5 minute read

7 Ways a Mobile-First Approach Prioritizes Your Student's Experience

3/14/2023 8:00 PM

A new generation of so-called digital natives are college bound. Students used to convenient, flexible and personalized “Amazon-like” experiences are stepping onto college campuses with the same expectations of convenience and accessibility that they have grown accustomed to off campus. The need to easily access information and find resources on the go is a minimum expectation that students today want colleges and universities to deliver on.

Matthew Alex, the founder of Beyond Academics, a consulting firm that assists higher education leaders in implementing transformational strategies and optimizing the student lifecycle, emphasizes the significance of using mobile technology. Alex says that higher education institutions must become more adaptable and avoid being constrained by time limitations. Adopting mobile-first technology is an obvious next step in meeting the needs of tech-savvy students who expect instant gratification.

While the expansion of mobile conveniences in higher education is not a new phenomenon, there is a growing sense of urgency as competition for a shrinking pool of students intensifies. A year ago, industry researchers urged colleges and universities to integrate virtual interactions throughout the student lifecycle, deeming it necessary to compete in a crowded marketplace. Gartner reports that virtual experiences must evolve from "short-term disjointed experiments" to become a part of the institution's long-term strategy. Educause, a nonprofit organization committed to advancing higher education through technology, endorses this recommendation, emphasizing that virtual access is crucial in supporting the whole student, increasing accessibility for students with disabilities, and advancing equity goals.

Becoming future oriented is an important survival strategy that higher education institutions need to embrace. Being forward thinking requires a willingness to take risks, explore new ideas, and embrace change in order to stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive. It also involves being open-minded, adaptable, and willing to learn from both successes and failures in order to continuously improve and evolve. With that in mind, many colleges and universities are turning to ID management integrations as a cost-effective, low-risk strategy to incorporate a diverse range of mobile-first capabilities to meet student needs.

Here are seven ways that mobile-first technologies can enhance the student experience:

1. Mobile Apps

Many colleges and universities offer mobile apps that provide students with access to essential campus services and information. These apps can be used as a central hub to student accounts, payments, event schedules, campus maps, and updates. With a mobile app, campuses are able to create a more connected and engaged campus community and provide students with seamless access to resources.

2. Streamlined Payments

Using mobile-first technologies helps streamline payment processes on campus and reduces the risk of errors or delays. With a mobile app, students can use their declining balance to pay for goods and services on campus with a click, tap, or a swipe. This approach saves time and reduces administrative costs while also providing a simplified payment experience for students.

3. Convenience

Mobile-first technologies make it easier for students to access essential services and information anywhere anytime, just how they like it. Whether they need to grab a cup of coffee, access an event or facility, or check their meal plan account, students have a single point of access to their life on campus using their mobile device.

4. Security and Access

Adopting mobile-first technologies can also improve campus security by providing secure access to campus facilities and services. With a mobile app, students can use their phone or wearable device as a digital key to access buildings, labs, and other facilities. This approach helps institutions manage their campus security while providing students and staff a quick and easy way to gain the access they need.

5. Flexible Dining

Using mobile-first technologies to manage meal plans can improve the dining experience for students. With a mobile app, students can check their meal plan balance, order food, and access menus from their mobile devices. This saves time and reduces frustration from having to wait in lines, providing students a more convenient and flexible dining experience.

6. Digital Credentials

Digital credentials are mobile-first IDs used to serve as an electronic fingerprint and/or student identity verification. The digital credential added to the mobile app replaces the plastic ID card and is a more secure and convenient method to verify and validate a student on campus.

7. Data and Insights

Being mobile-first means real-time access to campuswide data that provides leaders with valuable insights. Data patterns can assist in forecasting and managing campus resources more efficiently. Insights and data trends can help to determine the optimal amount of staff needed to serve students during peak periods of the day, or how much food is required in dining areas during specific days and hours to meet demand. With cloud integrations making data more accessible, an increasing number of institutions are utilizing this information to identify areas of overlap, redundancy, and new opportunity, and gain useful insights on emerging trends that could have gone unnoticed.

Today, forward thinking colleges and universities are taking measures to meet the mobile-first needs of students who expect their college experience to reflect the convenience, efficiency, and personalization that they are used to — from making payments to accessing classrooms and labs, ordering meals, and reserving equipment. No matter the time or day, students want to pick up their phone and interact with the services they want to access on campus. However you slice it, adopting a mobile-first approach is an essential investment that colleges and universities need to make to further sustain and fuel their enrollment and retention goals. Competition for students is fiercer than ever, making it imperative that higher ed institutions have a clear roadmap that includes a strategic and tactical mobile-first approach to meeting student needs.

Ready to learn more about how TouchNet supports your institution by being mobile-first? Contact us to schedule a discussion.