Technology Uncategorized

A View from the Top: Taking the Mobile Experience to New Heights

  • Hilary J. Baker, Vice President & CIO, California State University, Northridge
  • Santhana Naidu, Associate Vice President of Marketing Communications, Indiana State University
  • Andrew Yu, Founder & CTO, Modo Labs, Inc.

Full disclosure:  CSUN is my home campus, so I have some knowledge of the Modo Labs product…they back our mobile app.

Andrew kicked off the session by talking about Modo Labs.  The whole thing started out of MiT in 2010, but had it’s beginnings in 2007 in the MiT mobile framework (this was back before the Apple iPhone and app store).  At that time, only about 2% of the web traffic at MiT was from mobile devices. took about six months to create.  Modern campus mobile apps must serve multiple constituencies, and serve many purposes…as a result, the mobile app charge at MiT required leadership!

Why WAS mobile Important?

Hilary Baker

CSUN is a public & highly diverse university community of 41,500 students and 4,200 faculty and staff in northwest Los Angeles.  We came late to the mobile party.  Campus priorities:  student success and exemplary service.  We needed to develop and launch a CSUN app fast, and with Modo Labs, we were able to launch in just 10 weeks!

  • We used web services to reach into our PS instance to enable add/drop capability into the mobile app
  • Launched our app a few days before Fall semester 2013.  Our download profile was 6,000 1st week, 9,000 2nd week, 17,000 3rd week
  • Next step for us was to enable pay via mobile app and CashNet
  • We’ve since added lots of additional features, including outdoor mapping and wayfinding, dining, campus tours, indoor floor plans, campus shuttle & transportation services
  • Marketing was important, too.  We printed full-color postcards and distributed these campus-wide.  We also featured the mobile app at our new student orientation.
  • To date downloads:  34K Apple, 9K Android
  • Most used features at beginning of term:  schedule, campus map, class search, add/drop
  • Most used features near end of term:  Transit, dining

Santhana Naidu

  • IU is celebrating its 150 year anniversary
  • Located in Terre Haute
  • 13,500 students

Our mobile journey started about 6 years ago.  Leadership realized the importance of having a mobile app.  It was an internal project, driven by IT and the marketing team.  Unfortunately, students didn’t like the app, so we went back to the drawing board.  In 2012 we re-launched our app with Modo Labs.  Some highlights:

  • 22K downloads to date
  • Classes is by far our most popular module (Blackboard, Banner, Catalog)
  • About 75% of users are iOS, 25% Android

Recruitment is my office’s top priority

  • Growth in mobile usage among students: 20% of overall website traffic from mobile
  • 90% of incoming students carry smartphones
  • 40% of admissions traffic is from mobile devices.
  • Campus life content is very popular; students use this information when making a decision to come to campus
  • IT – MarCom Partnership was a major key to our effort’s success:  shared governance
  • Modo helped us with design, programming, app launch, etc.
  • Content entry through the admin console

How Do You Keep a Mobile App Fresh & Engaging?

  • Communication (messaging) – examples provided of University of Massachusetts, DelMar, and Georgetown, College of William & Mary, Massachusetts General Hospital, Notre Dame
  • Use of Publisher module for content management that can be handled by anyone…no coding skills required
  • Personalization with locations and roles
  • iBeacons can be used to highlight items you want people to know about, especially useful for tours and points of interest
  • Geofencing
  • QR codes can also be used to drive people directly to map locations

Why IS Mobile Important?

Hilary Baker

  • PeopleSoft student services (GreyHeller/Modo Labs).  Includes Financial Aid awards, emergency contact info.
  • Parking space availability
  • Indoor-outdoor maps transitioning.  We want to make this feature more seamless.
  • Matador patrol safety – coming in early Spring 2016.  Talked about the CSUN appjam event and shared a video of one of the winning entries in this event.

Santhana Naidu

  • Audience-based content.  Ability to group icons by audience is important for us.
  • Enhancing the campus visit and tour experience using iBeacons.  This really helps our yield activities.
  • Messaging.  We want to be able to target messages by categories and groups; customize how receive messages, message center in-app so users can refer to the messages, easy to use backend interface for the admin, ability for users to opt in or out of certain optional message types, promotions.


  • Does it integrate with other apps?  Naidu:  yes, we’re using it for maps and tours.  Hilary:  yes, we link out to other CSUN mobile web sites like the Rec Center, Public Safety.  Andrew:  we can work
  • Does your team do the work?  Naidu:  Modo Labs does the heavy lifting for us.
  • What about using the app for faculty and staff?  Hilary:  yes, we have versions for faculty and staff.  Alumni also have a view.  Naidu:  faculty use the Blackboard module, but we haven’t gone much further than that yet.

Visit Modo Labs at Booth #1930; other campuses will also be here at EDUCAUSE giving presentations about their mobile experiences.

  • Del Mar College
  • Dominican University
  • Notre Dame
  • George Washington University

By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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