As a school administrator, there are so many different technologies to consider for your community. Websites, mobile-friendly websites, text-messaging platforms, school mobile apps, student information systems, learning management systems — the list goes on and on!
In this article, we’ll do a deep-dive into one of these technologies to fully demystify it for you: School mobile apps.
If your school has a mobile-friendly website (a website designed to work well on smartphones) or is incorporated into an aggregate school app (a mobile app that combines dozens or even hundreds of schools into one app, such as PowerSchool or Canvas), then you’re off to a good start. But before you pat yourself on the back and tell everyone your school is on the cutting-edge of technology, here are a few things you’ll definitely want to consider.
Let’s take a look at 7 reasons why having a custom school mobile app on the app stores can significantly help you engage your school’s students, parents, alumni, prospective students, and entire community.
1. It’s where your community spends their time ⏱
If you want to engage your school community most effectively, here’s a simple equation to remember:
Website < mobile-friendly website < mobile app.
Making your school’s website mobile-friendly is a critical improvement over a desktop-only website. According to a 2018 comScore report, people in the U.S. spend 2X more time on their smartphones than they do on their computers.
But a mobile-friendly website isn’t enough.
If we break down the time spent on a smartphone, we see that nearly 90% of that time is spent in mobile apps rather than on mobile websites.
To truly engage your school’s students, parents, and alumni where they spend their time, having a mobile app is a tremendous improvement over a mobile-friendly website.
2. Push notifications are game-changing 📲
There are 5 main ways schools communicate directly with their community: Email, text messaging, phone calls, mail, and push notifications. All of these have benefits, and the best strategy is a multi-channel approach to communications.
Of these methods, push notifications are the most modern, cutting-edge solution. Let’s take a look at a few ways in which a powerful push messaging system is leagues ahead of other school communication channels.
- Push notifications are instant and actionable — if there’s an active emergency on campus, you wouldn’t want to wait for everyone to read an email.
- They can be highly targeted. Want to send a reunion announcement to the class of 2015? Want to alert the current senior class about a schedule change? You can target specific users based on their attributes rather than overwhelm everyone with information that’s irrelevant to them.
- They are personalized and friendly — why blast out a generic message when you can automatically greet each user by name with information that’s always specifically relevant to them?
- They can be opt-in by anyone using your school’s app. This means you can reach people who have never given you their email or phone number, including prospective students, parents, and alumni who download your app.
- They are insanely easy to send — a good push messaging system will allow you to instantly send out highly targeted and personalized messages at any time at the speed of thought.
3. Unparalleled user-experience 💡
Mobile-friendly websites are good for transactional interactions, but mobile apps are far better for ongoing relational interactions. Since your target audiences are communities (students, parents, alumni, etc.) who all have strong ties with your school, a mobile app helps cultivate a personalized relationship with each user.
Mobile apps put the user first with layers upon layers of personalization and customization. When a person creates an app account, they can provide user info about themselves. Then, the app automatically customizes their configuration and settings based on who they are. Students don’t care about alumni fundraisers and alumni don’t want today’s lunch menu to clutter their screen.
But the personalization doesn’t end there. A good school mobile app allows the user to fully organize the layout of all of their portals. A student involved in theater who likes reading the school newspaper can place both of those portals front-and-center. A parent who mostly wants to see the upcoming events schedule and check their child’s grades can arrange those portals to be on their main home screen. The possibilities for personalization are endless.
4. Extreme convenience ⚡️
To find school-related info on a mobile-friendly website, a user picks up their phone, opens up their web browser, taps the search bar, googles the school’s name, taps on the first link they see, and then looks around on the school’s website for the info they’re trying to find.
To find info on a mobile app, a user picks up their phone, touches their school’s app, and then taps one of the portals they’ve pre-organized. That’s it.
A mobile app with a design driven by millions of user data points provides everyone in your community with lightning-fast access to critical information on a device that’s always within reach.
5. Attract prospective students 👨👩👧👦
Here’s an interesting trend: During prospective student visit periods (open houses, prospective student weekends, etc.), the rate of downloads per day of a school’s mobile app increases.
For example, Dartmouth College has a weekend called “Dimensions”, during which prospective students are encouraged to visit the college and stay for a few days to see what life on campus is like. We noticed at Seabird Apps that the download rate of our Dartmouth app spikes significantly during this time.
The reason for all these downloads is simple. When a prospective student and family are considering a grade school, high school, or college, they search all available information in order to build a full picture for themselves of what life in the school community would be like. As part of this, they often search for the school on the App Store or on Google Play.
If your school doesn’t have a mobile app, or if your mobile app is just an add-on to an undiscoverable, aggregate school app, then you’re missing out on a significant opportunity to convey your school’s brand to many prospective students and to have them engage with your school in a deeper way.
Having a stunning, standalone mobile app in the app stores is a powerful indicator to prospective students that a school is on the cutting-edge of technology.
6. Increase alumni engagement (and donations) 🤑
Alumni want to stay connected with their alma mater.
The more difficult it is to stay connected, however, the less connected they are likely to be. If an alum has to search online for the right email lists to join and has to google their school’s sports schedule every time they’re wondering what games are happening, they are naturally going to lose contact over time.
This isn’t because your alumni are lazy. It’s because they’re human.
So as a school, you should make it insanely easy for your alumni to stay connected. And what’s easier for an alum than to have their whole alma mater in their pocket?
A school mobile app allows alumni to easily stay up-to-date on everything happening in their school’s community. It helps them feel an even stronger bond to the place they love. And, of course, it provides a powerful channel for you to convey your school’s branding, mission, and latest initiatives to inspire alumni to give back to the institution that helped shape them.
Ultimately, this personal connection with your alumni is about the experience and the pride you create for them. Having their school’s custom mobile app installed on their phone is a powerful way to build that pride in your alumni, and it’s something that simply cannot be created with a mobile-friendly website or an aggregate school app.
7. Infinite possibilities 🌎
Why stop at simple?
If you choose to work with a best-in-class company to build your school’s mobile app, you’ll be able to start by launching a beautiful, customizable, low-cost mobile app for all your students, parents, alumni, and entire community to start enjoying immediately. Then, you’ll be able to iterate and expand on that app to your heart’s (and school’s) content.
Want digital hall passes? A school-wide scavenger hunt to kick off the semester? A method for your faculty & staff to provide anonymous, actionable feedback to your administration? The sky’s the limit!
When choosing an app company to partner with, it’s critical to consider two things:
- Is this their specialty? Is the company’s entire mission focused on creating beautiful, user-friendly mobile app experiences for everyone in your school’s community?
- Is it possible you’ll get locked into too basic of an app that you’ll later regret? Or is this a company that will continue to work with you in a long-term partnership to adapt your mobile app amid rapidly changing education environments and expand your app in ways you haven’t yet even imagined?
So what’s next? 🚀
Having read this article, you’re probably now thinking one of three things:
- “My school needs its own mobile app right away!”
- “I definitely see the benefits of a custom mobile app, but I’m not sure whether this is something my school needs to prioritize immediately.”
- “We already have a mobile app that some members of our school community use, but I’m interested to learn more about what other options are out there.”
If any of those statements describes you and if you’re interested in talking with an expert to learn more about school mobile apps, we at Seabird Apps would love to get in touch.
At Seabird Apps, we build beautiful, user-friendly, custom mobile apps that bring together all your school’s information for your students, parents, alumni, prospective students, and entire community.
For more information about Seabird Apps, check out our website: seabirdapps.com.