What is your preferred medium for learning and consuming information?
GUEST COLUMN | by Bob Banerjee
It’s no secret that mobile apps are continuing to take off. In 2017 alone, there were nearly 2.2 million apps available in the app store—a number that only continues to grow. A wide variety of industries and institutions have jumped into the mobile app revolution including beverage vendors, your local chiropractor and, of course, higher education.
These days, when you search for a university within the app store, there are most likely hundreds of different results that come up.
Why is this the case?
For most universities, practically every department organization on campus has one or two apps specifically for their individual use. The interfraternity council, the athletics department, and even the campus police departments have an app.
This overwhelming amount of apps available to students has left many faculty members concerned that mobile devices and mobile apps within the classroom will cause students to be distracted and should be treated as more of a nuisance than an educational aid.
Considering that the 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey states that the average American checks their phone more than 52 times per day, these beliefs are well-founded.
However, additional resources point to mobile devices improving academic success. For example, digital learning has the ability to foster better engagement and, in turn, increased retention. Sixty-eight percent of university students have reported a desire for quizzes and other learning materials to be embedded with a digital experience. Improved learning through apps doesn’t stop there since 87 percent of students are now using apps such as Quizlet, or even university apps with course material access, to help them study.
To better understand how students are using mobile apps at a university and how they can, in fact, improve academic performance, let’s check out some of the positives they can bring to the overall academic experience inside and outside of the classroom.
Reduced Student Turnover
According to 2016 data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, only 61.1 percent of university students were retained at their starting institution. What causes this unrest? One of the biggest factors that comes into play is students’ lack of involvement in campus activities and organizations — which typically leads them to feel out of place.
However, the use of university mobile apps can help alleviate this common situation. Machine learning capabilities in mobile apps can recognize when a student lacks engagement with the university and can begin sending notifications to help entice them to get involved.
Nudging students in the right direction can help them stay on track. For example, a recent report from Jobs of the Future and Persistence Plus showed that institutions who utilized personalized messages improved retention rates by 10 percent compared to those who opted to not send push notifications.
Improving retention is not only positive for the university from a recruiting and reputation standpoint, but it also helps to produce more successful graduates, helping students take an impactful first step in their careers.
Creating An Engaging Learning Environment
Every educator knows that engaging students within the classroom can be a difficult task. To help make this experience more successful, it’s important to figure out what motivates students to focus on the task at hand.
Each of us has a preferred method of learning or a specific medium from which we prefer to consume information, and for many university students, that is a digital experience utilizing mobile devices and apps.
Not only does the use of mobile learning help students, but it can also help faculty complete certain lessons quicker, especially when you consider that smartphone learners complete course material 45 percent faster than those using a computer.
Removing the Barrier to Information
University students come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Many students come from low-income families and often struggle to access the necessary information and materials on a consistent basis. While universities offer computers within academic buildings to try and alleviate this concern, the reality is that these aren’t always accessible 24 hours a day.
Many think laptops are the answer—but despite the fact that laptops have decreased in price, they still cost between $300-$500 on average. Unfortunately, this is unaffordable for many students and their families. For those who don’t own a laptop, the only way to access course information and material at all times is through the use of a mobile device and apps. This barrier to information can dramatically affect the educational experience of college students — and by tearing it down, the overall educational experience will improve. Without constant access to this information, students are much more likely to fail.
An Equal and Effective Education
The use of mobile devices and university apps can positively affect the access to information, retention rates and academic success when used to give universities a strategic advantage.With 19.9 million college and university students in the United States alone, providing an equal and effective education can be difficult, but the use of mobile apps can help make this process a little easier.
Bob Banerjee, Ph.D., is Director of Marketing for Ex Libris, which develops creative solutions that increase library productivity, maximize the impact of research activities, enhance teaching and learning, and drive student mobile engagement. They serve over 7,500 customers in 90 countries. Learn more on their website and on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.