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How apps can increase student engagement

Read up on how higher ed is using engagement apps and which features are still missing

By Bob Nilsson
director of vertical solutions marketing, Extreme Networks April 9th, 2018

In almost every endeavor, success depends on engaging your customers to ensure their success and keep them coming back. Colleges and universities need to continually monitor student (i.e., customer) satisfaction and track their success, just as stores and businesses do. Just as retailers use mobile apps to greet shoppers and guide them through their store, college apps can welcome students onto campus, provide maps, and point out landmarks. It’s vital for universities to provide a direct channel to connect with their students.

The mobile engagement app has emerged to address this need and to provide the means to track, interact with, retain, and even monetize the user base. When designed properly, everyone gains from the mobile engagement app. Students are more satisfied, safer, and more productive. The school gains valuable feedback. However, when executed poorly, mobile apps can suffer from low download rates, and become abandoned, forgotten or deleted.

How higher ed uses apps to increase student engagement

To learn more about how schools are using these apps and planning for the future, my team at Extreme Networks surveyed IT managers about the topic. We found a high percentage of organizations have acknowledged the need for an engagement app. To date, most of the apps in use are developed in house; commercial versions are up and coming, but not yet well known. We learned there is still considerable room for improvement, and that the number-one network requirement of the apps is location tracking.

Here is an infographic with more detail:

Most requested engagement app features

Interactive apps can theoretically do everything from greeting students and providing campus information to scheduling classes and troubleshooting transcript errors. According to our survey, the most desirable features include information sharing, which jives with the top reported goal of informing users. Other important features include showing maps and location, scheduling, Q&A interaction, in-app purchasing, and providing parking information.

Of all the types of data that apps can collect, location is by far the most important. Higher ed leaders want to know where their users are and how long they stay there. With location analytics, the school can dispatch help, understand pedestrian flow, and improve building layout. In addition to location data, institutions are eager to capture mobile device details, demographics, and store-purchasing history.

Our survey asked whether the app should engage users before, during, or after their campus visits, and 78 percent of respondents answered during the visit. Almost as many respondents—72 percent—feel it’s important to begin the engagement before users arrive. More than half the responses also indicated a desire to continue the interaction after the students have left.

An important, but less obvious, use of engagement apps is as a source of revenue. Monetization can occur transparently, behind the scenes, or can be painfully visible with advertisements or interactive forms that request valuable personal information. Our survey found that sponsorships are the most popular method of generating revenue through engagement apps.

Mobile engagement apps are not there yet

There is still ample room for improvement with existing mobile engagement apps; only 36 percent say they are satisfied with the engagement app they are using. Today, only 9 percent of IT departments have purchased apps from software vendors. Of those software vendors providing engagement apps, the brands most often mentioned are CampusSafe, Rover, Modo Labs, YinzCam, Roaming Around, and MobileSmith.

Here are some additional comments and advice from IT managers about mobile engagement apps.

“I think everybody uses some form of social media, so the easier the app makes it to cross over, the less likely the user will be to leave your app and get sucked into feeds on social media networks.”

“If the organization doesn’t have a process for keeping the app updated and relevant, the app will not keep public interest.”

“Make them bug-free and secure, easy to install and remove; be sure it is reliable, and give the user the best information at the time they need it.”

About the Author:

Bob Nilsson is director of vertical solutions marketing at Extreme Networks. He leads the company’s efforts to address education, retail, healthcare, hospitality, and government industry trends and requirements. He is reachable at

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