Inigral’s Schools Application Customizes Facebook for Universities

Inigral developed an early  Facebook app, Courses, that lets students do things like see who else is in their classes and share. More recently, it has been taking its education-focused theme a step further with its latest offering: Schools. This app aims to help universities meet the needs of potential and current students, and keep in touch with alumni through a Facebook platform connecting to a university’s network.

All told, Inigral now has 11 signed customers for Schools with a total of three that are currently active — Abilene Christian University, Arizona State University and Columbia College Chicago. Abilene went live in 2008 and ASU and Columbia started in 2009.

Schools creates an online community by connecting students academically via their dorms, courses and class notes; it also goes outside of the academic realm by connecting students with similar tastes in clubs, groups and activities. Users can become fans of dorms, majors, departments, each of which has a unique fan page within the app with accompanying photos.

But, Schools is not your typical Facebook application, as co-founder and chief executive Michael Staton tells us. The measurable success of Schools is not in monthly active users (of which there are about 6,000), but rather in whether its clients — universities — are able to better retain and communicate with prospective and current students, staff, faculty and alums.

Success is helping universities through the “life cycle engagement platform,” that is taking them from high school to student to alumni to donor, by assisting them most especially with keeping freshmen students on for a second year.

Universities around the country suffer roughly a 20% attrition rate between freshmen and sophomore year, Staton said this is largely the result of not feeling “engaged,” Schools is meant to help keep students enrolled by creating “student interconnectedness” from the very beginning of the experience with an institution.

Schools hopes to give prospective and current students, alumni and faculty a chance to: create discussions between people in the same organizations, residence and courses; receive notifications; share class schedules on Facebook; interact with professors without showing their profiles; find other students near their location; see upcoming events and get in touch with alumni.

Ideally institutions using Schools would send out updates often, if not daily, and also encourage participation by providing useful tips, institutional history and culture, promoting events and inviting students to participate in short polls — although not all of the schools using Inigral appeared to do so. Given that Schools markets itself as a replacement for alumni magazines, an active Facebook presence is essential.

Inigral’s initial focus was on building software for current students, now the company’s focus is the incoming class of 2014, so that the app is “pivotal to them before they make (an admissions) decision.” The next step, Staton said, is to build software for alumni.

“We’re trying to build something useful that’s durable, that is going to become core to how a university operates,” Staton said. “So we’ll create a space for universities to create and engaging spot for their audiences.”