Posted by:Srini Bhopal March 20th, 2014

Mobile devices, in particular iPads have taken the campus by storm.

The obvious advantages of technology enabled campuses run the gamut from increased retention rates to improved collaboration and communication….and decreased costs, of course. And the proof of their growing relevance can be found in the increased funding for purchase of tablets and custom apps. Apple even has an education institution discount.

But what does it take to successfully implement a custom app in an institution? Here is a gameplan for colleges and schools

Step 1:  Determine the goal and target audience for the app

What is the primary goal of the app and who is it that you are developing the app for?Custom apps benefit administrators, faculty and students, alumni, prospective students, trustees and other stakeholders.

For example, let us consider that you are looking to develop a university app aimed at a broad audience that includes faculty, staff and visitors. Think of what information they would seek from the app, be it virtual campus tours, course information, latest university news or professor bios. Prioritize that information and build your app’s purpose accordingly.

Step 2:   Zero in on the kind of app, technology and hardware support required

The varied number of mobile devices on campus is mind-boggling. With so many devices already popular in the market today, the situation will get more challenging as newer smartphones, tablets and operating systems emerge.

Conduct surveys to understand if there is a pattern that emerges. Get this – In a study, Flurry found that Apple devices averaged about 14 times as many active users than devices running Android, BlackBerry, or Windows platforms.  Data gathered from such a study on your campus can determine if you want to release an iOS/Android native only app or if you want to go cross platform and support multiple devices.

Additionally, campus bandwidth, network connectivity, hardware support, IT training, app governance, data backup and integration with existing enterprise databases are important factors to be considered at this stage.

Step 3:   Streamline app design and user experience

An app and a custom app at that, is an opportunity to highlight your brand and drive user adoption. But, for this to be accomplished, your app’s user experience must be rich. Incorporate the school/college colors into the app design, research into the different contexts that your app will be used in and design interfaces accordingly. An experienced usability expert will be able to design a harmonious mobile experience for your users. This ultimately will determine the success of your app.

A good example is the app by MIT. This super informative app has everything from Campus News, searchable directories and dining menus to live campus shuttle tracking, access to MIT’s course management system and a QR code and barcode scanner. And all in the distinctive red color that defines MIT.

Step 4:  Choose an app development partner wisely

Many times, the lack of in-house expertise in planning and implementing a mobile project will mean partnering with an app development vendor.  It is prudent to choose one who understands your project needs and has enterprise grade technology and design capabilities. Broad technology expertise spanning mobile, web and enterprise integration will often be the key to success. Use appropriate background and reference checks to choose a partner who can and will stay with you and support you the whole nine yards—from app design to deployment and maintenance.

Step 5: Gather user feedback and evaluate the app

Your app should be relevant, engaging and addictive and one way to ensure this is through timely evaluations and feedback. Conduct user surveys to measure satisfaction, app usage metrics. Use crowdsourcing to come up with new features to increase convenience and adoption. This can go a long way in evaluating and taking timely steps to ensure app success.

Educational institutions are continually seeking ways to provide quality learning experiences effectively with reduced budgets. This is where mobile device adoption and custom apps can help, both in and out of the classrooms.

How have you harnessed the power of mobility in your campus? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Or, is your college considering a custom mobile app ? Download this free handy checklist that all colleges must follow before starting a mobile project !

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