Apps can give universities the edge

UK universities have an opportunity to shoot ahead of their competitors, and it comes in app form, says Wayne Morris

People across the world have used our platform to publish more than 25,000 mobile apps. This gives us a huge amount of information about buying habits and as a multi-territory business, we see trends develop and emerge at different speeds across a whole host of countries. By analysing these trends we can develop an understanding of patterns, helping us predict what could be coming next. 

Our ethos has always been to provide a platform for developing apps (or guides as we call them) that bring people and places together. In the USA, where we’re headquartered, one of the fastest growing areas of the business is in higher education – not all that surprising when you consider 84% of students are using smartphones. With various faculties and functions across campuses looking to turn to mobile, US universities are now seeing the benefit of bringing everything under one master app, housing multiple guides in one place and we now service over 500 higher education institutions in the USA alone. Students are introduced to the app at orientation and can keep coming back to it for services, career fairs, special events, anything that the university needs to update them on. Consistent communication leads to informed and engaged students that will ultimately be happier. From the university’s perspective, having all the information in one place also opens up a whole host of cross-selling opportunities.

‘In the last 18 months UK Universities have begun to explore the world of mobile’

Why is this relevant to the UK? We’ve noticed that the trends emerging from the USA tend to make their way across the Atlantic around 12-18 months later.  Whilst some Universities in the UK have deployed mobile guides, those that have are the exception not the norm.  However, in the last 18 months UK Universities have begun to explore the world of mobile.  Guidebook boasts a fast growing number of universities as clients in the region, including the likes of Oxford, Edinburgh and Royal Holloway, all acquired since opening an office in the UK in April 2014.

We saw a similar adoption curve happen in the US around 18 months ago.  The result was a jump in student satisfaction rates, with universities such as NC State suggesting that a Guidebook app has enabled them to push information directly to students 24/7, from a variety of departments or functions. Students expect to be able to get the information they need on their smartphone, and in this case the app is the solution. 

Are we saying UK universities are lagging behind their American counterparts? Not necessarily, the adoption curve will always be different depending on territory, but we can certainly learn a lot from what is happening state-side. The universities with their finger on the pulse here will be turning more towards technology – but not just any old tech – tech that their end users can relate to on a personal level.

‘The adoption curve will always be different depending on territory, but we can certainly learn a lot from what is happening state-side’

This is great news for Universities in the UK that are looking to steal a march on their competitors.  We expect those that act, to act fast and ditch traditional paper methods of communication in favour of mobile, to instantly attract more students and increase student satisfaction once they’re through their doors. 

If the trend in the US plays out in the UK, and all signs are suggesting that it will, we expect that within 18 months mobile guides will be a common sight at UK Universities.  We see a 12 month window of opportunity for UK Universities to gain a competitive advantage, and to get started they should consider a mobile guide for events such as student orientation or fresher’s week.   What’s so exciting is that they can go from paper to mobile almost instantaneously with minimal capital outlay.

As we touched on earlier, the US is now at the second stage of evolution from an ad hoc deployment at a one off event such as orientation week, to an ‘always on’ mobile guide that connects multiple departments and events. Having an app of some kind has almost become a given – the US establishments are now asking, how can we make this better and how can we use it to improve our student’s experience further? We make it our business to analyse these trends and our advice to UK universities is clear: If you’re not already putting some serious thought into your mobile strategy, now is the time to start.

Wayne Morris is General Manager for EMEA at Guidebook

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