Why the Mobile Experience Matters
The Case for Mobile
Organizations have gotten smart. They realize if they want to reach and engage their customer base, they are going to have to go mobile. Pew Research recently reported that smartphone use among Americans is up to a staggering 77 percent. That may not seem surprising until you realize how much that number has grown since 2011. Six years ago, only 35 percent of Americans owned smartphones.
And which demographic ranks at the top of ownership? Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, 92 percent of them, in fact. If you’re a higher learning institution, that number should perk your ears.
Not only are your students using their smartphones, but more than half of them are using other mobile devices such as tablets. Taking this a bit further, we don’t have to assume what people are doing on their mobile devices. A 2015 report found people are spending 90 percent of their mobile time in apps – and only 10 percent in their browser. This report was released two years ago so it is highly likely the gap between those numbers has widened even further.
Not All Mobile Is Created Equal
Higher learning institutions are rolling out mobile apps in hopes of capturing their student’s attention, giving them greater access and functionality on the go, and responding to the increasing demand for a mobile presence. How many of them are succeeding is unknown. Mobile app success is highly subjective. Many institutions may think simply by having a mobile app, they have succeeded. But if the users were asked about their mobile experience, would they agree?
Nearly a quarter of all mobile apps are abandoned after one use and 62 percent will use an app less than 11 times. Of course, these statistics are for the general public but they highlight the fact that mobile app users are impatient and demanding – in a good way. They are pushing developers to do better, to think differently and to design apps people actually want to use.
Students may not have much of a say in how their school’s design their apps, but they should. Higher learning institutions who want to do more than slap an app onto a mobile device and call it a day are going to be the ones with higher student engagement, greater student outcomes and happier students. Mobile apps may not be the cure-all, but a well-designed, student-focused app will empower students to do more for themselves, take ownership of their educational journey, complete more tasks on time in less time, and reach their goals much easier.
Related: Case Study: How Lone Star College is providing students with the positive mobile experience they demand
Mobile Isn’t Desktop
The first thing schools need to understand is that the mobile device, particularly a smartphone, is vastly different from its desktop counterpart. What works for the desktop often will not work on a smartphone. You may have the best online portal in the country but that portal may not translate into an awesome mobile app unless you are intentional.
A responsive design means modifications must be made across different platforms so there is a seamless user experience. This isn’t always easy and requires an expert hand.
Smaller screens mean less space for the user and the developer. The viewer can see less information at once from their smartphone, impacting images, fonts, scrolling and content. Smartphones are also slower to process information than a desktop processor, taking more time to render images or load content.
How users interact with the app will differ as well. Users will tap on links instead of clicking or hovering and there is much less precision. Keyboard entry can be tricky as letters and fields for input are much smaller. These are just a few design issues developers must consider when designing an app.
Convenience, above All Else
A list of to dos and don’ts are easy to find but user behavior is what should drive the mobile design. What do users universally want? No matter who you ask, speed and ease of use will be the top user desires, plain and simple.
Students are no different and may even be more inclined to demand such features. They were raised on technology and live in an instant gratification world. To boil it down to one word, they expect their mobile experience will be convenient. How does Google define “convenient?” “Fitting in well with a person’s needs, activities and plans. Involving little trouble or effort. Situated so as to allow easy access to. Occurring in a place or at a time that is useful.” Does your app do that?
Convenience means apps are easy to access, easy to use and fast in their response. Students want to find information, complete a task and connect with friends while they’re standing in line at a coffee shop. They may only have seconds to engage with the app and they aren’t going to love an app where they have to wait or come back to when they have more time.
As much as higher learning institutions may consider mobile app design, students don’t want to even think about the design – they just expect the app to work how they want, when they want. They may only think about the design when they recognize the app isn’t meeting their needs.
Mobile Design Takes A Village
Higher learning institutions are not generally experts in designing user-friendly mobile apps. Most prefer to focus on the business of educating and managing the hundreds of other responsibilities required to keep the institution humming. Finding a technology partner can be a critical step towards making mobile a reality and ensuring they can provide users with the best possible mobile experience both now and as technology evolves.
One of the most important things a developer (inside the institution or a third party) can do is to know their audience. Asking basic questions will lay the foundation to design: Who is going to be using the app? How will they be using it? When will they be using it? Where will they be using it? Any developer or software provider should put the user front and center before designing or selling any mobile app. This means actually speaking to the users. Assuming, guessing or throwing darts at what is thought to be a need or requirement is no substitute for real focus groups.
Enlisting the help of the user to inform decisions and guide the design is perhaps the single best tactic in developing a mobile app that will do what it was intended to do. Going mobile is a sizable investment of time and resources. Why go at it half-heartedly? If you’re going to invest in mobile, do it right. Partner with experienced providers who can deliver an app that will not only be used but hailed as a key element for student success.
7 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Change Higher Education
Video Killed the Radio Star
It wasn’t too long ago that we heard this song playing on the radio. It seems hard to imagine a life without television, sitting in front of a radio and listening to our favorite television programs. But the radio star wasn’t the only cultural phenomenon that died with technology. With the launch of MTV, the radio began its downward spiral. People opted to watch their music rather than simply listen to it. Today, fewer people are watching television and MTV is a shadow of its former self. Instead, they are streaming their favorite shows, sans commercials and rigid television schedules.
Higher education isn’t far behind. It’s amazing to watch what’s happening in this industry, but it’s not surprising. For years, we’ve been witnessing the rise of the use of mobile apps, online learning and other new ways of teaching. Learning is accessible to people of all walks of life as barriers to education are being removed. Full-time workers, moms and dads, high school kids, retired, homebound and even those managing illnesses now can take classes and even graduate without ever stepping foot into a classroom.
