Group of young people using digital tablet and smart phoneThe use of mobile devices for higher education doesn’t start when students get to college. It begins long before when students are considering which college or university to attend, confirms two recently-released reports. Now more than ever, higher education institutions must literally put information not only in the palms of their students’ hands, but in prospective students’ hands.

According to a Noel-Levitz 2014 E-Expectations Report which details the online preferences of college-bound high school seniors and their parents, 71% of high-school seniors have looked at college websites on their mobile devices and 51% said they wanted college websites to automatically adapt to their mobile screens.

However, according to a related report, only 43% of four-year institutions and 26% of two-year campuses said they currently use adaptive technology. Additionally, according to a the Zinch 2014 Social Admissions Report, 97% of almost 2,000 students surveyed said they have visited a college or university’s website on a mobile browser (smartphone or tablet) and two-thirds find the experience either “okay” or “challenging.”

Websites Remain the Key Collateral for Higher Ed

In the 2014 E-Expectations Report, 62% of the 1,000 college-bound seniors surveyed said web-based resources are better for them than any other collateral such as phone calls or print materials in learning about colleges and universities. In addition, 67% of seniors and 59% of their parents said that a college or university’s website directly affects their perception of the institution.

What information is most important for prospective students to be able to find on a college or university’s website? Top requests include: academic program listings, costs, and financial aid, housing, enrollment, admissions and student life information.

Social Media’s Influence

The 2014 Social Admission report shows that 68% of college-bound seniors use social media to research colleges or universities and 70% find a higher education institution’s social profiles and level of engagement moderately to extremely influential. However, only 4 in 10 students surveyed say the school’s posts they viewed were relevant, leaving room for improvement in social monitoring and engagement. In fact, college-bound high school seniors said the most important engagement they were seeking on social media was with admission counselors.

Serving Today’s Student Body

The role of online, mobile-responsive, socially-deliverable information to serve a college or university’s current student body is just as important. With arguably one of the most connected, growing and frequently-changing audiences, higher ed is making use of some of the private sector’s most successful multi-channel customer service strategies to better serve thousands to hundreds of thousands of students, faculty, staff, parents, prospective students and alumni each day, whether they’re on campus, online, on the phone or around the globe.

Higher ed innovators don’t just get the concept of students as customers; they’re mastering it in key ways with:

  1. Better and Faster Access to Information Just like their business counterparts providing product and policy information online, higher education institutions are using self-service knowledgebases to give students 24/7 answers to questions ranging from “how do I change my login password” to “when does fall semester registration begin” to “where can I find the financial aid form I need.”
  2. Streamlined Support Colleges and universities are incorporating online support portals with advanced workflow systems on the back end to make sure every question or issue is answered in a timely fashion. Higher ed institutions are also using mobile service desks to keep up with students’ 24/7 expectations. Whether the questions come from email, an online form, help desk ticket, social media or another channel, students, prospective students, alumni and others are each treated like valued customers as their questions are quickly routed to the best person or department that can answer and timed and tracked for response.
  3. Social Media Responsiveness Higher ed is actually leading most Fortune 500 companies when it comes to this category, and for good reason. Millennials are the most active users of social media for communication, questions and support, so higher education has had to tackle this channel much sooner and with much greater responsibility for social media influencers outside of its control than almost any other industry (think popular student athletes, former students, students from rival schools, the media, etc.).

Just as their students are online, on social media and on their tablets and phones, higher education institutions now need to be there, too, with current and correct answers and information. Whether students, parents, prospects, alumni and related audiences give their online, mobile and social experience an A, C or an F will go a long way in determining the continued and long-term public- and student-facing success of each institution.

Read more: