Monday, February 7, 2011

Mobile Strategy on Campus

A recent article in the Chonicle of Higher Education caught my eye a week or two ago. The article,entitiled As the Web Goes Mobile, Colleges Fail to Keep Up talked about how most colleges have not developed strategy for the rapid growth in Smart phones on their campuses. I know on my campus we survey students annually and although 99% of students own cell phones only about 5% were Smart phones in 2009. By 2010 this number had jumped to 25%. Our survey for this year starts next month I expect the number to rise yet again. This reminds me of the rapid growth in laptop ownership starting in 2005.

Most campuses do not have a mobile strategy. We all have web sites and have added tens of thousands of web pages about programs and activities on our campuses. All of this is based on the idea that students will read it on a laptop or desktop computer. If you have not done so, try and bring up your campus web site on any Smart phone (iPhone, Android, or Blackberry). You cannot even read it. These sites are not formatted for the web and as a result they are largely inneffective. Here is an example of the iPhone app for Duke University:

This Duke application can be downloaded for free from the iTunes store.

You can see that this does not look like a typical web page, but allows easy access to selected important information. Clicking on any topic yields additonal information. A campuses logo and other branding can be added. I contend that if a campus does not have a mobile strategy up and running within the next 18-24 months they will be missing a connection with prospective students, current students, and alumni.

Many targeted products like Blackboard's Learn 9.0 learning management system already allow students to view course materials on their phones in a simplified format. In short order students will expect to easily see class materials, campus news and sports scores, selected video clips, check their grades, get the bus schedule, and find out everything from the library hours to what's for dinner.

Colleges may think this is just the latest fad, but they have to realize that every year the student body changes and every year the bar for technology and information rises. Imagine if a campus didn't have a web site today. In two years students will be saying "is there an app for that"? If your campus is not mobile you won't exist.

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