August 1, 2017
The Role of Mobile in Higher Education Experiences

It would be crazy to think that mobile experiences aren't important in Higher Education. After all, what prospective student today doesn't have a mobile device and doesn't use it as much, or more than their laptop? As higher education institutions develop their web experiences, they need to consider the role that mobile plays. 

The Mobile Web Experience

Mobile accounts for 50%+ of all digital media usage, according to a ComScore report, which means mobile access of your public website needs to be good. If a prospective student or parent can't easily browse your website on their smartphone, you are missing out on a key opportunity to demonstrate why your institution is the best one for them.

Imagine a group of high school students on their lunch break, discussing plans for college or university. One pulls out their phone to show the others a program they like, that includes bios of professors and alumni who've been successful in their careers. The others are interested and decide to pull up that school at home later to show their parents. When they go to bed, the parent decides to look deeper at the program and alumni references.

This scenario happens all the time. The decision to choose a school is a big one for cost reasons alone. But parents and students want to be sure they are joining the right institution for them. That decision process results in a lot of time online with the institution's website - anytime, anywhere. 

If your course catalog can't be easily viewed on a smartphone, you're in trouble. If your directories and professor bios are hard to read, with too much scrolling, too many images to shift through or too much text to read, you're in trouble.

When you design your web experience, you should be taking a mobile-first perspective to ensure that everything you design will not only appear appropriately on a mobile device but is optimized for mobile.

The Mobile Learning Experience

Mobile is important when recruiting and engaging prospective students and parents, but it's also fast becoming a key part of the student learning experience. Student portals, learning management systems, and other student-accessible applications must be mobile-friendly.

Eric Stoller makes this point in a recent blog:

In higher education, mobile learning can “increase learner satisfaction and retention, widen participation and potentially reduce costs.” Mobile technologies can also enhance the student experience, connect learners with advisors, and provide conduits for peer-to-peer engagement.

Additionally, mobile devices can provide access to a wide array of features for users with disabilities. From captioned/sub-titled videos to voice-based search, mobile technologies, usually in the form of BYOD (bring your own device), provide powerful enhancements for student success.

The Student portal is a great example of how you can give students quick access via their mobile device. Consider the student who is at their part-time job and is working on an assignment on a break. They use their mobile device to access their account in the student portal to get details on the assignment. They may also have direct access to write their assignment in Office 365 and submit it directly. No paper required, last minute homework done.

Parents may also access a parent section of a student portal to monitor progress, and view payment information (possibly even make payments) while they are on a lunch break, or watching TV in the evening.

Another consideration is a student with disabilities. Today's mobile devices enable students to set up their devices to make it easier for them to view and move through websites (assuming the site is accessible).

"It’s a little-known fact that Apple’s iOS phones and tablets have some of the most consistent, rigorous accessibility features ever seen on a mobile device. In fact, if an app does not meet core accessibility guidelines, it is not approved for entry into the iOS store.” (Source: mobile learning guide)

If you are building your student portal experience in a responsive or adaptive mobile experience, you can also ensure accessibility requirements are top of mind and meet expectations.

Guiding Mobile Student Experiences

Spend some time studying your website analytics to see how much traffic you get from mobile, including the type of mobile devices used to reach your site. Also, look at what pages or sections of your website have the most traffic from mobile. This information will guide your mobile website experience strategy.

For your student portal and other internal student applications, make it a regular process to survey students on their mobile usage, ask the question at the beginning when onboarding students, so you know from the beginning how many plan to use mobile. Students will be clear on their expectations, as will their parents, so you don't have to guess or assume.

What kind of mobile access do you currently provide today? Are you working on mobile-enabling your student portal? We'd love to discuss your needs and how Ingeniux CMS can help you move forward with your mobile student experiences.

Posted by David Hillis
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