Parents and families are an important part of the orientation process for new students, and as methods of communicating evolve so do parents’ expectations around accessibility to that communication. Every day Guidebook gives more and more universities the power to leverage mobile technology and we’ve noticed that it isn’t just students anymore who are asking for the app.
Why worry about parents?
A study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln investigated the effect that parental support had on new students’ transition to college life. Unsurprisingly, the conclusion was that students with support networks back home “were more comfortable taking risks, meeting new people, and experiencing a new environment.”
Joe O’Connell, Coordinator Senior at Arizona State University, works intimately with new student programs and the technology that supports those programs. He says, “Students’ families are their support network and being involved with the university strengthens both their own support network but also the university’s support of our students. This, in the end, leads to more successful students – which is the goal.”
Packaging info for parents
Universities have been including parents in New Student Orientation for years and the specific communication for that purpose has become quite sophisticated. As a result, universities are taking advantage of their mobile apps to deliver this information.
The University of Alabama in Huntsville
UAH has been utilizing a standalone events app with guides for Homecoming, Week of Welcome, New Student Orientation and more. They chose to include the Family & Guest Schedule track right alongside the students’ information in the orientation guide.
For Jenny Russell, Assistant Director of New Student Orientation & Family Programs, involving parents is a must. “I don’t view parents as ‘helicopter’ or ‘snow plow’ – rather supporters who are just as emotionally and financially invested in college as their student. I think it is important to educate them and engage them with university programs so that they can be just as informed about our campus to better support their student.”
Jenny’s enthusiasm for engaging parents certainly translated to the families themselves. The orientation guide had twice as many downloads as the number of incoming freshmen, signaling strong interest from more than just the students.
Jenny said, “Families have had a great response to the app. Because our program is 2 days for freshmen, often parents must come and go or sub in and out. Having the app makes this easier, rather than worrying about keeping up with a paper schedule.
Arizona State University
Making parent information mobile can extend beyond orientation. This year ASU published a guide to Family Weekend within their branded events app powered by Guidebook. The guide had schedules for the weekend, separated into tracks by campus, as well as campus maps and other helpful information to help families navigate the events of the weekend.
“Students and Families wanted something on their phone with the needed information, something they could go back and look at any time, even after their visit,” Joe said. “We found that a mobile application was an effective tool to accomplish this goal.”
It’s easy to imagine how simple it is to integrate parent information into an app. One parent-specific folder could include links to the parent schedule, information on scholarships, financial aid, and meal plans, as well as links to campus resources like health and safety.
Will parents use this stuff?
A (declining) worry is that parents are going to be slow on the uptake when it comes to adopting mobile tech. The reality is that parents already have adopted it, and they’re expecting mobile content just like their kids.
For Jenny, she finds most parents are primed for mobile and social media. And for those who aren’t, all it takes is a little push. “You will see a great number of our parents on smart phones or tablets during sessions. Our orientation leaders lead a session about social media with parents and we are often surprised by how many are on Twitter and Instagram – we know they are already on Facebook.”
Jenny is spot on. The 55+ demographic has exploded on Facebook over the past 3 years with an 80.4% growth in users – and they’re using it on their phone. 88% of adults age 50-64 have cell phones, and 49% of them have smartphones. Gone are the days of out of touch parents confounded by their kids’ new tech toys.
When considering mobile tech for your school, take both your students and their families into consideration. Parents are increasingly a part of students’ college transitions – and the studies show that it makes them more successful. You can boost that success – and parent satisfaction – by delivering content where it counts.