A “companion app” is typically defined as a secondary device that is used while participating in another activity – watching TV, playing a game, etc. The companion is used in an effort to interact with what you’re seeing and, in turn, find out more about it.
For a number of reasons, not the least of which is an incredibly tech-savvy student population, the concept of a companion app is ideally suited for the college campus. Students are never without their smart phone, they relish every opportunity to use it, and universities have taken notice.
Search either The App Store or Google Play and you’ll find countless apps targeting students and a host of university-branded apps that can be used for just all types of utilities. But what will the campus app look like going forward? It may be that for higher education, the term “companion app” will assume a more literal meaning.
The ideal vision
Here at CR80News, we’ve speculated that the mobile app will be an all-encompassing, daily facilitator for a student’s life on campus. It’s a theory that is shared with leaders in the campus community and may be closer to reality than fiction.
“Essentially you could apply the entire breadth of features and functions to a mobile iteration,” says Jeff Staples, vice president of market development, Blackboard Transact. “We will see students begin their student experience well before arrival on campus by leveraging the integrated campus app that delivers capabilities for both learning and living.”
As Staples sees it, many of those students will begin using these same tools during their K-12 years, prior to their first arrival on a university campus. “They will arrive as a more informed freshman, go straight to their residence hall, open the door with their mobile and begin their college experience in earnest,” says Staples.
The campus environment that Staples is alluding to is one where the institution will be able to deliver a coordinated mobile experience that takes the place of a multitude of disparate solutions and single-function apps. He says these many unique functions will come together in a comprehensive app, including vital services like event and door access, mobile ordering, payments, coursework, attendance, testing, safety and more.
“The objective is to enhance the student experience and deliver better outcomes, resulting in more engaged and supportive alumni who will continue to leverage the campus mobile solution for everything from event attendance to donations for the rest of their lives,” explains Staples. “Their post-graduation mobile experience will be tailored to their interests while on campus and evolve with them as their engagement with the institution evolves.”
The mobile experience itself will be multi-dimensional, ranging from responsive text to location-based services leveraging GPS, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and NFC. “The most successful campuses will create a ubiquitous use environment where the student doesn’t have to think ‘card or mobile?’ for a certain transaction or activity, but instead can simply leverage their mobile for the full gamut of activities on campus,” he adds.