Program Director at USC describes the apps his students and administration believe are the best university apps—and why

apps-universityAs smartphone ownership explodes, organizations need an intelligent app strategy to connect with their audience—and nowhere is that more true than at the university, whose users are nearly all smartphone- and digital-native, and bring high expectations for their app experience.

A number of universities have embraced this challenge and built highly functional and intuitive apps for their students, alumni and prospective students.

What these best-in-class university apps all have in common is that they take advantage of the app’s unique qualities over other channels, such as the web, providing great offline experiences and mobile-specific functions.

Many of them also smartly take advantage of app platforms, which allow them to build and maintain the apps with little to no investment in development, meaning they can focus efforts on improving the content and features of the app. Here are five of my favorite university apps—and why:

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1. South Carolina, Transitions 101:

USC’s University 101 is a class given to all incoming students to help them learn and adjust to campus life; Transitions 101 is the accompanying textbook that has now been turned into a mobile app. This is our favorite university app for two reasons: First, the Transitions textbook is packed with information students can use all the time in their first weeks on campus, but carrying around a paper book is a burden. By putting that information directly on the devices the students are already carrying, the school is making sure students always have it when they need it. Second, the app takes advantage of the always-connected digital nature of the mobile device by adding new app-only features, like the ability to book study rooms or email assignments to professors. Plus, it features up-to-date newsfeeds and athletic calendars, making it a valuable app even for older students.

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2. Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin:

Alumni magazines are a proven way to keep a strong connection between former students and the university, but the more alumni you churn out, the more expensive producing that magazine becomes. Harvard Business School made a smart business decision taking its alumni magazine to the tablet. In addition to the savings on printing and distribution costs, the tablet version of HBS Alumni Bulletin also allows the school to add interactive features, such as links to the school’s social channels and the ability to find alumni near you. Add in a beautiful touchscreen-native design and this truly feels like the future of alumni magazines.

(Next page: Apps 3-5)


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