagement. The true potential of the same is still undiscovered. 

Have questions regarding any aspect of mobile app development for your school or university? Feel free to contact us and our team of expert developers and technology consultants would be more than happy to connect with you!

Vinati Kamani
 

Dr Vinati Kamani writes about emerging technology and its application across industries for Arkenea. She is an avid reader and self proclaimed bibliophile. When Vinati is not at her desk penning down articles or reading up on the recent trends, she can be found travelling to remote places and soaking up different cultural experiences.