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Friday, April 28, 2017

Robust Mobile Apps a Must on Campus

Students don’t always bother with email, but they do check their smartphones, making it more important for colleges and universities to have a mobile strategy. The University of Texas at San Antonio (USTA) investigated its approach and found three issues institutions must address to connect with their student bodies through a mobile app.

The initiative was part of a 2015 grant the university received to develop its PIVOT for Academic Success Program. PIVOT stands for prepare, inspire, validate, orient, and transition students, and is part of an effort to understand the needs of the increasing number of first-time Latino, low-socioeconomic, and first-generation students on the UTSA campus.

Researchers found that push notifications about grade announcements, assignments, and tuition deadlines helped keep students on track, particularly those struggling to balance their academics and family responsibilities. It also discovered low-income students don’t always have access to a personal computer at home, so it created a mobile app that allows them to add and drop classes, buy textbooks, and communicate with faculty within the app.

The university integrated its student information system into its app so personal financial-aid information can be accessed, such as balances, charges, and alerts when payments are due, right from a student’s mobile devices. Along with all of the campus life information found on most mobile apps, the USTA tool also is compatible with most of the languages found on the USTA campus, which makes communications with students easier.

“Effective communication is key to keeping today’s diverse, mobile-first students engaged,” wrote Chris Hopkinson in an article for eCampus News. “As higher-education institutions continue to focus on boosting graduation rates for all students, a robust mobile strategy is quickly becoming the mainstay to increasing engagement and promoting an inclusive student experience.”