Born between 1995 and 2010, Generation Z (Generation K in some media) have never known a world without the internet, without smartphones or without social media. Known as ‘digital natives’ their lives have been shaped by global recession, terrorist attacks, political unrest and environmental concern, as well as more positive influences such as same-sex marriage, increased informality, technological advances including prolific Wi-Fi and 4G, America’s first African-American President and of course, the selfie.
Generation Z students are on our campus now with a very high expectation that our digital services will be accessible, engaging and bidirectional. 80 per cent of them will routinely access University digital content via smartphones, one third of students will have submitted their application to University via their smartphone and their use of social media extends way beyond Facebook and Twitter.
Alex Neill, Vice President (Education) says:
The challenge for any university is to develop an effective and engaging communications strategy that meets the needs of Generation Z, both in terms of attracting new students as well as enriching the experience of our current students. We need to continue to adapt and innovate.
Focusing on bite-sized visual content with a highly evolved filtering mechanism to determine if something is relevant to them, the ‘snap media’ devotees are tuned to emoji, six second video, snapchat and infographics to impart the necessary information. One-way messaging is likely to be ignored.
An integral component of Generation Z’s life is the smartphone, pioneered in 1993 by IBM, further developed by Nokia, Ericsson, Palm and Blackberry and then propelled into the mainstream by Apple in 2007 with the launch of the first iPhone. An Android-based phone from HTC appeared a year later.
Applications (apps) have transformed the smartphone from a simple messaging and calendar device to providing internet access, social media, payment and shopping apps, as well as location-based services using the phones’ inbuilt GPS, such as UBER for hailing a taxi and games such as Pokémon GO.
With an estimated 44 billion global smartphone app downloads forecast for 2016 (rising to 284 billion by 2020) apps are the key to engaging, not only with Generation Z, but with any smartphone user. The University’s iSolutions team was an early adopter, launching the first iteration of the MySouthampton app way back in 2011 as a way of getting timetables into the hands of students when they most needed them.
The app has been refined and updated over the past five years and now includes (in order of popularity) timetables, email previews, bus timetables and campus maps. By September 2015 the app had 33,000 active users; an additional 3,000 users will download the app during Freshers’ this year. New developments, such as the recent addition of SUSSED news, will continue but the focus on ease of use will remain the priority.
In higher education apps are now seen as a key differentiator, particularly in the admissions process – a great tool for engaging, informing and maintaining a relationship from prospect through to open day, graduation and beyond. With this in mind the iSolutions team was approached last year by the Student Recruitment and Open Day team to develop a separate Open Day app.
With fantastic co-operation from Student Services the iSolutions team headed by Louis Pliskin and Graham Robinson was able to develop the Open Day app within five months. The app has been an enormous success, not only in reducing paper usage and printing costs, but also improving the student experience with comments like:
“Really helpful for planning out my day and much easier to find my way around than other unis I’ve visited!”
“Great work, possibly one of the most used apps on my iPhone”
The ability of iSolutions to deliver the app in time for the 2016 Open Days played a significant part in improving the overall experience of prospective students.
MySouthampton is not the only University App regularly used by our students, over the last year nearly 300,000 unique devices connected to our Blackboard services using the Blackboard Student and Blackboard Mobile Learn apps – over 96 per cent of these were via Apple devices.
Simon Cox, Chief Information Officer added:
The MySouthampton app is embedded as one of the key components of the University’s engagement toolkit. With over 33,000 active users it plays a significant part in the everyday lives of our students and enriches their experience with the University.
Have you seen the need to adapt already? Do you have any examples or experiences you can share?”
Start or join the debate below: