App brings Ave Maria University together

In addition to 34 majors and 20 minors, Ave Maria University, located near Naples, FL, offers its students a picturesque campus and a 74-degree average temperature for year-round outdoor activities. The warm climate leads to plenty of foot traffic on campus, and the university’s student life department takes advantage of it to promote various events and clubs through flyers and digital screens on campus. For those that miss the signs, the school’s daily bulletin distributed via email also helps spread the word about the latest news and events. Though all these communications are important, none has been more effective than “The Pound,” Ave Maria’s recently released app for student engagement from MobileUp Software. “It’s definitely a generation that is tied to its electronics,” said Rachel Flowers, Assistant Director of Student Life at Ave Maria University. “You feel like you have a good chance of reaching students by sending information to their phones. They have them with them all the time.” Research firms such as Gallup agree. Its studies show 51% of smartphone owners who are between 18- and 29-years-old check their device a few times an hour or more and 22% say they check it every few minutes. A Deloitte Global survey found 88% of the same aged smartphone users check their phone within 30 minutes of waking upin the morning. Working with the MobileUp administrator tools and client services team, the Ave Maria app administrators have configured the app (iOS and Android) with various activity calendars and helpful information for students. “We try to make it a convenient tool to find essential things such as dining information, career services, and tutoring help,” Flowers said. “We also know we need to add in activities to make it fun to get them to use it.” Photo from the Ave Maria University campus in Ave Maria, FL

Photo: Ave Maria University

Activities, Geofences, and Beacons

As for some of those activities, the Ave Maria app uses MobileUp’s connectivity with geofences and beacons. This enables a student to use the location services settings in the app to automatically check-in at events and be eligible for rewards. For instance, students were granted an excused absence when they crossed the geofence and registered their attendance at the recent March for Life in Washington, D.C. At another geo-based activity, the first 30 students who checked in with their apps and location services at a recent basketball game won free pizza. In addition to geo-based contests, the app also includes a Valentine’s Day-themed contest based on app participation. In the challenge, the app asked students to “shout out” to a person they love through a provided form. Those that complete the activity are entered into a drawing for four tickets to a dinner cruise on the nearby Naples Princess. “Word of mouth has been the best thing to help the use of the app spread,” Flowers said. “We really want them to use it so we are also very heavy on the incentives.” In addition to arenas and city intersections, the app also makes use of location services in smaller spaces. For example, it used a hardware beacon with the app at an activities fair at the beginning of the semester to help track attendance and overall interest in the event. All the activities play into the app’s gamification abilities. Students earn points for attending the various events and completing activities. A real-time leaderboard and photo gallery helps encourage participation and competition.
Utilizing its geofences feature, the app explains how to earn free pizza simply by attending the university’s basketball game. A leaderboard in the app ranks the students who have completed activities.

Student Clubs and Organizations

To help grow and support the university’s numerous student groups, Ave Maria’s app uses the Clubs, Chapters, and Organizations module from MobileUp.

This feature set enables student clubs and organizations to have their own high profile and dedicated section of the student app.

Once they are signed in, students search the available clubs and join them with a tap. Each club has its own message wall, calendar, social feed, notifications, and mobile payment links. Leaders of each club administer their own content in the app, enabling the Ave Maria student life department to offset a little of the typical work involved with managing clubs in the past.

“The app has been a huge deal for our campus clubs,” Flowers said. “In the past, it has been very hard for our club leaders to get people to join and then maintain their memberships once they do. It also helps with communications. Pulling together email lists and those kinds of things to send out messages was a difficult thing in the past. Now we can send the messages to the members of a club with no problem.”

Student clubs and organizations are now centrally managed through the university’s student engagement app.

Mobile Solutions For Mobile Audiences

Headed into spring, the Ave Maria app administrators are already planning how to further leverage the app’s features to notify students of events before school ends for summer break

They also have plans to use the app as a key communication tool to get new students up-to-speed when school orientation starts in the fall.

“There is a lot of information for our students in different parts of campus,” Flowers said. “There is no place that centralizes everything they need in a single place like our app. It has been tremendously successful.”

The home screen of the app gives students quick access to information they need everyday on campus. Calendars are automatically loaded in the app from Google calendars the university maintains.