What Community College Students Really Want from Their Campus Mobile App

Campus mobile apps have become the de facto communication gateway between colleges and their students. According to Pew Research Center, although email remains the default, it is less popular than mobile messaging with younger audiences. Worse, most institutions are unable to monitor email ineffectiveness because they lack the tracking and analytics reports that show open and click-through rates. For those in Student and Academic Affairs who are responsible for student success, apps are now the primary means of student engagement for everything from checking grades to selecting a new dining plan; they advise students and guide them through decision making and actions they need to take. 

Recent research shows that Net Generation students in higher education expect their colleges to provide a campus app in addition to a student Web portal. In an Alterline Research report, Understanding the digital lives of college students, 84 percent of students said they used their campus app regularly, with 64 percent of students using it daily and the remaining 20 percent using it several times per week. In a device preference comparison, 72 percent of students responded that they were “unable to live without” their smart phones compared to 54 percent who couldn’t live without their laptops.

By having an app that students use and love, you are building a connection with your students that has the potential to last well beyond graduation. Comscore reports that 70 percent of millennials (aged 18-24) spend significant time looking for new apps. Getting them to trust and use your campus’s app means higher engagement on the digital screen on which they spend the most time per day. Making sure that you have the right mix of features is key, not only to your ability to communicate with your student body, but also to support your institution’s larger student engagement and retention missions.

Data Methodology

An ExLibris campusM study looked at the most heavily used campus app features by around 200,000 community college students across North America from 2017 to 2019. A ranking methodology was developed to highlight the relative popularity between features by listing and comparing the most popular features (top 98 percent) across all the apps surveyed to give a popularity index (0-100). For example, the Grades feature, with a popularity index of 100, was popular in 100 percent of apps surveyed. In contrast, Browsing Schools and Classes had a popularity index of 42: About two in every five of the apps surveyed found that to be popular.

What Community College Students Really Use in Their Apps

Community college students have busy lives off-campus and want ease and convenience when staying in touch with the institution. From an academic perspective, this includes checking grades, adding and dropping classes, and checking class schedules and email. It also includes tracking course work in the learning management system as well as easy access to their student portal while on the go. Use also extends outside of the classroom into student affairs, with access to financial aid and billing information; navigating around campus; and browsing for classes, departments and schools.

The Ex Libris campusM solution is used by community colleges across North America to bridge the communication gap and drive student success. Click here to download the full report—What Community College Students REALLY Want from Their Campus Mobile App.

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