Mobile apps have exploded in popularity in recent years. There are over half a million apps in Apple’s store and 400 000 apps available for Android. Seeking to capitalize on this trend, many universities and colleges have started to release their own mobile apps. Is developing a standalone app worth the cost or is having a mobile site good enough? You do have a mobile website for your school…don’t you?
Making a Mobile App For Cheap
A recent article in the Guardian featured university and technology professionals discussing tips and strategies for developing a mobile application. Glyndwr University in the UK wanted to easily deliver all of their content to their students in a mobile app. But the school found that developing an app from the ground up was too expensive, so they opted instead to use AppMakr. It’s a fast and free way to create an iPhone app without any programming knowledge required. Take a look at their website if you want a mobile app for your school but price is a major hurdle.
“Universities are shifting away from creating recruitment apps, and are looking more at developing applications that benefit existing students.” – Nicholas Oliver, quoted in the Guardian
College App Ideas
What are universities and colleges incorporating in their apps? Here are some interesting ideas.
- The College of Charleston was the first school to launch an app with a virtual tour of its campus in 2009
- Grand Valley State University released an app that includes real-time updates on open parking spaces and the current locations of campus shuttles
- Ball State University is one of the first schools to create an app for Google TV, which features grades, class schedules and other student resources all on a student’s television
A Gallery of College Apps
HTML5 vs Apps
The current problem with apps is that they can be quite expensive since schools often feel they have to develop a separate app for each platform eg. iPhone, iPad optimized, Android, Blackberry, and maybe even Windows Phone. But there are less expensive and time-consuming options available, such as developing an app that works on multiple platforms (take a look at PhoneGap). The only problem with this solution is that the app will sacrifice some functionality compared to having one native app for iOS, one for Android, etc.
Another solution is to develop an HTML5 app. HTML5 is basically like an app but in your mobile web browser, meaning that anyone on any phone or tablet can view your app. This is the future of the mobile web. Some companies like Uberflip already offer this functionality. They will even “wrap” your HTML5 web app into a native app for iOS, Android, and Blackberry so that your school’s app is available in the app stores, as well as available through a browser.