Like most of the higher-ed world, the leaders at Mott Community College in Michigan knew they’d better have a robust mobile app to recruit and retain tech-savvy students as well as to provide their faculty with information and resources.

That’s why, last year, Mott’s IT team took advantage of a pending wireless network upgrade and developed a mobile app with a load of impressive features. They were adamant about embedding custom applications the college was already using into the app—including the Ellucian student information system (SIS) to provide registration, billing, accounts receivable/payable, and degree auditing; and the Blackboard learning management system (LMS) to provide access to class assignments.

Beyond that, they just wanted to develop something that took advantage of the latest technology and would get a lot of use. Since launching the app, there have been more than 2,500 downloads.

Here are five features that make this app stand out.

1. Students can take care of a lot of tasks from within the app.
Because the app links to the SIS and LMS, students can register for courses, look up their billing and financial aid status, and do the following, all without leaving the app:

  • See their list of courses and get directions to their classrooms
  • Schedule an appointment with student services
  • Get the latest announcements and Mott news
  • Complete important enrollments steps

2. The app offers turn-by-turn navigation for the entire 34-acre main campus.
Imagine never being late or getting lost again!

“One of the biggest issues on campus, especially at the beginning of terms, is that students don’t know how to get to classes. Being new is daunting, and trying to memorize the campus is hard,” says Ross Domke, web application developer.

The app gives turn-by-turn directions—even inside buildings—thanks to Bluetooth Beacons that use Aruba Wi-Fi and Location Services solutions.

“Once a student accesses his or her class list in the app, they can tap the ‘Take Me There’ link for turn-by-turn directions that lead them up or down stairs, around fountains, and to the doorway of the classroom,” says Kirk Yaros, director of enterprise services.

3. The app will continue to evolve.
The IT team can do custom application development and add functions that the SIS doesn’t already provide. Future plans include using the app to promote and provide details for campus-wide events, to feature a virtual tour of student art and photography on campus, and to enable push notifications for use with registration, food services, and the financial aid office. Yaros would also like to integrate a rapid response feature so that faculty can use the app to push out questions that students answer in real time to ensure they understand the lesson.

“This app will allow us to set up proximity campaigns,” Yaros says. “For instance, when a student is near the financial aid office, the app would pop up the question: ‘Have you filled out your FASA?’ Alternately, the app could remind students to register for the winter semester when they approach the registration office.

He is also toying with developing a virtual orientation that, similar to what happens at a museum, would let students take a self-directed virtual tour. “On-demand is what these students are used to, so we will give them what they want.”

Further down the road, the IT team might be able to tie the app into campus parking lots to help people find available spots, which anyone in higher ed knows would be worth its weight in gold.

4. The app does not require a full-time development team.
Because the app was built with existing software, the IT team didn’t have to learn new programs or do extensive coding to get it to work. “We don’t have the staff to maintain a full-fledged mobile app, but we’re able to incorporate everything students need,” says Yaros.

5. The app improves the campus experience.
When Yaros sees people on campus looking lost or asking for directions, he can just say, “Hey, check out our mobile app; it’ll take you right there!” Feedback has been extremely positive, and he knows it will only get better.

About the Author:

Ellen Ullman is editorial director, content services, for eSchool Media.


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