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The Top Reasons Why College Mobile Apps Fail

By: Ready Education on May 4, 2022 3:17:39 PM
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Does this sound familiar? After more than a year of development, the overworked IT department is finally ready to launch your campus app. The Marketing and Student Affairs departments team up to promote the long-awaited app to incoming students at orientation.

Students download the app but instead of finding a smooth and engaging mobile campus experience, they find a buggy and slow reproduction of the school website. There’s virtually no difference between the website and the app, and as students start to run out of space on their phones, they begin to wonder, “Do I really need this app? Couldn’t I just use my browser to get this information?”

After a few weeks of not using the app, students delete it to make room for other apps on their phones - ones that give them a lot of utility, entertainment, and social opportunities. As students jump ship, it’s safe to say the app’s health is suffering.

Without enough resources, buy-in, collaboration, or motivation across departments, the app gets sicker and sicker. The content becomes outdated, broken links pile up. Students, faculty, and staff members forget it exists. They go back to sending emails that never get read and posting information on 17 different boards. Eventually, someone in IT finally pulls the plug, taking the app off the app stores, shaking their heads at how much time and money went into this project, frustrated they're back to square one.

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common across higher education today. Keep reading to learn the top reasons why mobile app platforms fail––and what you can do to prevent the above scenario from happening at your institution.

The Top Reasons Why Mobile Apps Fail

#1 - They weren't enterprise solutions
#2 - They did not engage and delight students.
#3 - It wasn’t easy to target specific groups of students
#4 - They weren't scalable
#5 - The student experience wasn’t personalized
#6 - The app didn’t provide the institution with the right data
#7 - The institution didn’t receive enough support from the mobile platform provider.
#8 - It didn’t do enough to help staff help students
The 5 Key Capabilities That Lead to Success?

#1 - The mobile app was not an enterprise solution

Too often universities operate in unwanted silos, where each department is almost completely independent and either uses a different communication platform altogether or simply fails to coordinate their email sends with other big departments. This leads to crowded inboxes with inconsistent branding and fragmented communications to students - creating an inefficient and frustrating system for everyone involved. 

Armed with good intentions, administrators often decide an app is the right way to solve this problem––yet in their haste to get an app for the lowest price possible, they fail to consider whether the app itself is a true enterprise solution and will actually be useful for each and every university department. 

Most college apps on the market today are not in fact enterprise solutions, meaning they do not integrate with key university systems and resources, have the capacity to support every department, or receive full support from leadership. And because they do not solve the university’s communication challenges holistically, they end up exacerbating already fragmented campus-wide communication.

#2 - It didn’t engage and delight students. 

You can work really hard to make sure all of the necessary communications, events and services are posted on your app, but if students aren’t logging in and using the app on a daily basis are they even going to notice?

In order to get the most value out of a college app, it has to be engaging enough to keep students coming back again and again, well after orientation season is over. Why do students spend so much time on their phones? Their favorite apps offer social opportunities and entertainment. Next to their favorites, how does your app compare?

If your campus app doesn’t engage and delight students, they won’t have a reason to continue using it, and it will end up in the College App Graveyard.

#3 - It wasn’t easy to target specific groups of students 

In today’s scrolling world, students get bombarded with a thousand different messages every day, which makes getting the right message to the right student at the right time critical for your university and your mobile platform. If your app doesn’t make it easy to send targeted communications to the right students, it’s not going to succeed. 

Administrators are already well aware that email doesn’t work because sending targeted communications via most email servers is a clunky and time-intensive process. 

The result? Students get mass email blasts with tons of information. They’re overloaded and overwhelmed, and they don’t have the time to sort through the information and find what’s relevant to them, so they just don’t read it altogether. And then they start ignoring email communication from the institution altogether because they don’t trust anymore that when they open an email from their school it’s going to be relevant. 

Unfortunately, most apps just replicate this problem because they don’t actually have the functionality to easily segment and target specific groups of students with personalized messages. 

#4 - It wasn’t scalable. 

Only an app with an intuitive user experience and an easy-to-navigate interface can grow from supporting the honor’s college to the whole campus, to the entire statewide college system. A mobile app is not scalable if its backend is difficult or clunky to use––because no one besides the IT department will want to put the time into learning how to use it. It’s also not scalable if it starts to slow down or gets buggy as more and more students sign on and interact with it, which often happens with apps built in-house.

#5 - The student experience wasn’t personalized


When an app isn’t personalizable, it doesn’t allow students to adapt it to their own likes and needs. Allowing students to create their own custom profiles and save “favorite” resources and organizations, makes the app more useful and enjoyable. It also enables them to create their own experience - which in some ways is what college is about!

#6 - It didn’t provide any useful data

In order to know where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been and where you are. In other words, you need the right data. An app that doesn’t provide actionable data and insights is a huge wasted opportunity. With the right data, administrators can report on the usage of resources, engagement with content and organizations, event attendance, student feedback, peer-to-peer engagement, and so much more. Collecting data through an app that is highly adopted (90%+ of students using it regularly) makes your data that much more powerful. 

#7 - The institution didn’t receive enough support from the mobile platform provider. 

When your institution does not have the right support from the mobile platform provider, you don’t have experts to help you get the most out of the app. Your team will have to bear all of the weight of maintaining and improving the app, without benefiting from all the expertise and experience a vendor’s customer success team can provide. 

When you have a dedicated team of experts, app launch times are faster, your solution is expertly customized, you have 24/7 maintenance support and regular software updates, and you’ll have access to a wealth of knowledge and experience around maximizing the impact of your app. Any time your team has a question, they’ll know who to ask for help.

#8 - It didn’t do enough to help staff help students

The #1 goal of every college department is to help students succeed. With all of the challenges students face, institutions need to be able to identify at-risk students (often a difficult task on its own) and actually step in with the right tools and services to help them overcome those challenges. If a mobile platform doesn’t have the right capabilities or data tracking to facilitate that, the app becomes obsolete and fails.

Want to know the 5 Key Capabilities that make a mobile platform succeed? Download the Guide