It’s All about Scale
For higher learning institutions, offering flexible instruction and embracing the technology to make it possible opens up an entirely new frontier. They can reach a limitless number of people through online courses. Many schools are even offering free online classes to anyone who wants to take them. The only fees that are required are if the student desires to test to earn certifications or degrees.
Online courses are just the beginning, however. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making its way into education. These smart chatbots use various technologies such as algorithms and machine learning to not replace educators but to empower them. They can continue to reach more people because they have more time to reach them. Instead of answering mundane and repetitive questions, they can focus on making connections and teaching valuable material.
How is AI changing education? We’ll give you 7 ways, some of which is already happening and others are just on the horizon.
How AI Is Changing Higher Education
1. Access to Higher Ed
Higher education has traditionally been out of reach for many. Either the cost is prohibitive or the lifestyle isn’t conducive. Today’s student isn’t only 18-year olds who just graduated from high school. They are adults of all ages, many of whom have jobs, families and hectic schedules. The more automated their educational journey, the more attractive and conceivable it is to actually give college a shot.
AI introduces automation in tangible ways, saving these nouveau learners precious time and frustration so they can get on the road to success faster and stay there. AI not only makes the enrollment and other processes simpler, it helps keep students on track. By analyzing all of the big data surrounding each student, analytics can predict which students are at risk, develop timely interventions that support them, and encourage students to reach their goals.
AI algorithms also help connect virtual learners, bringing them into a community where questions can be answered, problems solved and learning extended. Their campus is no longer limited to a physical place but an entire globe of possibilities. This flexibility enables students of all demographics to partake in learning wherever they are, whenever they want. Remote or local, wealthy or looking for free classes – all can participate in higher education and learn the skills they need to be productive and successful in the job market.
2. Mentoring and Tutoring
AI is also helping students with virtual mentors as they assist them with self-direction so they can be more self-sufficient, self-assessments where they can monitor their progress, and self-learning where they can get their questions answered quickly or join a crowd-sourced study group. While advisors will still play an important role, chatbots can answer many of the more repetitive and general questions, such as when a test is going to be administered, professor tutoring hours, answer keys, assignments, and more.
These are questions that administrators, professors and teaching assistants can answer but by handing this burden over to a chatbot, they have more time to focus on more important topics – like teaching the actual material. Chatbots are like a virtual assistant, providing real-time, always-available answers to frequently asked questions.
3. Personalized Learning
Look inside any classroom from K-graduate programs and you will find that despite the material being taught to the masses, there is an abundance of students who learn differently. They learn at different speeds, struggle in different areas and simply need different instruction. Unfortunately, the classroom hasn’t traditionally been set up to serve these learners. Until now.
AI is using machine learning to collect patterns of data and provide insights for professors. Using this data, they can find gaps and areas where students aren’t “getting it.” Even textbooks can be customized using this data. Educators can be better at what they do because they are more able to customize the material to fit every type of learner.
Students can learn at their own pace, assisted by AIs that supplement their learning. The curriculum is customized, giving students the best chance for success.
4. Recommendation Engines
Sometimes, the most challenging part of being a student, particularly a young student, is that the higher education journey appears so complicated. Students aren’t sure what classes they need to fulfill their degree requirements, which classes qualify for financial aid, where those classes are located, how to navigate all of the paperwork on time, and so forth. AIs are providing the much-needed guidance these students need and appreciate – in real-time and on demand.
Recommendation engines analyze interaction data for each student, such as individual learning, social and learning contexts, personal interests, degree goals, etc. and then present timely recommendations. AI is there to guide them down the right path, ensuring they take fewer detours to have the best student outcomes. Students can engage with chatbots to determine the best next step, play with “what if” scenarios, and better understand how each decision impacts their goal attainment.
5. Reminders and FAQs
Just as with the recommendations, AI can send students gentle reminders in the form of SMS text messages or push notifications when certain tasks need completing, deadlines are approaching or events are coming up. The beauty of chatbots is that they are two-way, not simply one-way blasts of information. They invite students to engage in conversations. It’s in these conversations that students feel like they are getting personalized attention and messaging. It’s much more effective than paragraphs of generalized information buried in intranet sites and portals.
While mobile apps are great, chatbots allow for conversational interaction in real-time so students can get what they need the instant they need it. No downloads or updates, no waiting for appointments with advisors. As more people become familiar with chatbot technology (booking appointments, shopping assistance, ordering food and car rides), they will anticipate their schools are able to provide the same functionality.
6. Streamlined Processes
Many of the most common tasks and questions do not need human assistance. In cases such as finding out where a class is located, how many hours a student needs to graduate, what prerequisite classes are required, what events are scheduled and when – these are just a few examples of information chatbots can quickly and successfully deliver.
When students can find the information they need quickly, they relieve the burden placed on administrators, teachers and fellow students. Chatbots allow users to complete tasks quickly using common commands and ask questions as if they were speaking directly with support personnel. Students should be able to register for classes, apply and pay for student aid, and do other basic administrative tasks without having to wait for a response from a human. AI gives them this ability.
7. Lifelong Education
With the technological advancements and careers that will arise out of the ashes of others, continual learning will be the norm as people try to keep up and remain competitive. Two- and four-year higher learning institutions are finding ways to engage students post graduation. Students are being considered more as lifelong customers rather than temporary learners. It’s a lifetime of learning opportunities and AI can make learning easier and more accessible.
AI brings people of all ages and stages of life to a global classroom. It is a vehicle higher learning institutions can use to offer lifelong learning that begins in the classroom but then extends into the learner’s life outside of school.