Navigating the school mobile app landscape these days requires a pretty large map. In our own diligence to find the right mobile app partner to co-develop a fully integrated mobile app-website solution, we found so many vendors with a wide range of deliverables. I feel for the school communications lead who’s trying to make sense of it all.
The good news is that getting a mobile app for your school isn’t that difficult. There’s a long list of quality providers who can create a functional and appealing app specifically for your school and your community.
Now, if you think that having a mobile responsive website is sufficient for reaching your audience on their devices, think again. Data shows that’s probably not the case. A 2014 study from Nielsen shows that when it comes to mobile browsing, 88 percent of it is done through an app, while only 11 percent of browsing by American adults is done via the internet. If you’re solely relying on your website for mobile communications, you could be missing the boat.
Like me, your whole life is probably on your phone: calendar, contacts, emails, financial information, social profiles, and let’s not forget Google Maps. We all rely on our phones in some capacity for so many daily tasks. Your students, parents and teachers are no different. They’re just as reliant on their devices as you are on yours. That means that when they look online for school-related information, they’re probably doing so on their phone. If not, they should be.
Start with our top 20 school mobile app list
When you begin your search for a mobile app provider, narrowing – much less selecting one – could be a little tricky. This round-up article should make things easier. We’ve listed some of the most popular educational app developers with some high-level information about what makes them unique. Once you get the big picture of providers, you might want to download the School Mobile App Planning Guide we’ve compiled to help you make an informed decision about the right mobile app approach.
Mobile app developers can be segmented into three categories:
- Stand alone
With a bundled provider, the app comes in a package with a host of other services, such as website development, content creation, and even email and social media services. A standalone provider will let you purchase the app development without committing to other solutions. And finally, a DIY provider gives you a framework for creating your own app, but leaves much of the execution to you.
Bundled school mobile apps
These providers offer mobile apps as part of a broader package of web communications tools that can be purchased together or separately.
SchoolMessenger offers a robust notification system that allows you to push out important notifications to your audience via text, phone, email, and social media. The company also offers website development and host of other digital solutions. Apps at SchoolMessenger come in two forms. One is the InfoCenter, which comes free with SchoolMessenger’s other notification solutions. InfoCenter is a non-branded, generic app that your teachers, students, and parents can download. The app will deliver any messages that you want to distribute.
The other option is a custom designed school app that features your own branding and specific content. Your app could include activity schedules, important notifications, grades, supply lists, and any other information that you feel is important. Custom built apps are an add-on cost to the notification package.
You’re probably familiar with many of Blackboard’s other education solutions. Blackboard now offers app development as part of its suite of services. Blackboard apps can feature much of the information you would expect, such as notifications, grades, lunch information, and more.
If you’re already using Blackboard in the classroom or to communicate with parents, then a Blackboard-developed school app could be a seamless integration for you. Also, Blackboard allows you to drill deep with information and notifications. For instance, you could set up the app to send a parent notification if a student’s grade drops below a certain level. A little over a year ago, Blackboard acquired ParentLink, adding a nifty mobile app to its ever-broadening reach in the K-12 world.
SchoolGlow prides itself on affordability and development speed. Their apps have most of the features you want, like notifications, news updates, schedules and calendars, grade access, lunch information, and more.
However, SchoolGlow offers those features at an affordable annual rate. Turnaround time is weeks instead of months. What you gain in cost savings and development speed, though, you may give up in terms of customization.
Our new app development service allows you to seamlessly integrate your website content and notifications with your app. Teachers can push out announcements or assignment updates. Coaches and activity organizers can get important information to their teams. And parents can quickly access any information they need about their child’s education.
Stand alone school mobile apps
These providers typically let you purchase the app development without committing to other, more comprehensive web communications solutions.
As their name suggests, SchoolInfoApp focuses on one thing and one thing only - apps for schools. They offer a wide range of options and features. If you’re operating on a budget, you can use an unbranded app based on a template. Or you can pay more for a custom app that is branded to your school or district. If you’re only looking for an app, without any other web development or content solutions, then SchoolInfoApp could be a good choice.
Crescerance develops only custum apps, so you can be sure that it will have the features you want and will include your school’s branding. Also, Crescerance gives you a marketing kit when your app is complete. The kit has printed posters, flyers, and other collateral you can use to encourage your students, parents, and teachers to download the app.
Like some of the other providers on this list, Yourmobileschoolapp.com focuses only on mobile apps for schools. They can customize features, design, and much more. For a low budget, quick turnaround app, you may opt to use one of their templates. However, if you’re willing to invest more money and time, they can develop an app specifically to meet your needs.
appmakr4schools offers many of the same types of apps and features that other developers offer. However, they can also build apps for specific purposes, such as an app exclusively for alumni, an app for your school’s football team, or even an app for fundraising.
iSchoolbox is another affordable, stand alone app provider that can either build you a custom app or provide an affordable option based off of a template.
Dublabs builds apps exclusively for schools and offers many of the same features that you will find with other providers. They also offer an easy-to-use backend dashboard so you can quickly make changes to your app content.
Again, you’ll find notifications, news, grading, calendars, and many other features with mylyapp.com. One appealing feature is the app’s ability to identify which parents and students don’t have the app and then use text or email to send alternative notifications to those recipients.
Schoolapptitude.com offers a robust set of features, including the ability to pay for lunches via the app and scheduling for, volunteer activities, PTO meetings, and parent-teacher conferences.
Schoolway offers apps with a fairly narrow focus. Their apps function more as a one-way notification service rather than a robust content platform. However, they could be a good choice if you’re looking for an affordable messaging system.
Whizfish may be the most affordable option on this list that isn’t a DIY solution. If you’re on a tight budget and notifications are your biggest priority, whizfish could be a good choice.
Do-it-yourself school mobile apps
These providers give you a framework for creating your own app, but leave much of the execution to school staff or other suppliers.
They provide the platform and you fill in the blanks. An app from iBuildapps may not be branded or full of content, but it will function and it will be extremely affordable.
This is a DIY option that is geared toward the educational industry. You can customize the app with your logo and your color palette. You can also choose from a menu of pre-built app features.
Again, this is a DIY option that allows you to choose from a menu of features and also allows for limited design customization. It does have the ability to integrate with your website for content integration.
Powerschool’s app solution is a non-branded, non-customized platform where you simply enter in the information relevant to your school. When your parents, teachers, and students download the app and log in, they see the relevant information. A good starter option for schools on a budget.
Mobileschoolapps.com advertises app development and launch within 24 hours, so they could be the choice for you if you’re in a time crunch. Like many other DIY options, you’ll choose the features you want and then plug information into a template.
Schoolmobile.com offers one of the broadest ranges of features among the DIY options. They also offer some customization features so you can integrate your brand into the app.
Finding the right mobile app provider for your school may be an intrepid journey, but it’s also an important one. The last thing you want to do is invest money into a solution only to find out that it’s the wrong provider or platform for you. Take the time to research your options and make sue it's a good fit.
Once your app is developed and launched – if done right – you’ll find that your students, parents, and teachers will appreciate the new technology. Your audience has gone mobile; it's part of their daily routine. Make your school app part of it too.
If mobile is the future, then the future is already here. It’s time you meet them there.
- 7 Must-Have Features for your School Mobile App
- 3 Keys to Consider before Selecting a School Mobile App
- How a School Mobile App Can Help Reach Parents
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @jay4schools.