The 10 Most Innovative Official School Smartphone Apps

One would think mobile technology would explode on college campuses in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Hawaii – everywhere, but designing and distributing applications still has yet to fully catch on as a valuable support tool. Slowly, however, schools have started taking advantage of what smartphones have to offer pretty much anyone affiliated with — or hoping to be affiliated with — their educational opportunities. Mobile applications especially streamline and render (somewhat) less painful all the little stressors of college life, making them an ideal choice for the tech-savvy schools out there striving for meaningful relevance. Because the format offers some pretty potent potential, many included some features to make themselves stand out from the other mobile applications out there. Whether they get experimental and creative with the expected offerings or veer off into a specialty section, the following official college presences on iPhones, Androids, and the like deserve some extra attention.

  1. Monash University:

    Smartphone users on this Australian campus enjoy access to alumni and computer science major James Eunson’s sophisticated application, which includes almost anything they could possibly want. Thanks to the GPS, anyone can map their location on school grounds and figure out how to get to their requested buildings. Other offerings include an event calendar, directory, access to news, shuttle schedules, and course listings.

  2. Harvard University:

    Lauren Landry at BostInno set about comparing and contrasting the official mobile applications of all Boston-area colleges, lauding Harvard’s suite of several as a real standout. Both the law school and the school of public health boast their very own downloadables with content unique to their needs, but the more general ones involve a thoroughly detailed tour of campus (complete with histories!), networking with alumni, following the latest news and events, and even a mini social media feature.

  3. Oxford University:

    Really more of a mobile website than an application, but we’ll let that slide because it stands amongst the best examples of how colleges and universities can harness smartphones to make life that much easier for potential, current, and former students, faculty, and staff. Through its rich, streamlined interface, users browse the legendary library, watch live webcam feeds from around campus (no, they aren’t in co-ed showers, pervert), check the weather, listen to podcasts, learn about public transportation routes, read the news, and plenty of other essentials.

  4. Kaplan International Colleges:

    Available to Kaplan International College students in Ireland and the UK with iPhone or iPod Touch access, the official app seeks to quell some of the anxieties related to making the transition to a brand new nation. Not only do its maps help them navigate their chosen campuses, they also guide them towards cool local places to hang out, get food, and go shopping for both required and not-so-required items. One of its most innovative features, however, is the translation feature, which assists non-native speakers in finding the best phrases and words for the appropriate situation — though it mostly covers the most common scenarios they’ll encounter.

  5. Southampton University:

    MySouthampton boasts the expected event calendar, GPS-synched maps, bus schedule, alerts, weather reports, directories, course outlines, and the like — all pretty standard stuff that any decent university app should provide. But what makes it one of the more unique and notable official college mobile resources is the Friend Finder feature. No doubt inspired by the popularity of Facebook, Yelp, and FourSquare check-ins, this micro-scale social media site connects students who want to meet up with classmates and friends on campus for work or play purposes.

  6. Stanford University:

    Stanford’s more general application blends the personal with the academic, as it allows students to use it as a planner and calendar in addition to enjoying quick access to campus resources. But its crowning glory of harnessing mobile technology comes in a groundbreaking partnership with Bling Nation over anything else it has put out thus far. With a simple tap of a tiny microchip, students pay up at participating Palo Alto businesses, watching their money filter out through PayPal rather than directly from their bank accounts. The service’s debut met with raucous support for its time-saving measures that also, more importantly, help protect their identity just a little more adroitly than a credit or debit card.

  7. Ohio State University:

    Buckeyes fans just love the crowdsourced O-H-I-O! application, whose modus operandi departs completely from the usual official university mobile fare. All it contains is a camera and a photo gallery, where students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni photograph themselves enthusiastically executing their iconic (and eponymous!) rallying poses. Users have contributed well over 4,000 images so far, hailing from all sorts of wonderful and beautiful locations across the globe, which they can browse completely for free as a means of promoting harmony and school spirit.

  8. Cleveland State University:

    Like many notably wired colleges and universities these days, Cleveland State University’s devotion to mobile technology extends to multiple apps. Beyond the expected, one of its “satellite” offerings even won the 2011 Ohio Mobile Apps Development Contest hosted by eTech Ohio. Available for the iPhone and Android phones, Cleveland Historical pulls from the school’s extensive archives to share the city’s past and present with users who don’t even associate with CSU. The Center for Public History + Digital Humanities provides the veritable virtual tour guide free of charge in order to promote education in urban spaces.

  9. University of Virginia:

    Numerous media outposts oftentimes tout this official school smartphone application as one of the best, probably because it wound up one of the very first to utilize augmented reality technologies to make the experience unique. While on campus, anyone with access to it can hold their camera up to an unknown building and receive the basic details. Very handy for freshmen and transfers! Users also enjoy fingertip access to news, pictures, alerts, club listings, recordings of fight songs, admissions advice, directories, alumni information, and other resources spanning the spectrum of fun and necessary. One of the most notable, however, hooks students up with support services, such as escorts or rides home and peer counseling, when they need a helping hand with their safety and mental health.

  10. Cambridge University:

    Cambridge University’s world-class English department offers two amazing, game-changing applications for their students (and teachers) learning and teaching ESL. The best-selling English Grammar in Use series, which covers tests and activities, even assists native speakers with quick pointers regarding the best phrasing for particular situations. For such a deliciously multinational campus, this reaching out to its non-native English-speaking community is no-doubt a thoroughly appreciated move. Probably on- and off-campus alike.

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