As more schools jump on the social media bandwagon, the others need to find a way to compete. Facebook is old news — everyone has their own page these days — and you can find just about any student organization on campus using Twitter. To keep up with the times, schools have had to get creative, and the latest fad appears to be iPhone apps.
Now, we mentioned four Boston schools that had their own app back in September, but we missed a few. And not only did we miss a few, but we made every app sound like it was ingenious. Although a good idea, social media is only successful when done right. There needs to be a level of engagement, interaction, character and personality. It’s one thing to provide resources, and a whole other to spark conversation.
I downloaded seven apps and have been fiddling around with them all weekend. The schools (and apps) in question include: Babson, Berklee College of Music, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, MIT and Northeastern.
Before you read anything else – which schools do you assume would have the best iPhone app? I ask, only because the three I chose to be “the best” come from schools I didn’t expect.
With their hundreds of tech-savvy students, I figured MIT would be high on my list. Instead, I ruled it out of the top three, because while their interface is easy to use, there’s no real level of engagement. I felt the same when looking at the apps for Babson and Boston University. Both are functional, but boring as ever, and while I understand school isn’t in session, I still find it odd that “there is currently no data available” for the BU Bus. There has to be someone strolling around campus wondering whether or not there’s a shuttle running right now.
Here are the apps that did take the cake, however —
Boston College — The Boston College app was, needless to say, a pleasant surprise. The layout was engaging and immediately attracted my attention, yet I was still able to easily access everything I needed, and then some. From maps, to campus news, to weather and Twitter updates, the app has it all. Users can download images of the campus, answer poll questions and get live-streaming radio from the college’s WZBC, 90.3 FM. I was also a huge fan of the random facts, because now students always have a conversation starter in the dining hall. “Did you know the BC Libraries hold 2.5 million volumes?”
Harvard — From first glance, I thought the Harvard app was going to be a disappointment. The more I clicked around, however, the more I found to enjoy. Their Shuttle Tracker is actually functional, and they’ve successfully translated their social media dashboard onto the iPhone. Users can browse various YouTube videos ranging from the 2011 Harvard Commencement Address by Liberian President Sirleaf to “Street Scene” in the Yard, all while catching up on the latest news from the various schools across campus. You can even check to see which dining halls are open, and what it is they’re serving on any given day. Based on the app, however, it looks like no one who’s stuck living on campus will be able to eat today. Sorry, Crimsonites.
Berklee College of Music — Not only is the app functional, but from its splash page, you can see it has a personality that matches its student body. Users can search the school’s events by category — concerts, recitals and clinics — or can read up on the latest news from Berklee News, Twitter or Berklee Blogs. You can also watch YouTube videos, listen to streaming podcasts or take your pick of several radio stations. Although the color palette might not be the greatest, for those musically inclined, the app has everything they need to get a proper taste of Berklee.