The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation made its first ever equity investment, giving $2 million to Inigral Inc. for Schools App, an education-focused Facebook application that builds intimate, college-specific sites for colleges in order to build a sense of community among its students.
Schools App uses the interconnectedness and collaborative nature of the social network as a way to draw college students to one another and help them stay connected with their college culture.
The ultimate goal is to increase student retention, something that has become increasingly difficult as tuition fees soar and kids struggle to work and study at the same time.
“A college student’s decision to drop out creates a lot of challenges, for that individual’s future and our society at large,” said Michael Staton, Inigral co-founder and chief executive officer, in a press relate. “Schools App can increase a student’s sense of belonging and integration within an institution, lowering the chances of attrition.”
Schools App kicks in as soon as the student is admitted into her school of choice and joins its private network. As opposed to liking a school’s very populous and often unregulated Facebook page or group, this application personalizes the experiences quite a bit more, matching students with similar interests and encouraging them to interact with one another.
For newly admitted students, this means building connections with their school from the day they are admitted to the first day of class. That initial summer of waiting and anticipation seems to be the time when new students drop out the most. Last year, about 35,000 new Facebook friendships among students were created through Schools App.
Most importantly, the application continues to foster a sense of community throughout the academic year. According to Schools App, students engaged with it during their first year stayed in school 5% more than students who did not.
“Our Facebook application has, with very little effort or management, quickly become a remarkable center of activity and friendship building for incoming and new students,” said Matt Green, Director of Student Communications at Columbia College Chicago, in the Inigral press release. “It’s very transformative for your students’ first-year experience.”
Do you believe Facebook can truly help keep kids in school? What do you think about Inigral’s application for students?