The Direct Network

Struggling With Retention? There’s an App for That

Posted by Lori Reese on Dec 15, 2017 5:30:00 AM
Topics: ed tech, Higher Ed, retention

Communication is key to retention. Without a sense of connection to the university, students flounder and stray. Some move to a new institution, some fail to meet grade requirements and some simply give up and drop out.

Struggling With Retention? There's an App for That

If you’re serious about boosting student retention, invest in a university mobile app — and not just as an afterthought. Invest big.

A robust mobile app can facilitate students’ sense of community, while allowing administrators to monitor those at risk of dropping out. The educational app developer OOHLALA boasts its branded campus app lowers attrition 17%.

A study the company conducted on its app introduction at McGill University found the mobile technology saved staff 250 hours of time, while facilitating 650,000 campus connections. A full 90% of users felt OOHLALA helped them get off to a good start at the university. 

Texas A&M Galveston conducted its own study of OOHLALA’s app introduction, and found similarly positive results. The app not only succeeded in helping administrators reach out to struggling students, it evoked a “sense of belonging” among university newcomers.

A good app needs more than the basics

Not all apps are created equal. Students bring high expectations to campus technology. They will be quick to dismiss — and delete — a poorly-developed app and even quicker to judge the university for its fumbling foray into mobile culture.  

The best apps fulfill students’ basic expectations while adding features that mirror the school’s personality and highlight its special offerings. Students are attracted to particular schools, after all. They don’t want something generic.

The University of California Davis app includes access to courses, maps that help students find parking and a real-time bus schedule. It also lets students check grades, class announcements and assignments. And those are just the basics. You can also access news about sporting events and the school’s popular radio station — all via a single portal.

Kaplan University Online got into the game early with the 2011 launch of an iPad™ app that lets students take classes via mobile. Kaplan International has won praise for an app that includes a translator along with maps and guides devoted to helping students acculturate. Omnichannel savvy like that explains why Purdue University acquired Kaplan in an effort to boost its own online offerings.

Other necessary app features

  • An information module that lets administrators crowd-source questions and communicate directly with students
  • An RSS feed with updates about campus happenings
  • Ability to set personalized alerts about university goings-on
  • Integration with the campus learning management system
  • Ability to check grades and monitor progress toward graduation
  • Ability to adopt an in-app persona that will tailor the dashboard to meet particular needs

Such features don’t come cheap, but failing to raise your school’s omnichannel profile will prove far more expensive. 

UCM Makes a Big Impact with Its Mobile App

About Lori Reese

Lori Reese has more than 15 years’ experience teaching in college and K-12 classrooms. She studied philosophy as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, earned an MA in English and Creative Writing from Hollins University and an MFA from University of North Carolina - Greensboro. At UNCG she won the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award and received a Fulbright to conduct research for a novel in Sri Lanka. She has taught undergraduate creative writing, composition and literature as well as seminars for the Lloyd International International Honors Program. She worked in private K-12 education for two years as an English teacher and Academic Dean.

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