Bringing new technology into a university environment can be challenging, but colleges are learning that if they want to attract new students, they need to meet them on familiar ground.
Modo Labs, a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup providing open source mobile platforms, said that since its launch last year, its Kurogo platform for building mobile apps has been adopted by more than 200 universities across the country, including Harvard, Boston College and Villanova University.
In many cases, the company said, the schools’ motivation for going mobile was to provide current students with schedules, campus updates and tools for keeping in touch with faculty. But, later, the schools started to realize that most of their traffic was coming from off-campus.
That observation was backed up by a February survey from the National Research Center for College & University Admissions and consulting company Noel-Levitz. It found that 52 percent of prospective college students said they viewed a school’s website on a mobile device in 2011 – more than double the percentage from 2010. Of those students, 48 percent said the mobile site experience improved their perception of the school. Last fall, a survey of nearly 500 IT leaders from the Campus Computing Project found that 55.3 percent of public universities had activated mobile apps or would do so in the coming academic year, compared to 32.5 percent in the fall of 2010.
But while schools are using mobile platforms to recruit new students and help current students manage their college experience, it will be very interesting to see whether mobile devices will help the educational process.
“There’s a huge debate over how the mobile experience will change learning,” said Yu. Digital textbooks from Chegg, Apple and and Amazon are bringing tablets into education, but he said the smaller screen of the smartphone poses challenges for delivering educational content.
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