The rate of smartphone adoption continues to accelerate. According to eMarkerter, around 1.76 billion people owned and used smartphones each month across the world in 2014, while Kantar ComTech forecasts that 91% of UK consumer phone users will have a smartphone by end of 2017.

With this growing rate, it’s no wonder that universities are exploring new ways to reach students and get them engaged and inspired using mobile devices. We have already discussed why mobile learning is key to student recruitment and engagement in a previous post, so we would like to share some successful implementation stories from UK universities, starting with Teesside University.

Recently mentioned by The Times as a top institution for retention, Teesside University is home to around 20,000 students, divided into five schools with an almost even split between full and part-time learners. One of the key focuses of the University in the last few years has been to provide students with a personalised approach to the university. This is why the E-Learning Team has partnered with Student Union and School representatives, and closely worked with them to deliver a new campus experience.

In this scenario, a focus on mobile technologies was a logical step, and Teesside decided to work to implement Mosaic in order to have the app up and running quickly and in a cost-effective way.

Fully delivered at the beginning of this academic year, Teesside’s “TU Mobile” app includes both native and custom-built modules. First and foremost is the Blackboard Learn Mobile module, which gives access to all information from the university’s Virtual Learning Environment, such as course material, assignments and grades. Maps, news, events and video give students a complete view on what’s happening and where at Teesside.

To support students in their day-to-day lives, TU Mobile also includes components such as travel, library, email and intranet access, or ‘My TUSC’ that enables users to access their Teesside University Student Card details and top up its balance in few taps.

Among others, there are two custom-built modules we would like to describe, as they are particularly interesting. One of the most common problems new students face is the difficulty in finding their way around campus during the first few weeks. The “Find Rooms” tool allows users to search for a specific room and tells them which building the room is in, on what floor and it also offers walking directions to the nearest building entrance.

Another useful module is “Safe Spaces”, created as a result of the Students’ Union’s recent work with local police. Various establishments around Middlesbrough such as shops, bars, etc., have been designated as “safe spaces” where people can go if they feel unsafe or vulnerable. Each safe place has a police community support officer associated with it. This app feature will tell people where their nearest safe space is, give them directions to it, and show them other safe spaces on a Google map, complete with pin dropped for more info.

Paul Durston, Learning Technology Manager at Teesside University, has been leading this project since its inception: “Providing students with a mobile app through which they can live and experience the university whenever and wherever they are, is an integral part of our strategy. Thanks to Mosaic we’ve been able to deliver a complete app in a very short time, right at the beginning of this academic year.”

“Results so far have been really positive with over 2,500 downloads in the first two weeks. Two months later, almost 30% of student population have the app on their mobile devices, and the number of downloads is increasing every week. That’s why we are now planning to build on this success and use Mosaic to provide a tailored offering for prospective students who may be interested in studying at Teesside.”

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