Life’s annoyances and inefficiencies often inspire innovation. Just ask Jordan Riggs, co-founder of SchoolInfoApp, a company that helps schools create custom mobile apps to engage with their communities.
"My wife and I have six kids that literally play every sport and do every activity possible with their school, and we just went looking to see how we could work with the school to create a mobile app where we can keep up with everything, and we didn't find it," Riggs says.
The struggle to keep up with their children’s team practices, games and school events led the entrepreneurial parents to create TeamInfoApp, an athletics-focused mobile application, in 2011. TeamInfoApp transitioned into SchoolInfoApp in 2012 after the company received feedback from schools that were interested in creating apps to highlight news and events beyond the athletics department.
The mobile applications developed by SchoolInfoApp offer a host of features, including event calendars, interactive maps, picture and document galleries, push notifications, social-media integration, contacts directories and news feeds.
How do schools get their data into the app? They initially send the company any documents or information needed for the app and after processing the documents, SchoolInfoApp produces, manages, and updates the app on behalf of the school. They also monitor the school's website for any updates that may not have been sent over.
According to Riggs, SchoolInfoApp can usually produce a custom mobile app in 30 to 60 days, depending on how much time a school takes to submit all of the necessary information.
Amanda Hartle, communications coordinator for the North Hills School District in Pittsburgh, Penn., describes the application-development process as "painless" and "surprisingly simple."
"When we launched in January, as far as I know, nobody in Western Pennsylvania had [a custom mobile app]. So we really are on the cutting edge around here with this technology," Hartle says.
The North Hills School District has 4,200 students and is made up of four elementary schools, a junior high school and a senior high school. According to Hartle, the district's app, which is available to parents, students, alumni, and staff, was downloaded approximately 1,100 times in the first seven weeks of its implementation.
Smithfield High School in Smithfield, Va., launched its app at the beginning of the 2012–2013 school year. Dr. Stenette Byrd, Smithfield’s principal, says the document feature included with SchoolInfoApp saved his school $2,000 in printing costs for student handbooks.
Schools can also offset the cost of their apps through in-app sponsorships, such as a banner ad, from local businesses.
“Not only is the app not costing me money, I'm actually making money from it,” Byrd says.
Byrd predicts every school in the country will have its own app within the next few years. "If we truly call ourselves educators, then we need to be educated on using the technology that many students already have in their hands."
With mobile devices set to outpace desktop devices, it's time for schools to start considering a mobile-first solution for communicating and connecting with its communities.
Has your school considered developing its own app?