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College campuses can be big, bad, scary places, particularly for freshman.
Campus Quad aims to help students find their place using tools already at their disposal — smartphones.
“I just can’t believe students are still communicating with paper fliers,” founder and chief executive officer Frances Cairns said in an interview with VentureBeat. “Universities are communities driven by shared interests. I wanted to build something that gave students a voice and the ability to take back and navigate their college experience.”
The mobile app contains location-based postings from students and university organizations about campus activities. The goal is to put the “pulse of the community” in their hands so students can stay on top of what is going on around them, follow their interests, and communicate with fellow students.
It brings the social-local-mobile trend to campuses, which still rely primarily on antiquated paper fliers, bulletin boards, and word-of-mouth to publicize events.
Cairns spent years working as an administrator in higher education and then transitioned over to the ed-tech world, where she held senior roles at Adobe, Apple, and Dell, working on strategy for their educational products. Before Campus Quad, she founded a mobile ed-tech startup called Inkstone with former Apple colleagues, where they created e-reader apps.
On one fateful trip to a college campus, she realized that all the students were on mobile phones, but the critical information they needed to get the most out of their college experience was not.
Campus Quad has categories for photos, events, classified ads, and coupons. Anyone can post, and Cairns said the app helps reduce noise. Certainly, there is value in making it easier for students to meet like-minded people, find organizations that interest them, and enhance their sense of community, but the value is also in preparing students for careers.
Extracurricular activities can be just as important as your academic record on a resume.
Campus Quad aims to empower students to take greater control over their extracurriculars and can decrease the amount of missed opportunities that result from “not knowing.” They can track information sessions about specific jobs or industries and connect with alumni, and Cairns said all these things together could not only improve matriculation and graduation rates but also employment afterward.
An alarming 44 percent of young college grads are unemployed or underemployed. Much of the blame has been placed on traditional educational institutions, which no longer prepare students for the world we live in or the jobs that are available in it.
The ed-tech sector is thriving as a result, but only a small portion of the innovation is geared toward campus life. Online education, student loan financing, children’s iPad apps, administrative and management software — these types of products are proliferating but don’t actually impact the day-to-day life of the 20 million college students in America.
Data is also an important component of what Campus Quad is trying to do. It collects information on what students are engaging with and their habits and helps universities assess the effectiveness of their student services. Cairns said the main goal is social intelligence and creating a digital network that reflects the physical campus.
Campus Quad has raised $1.5 million in seed financing, led by Follett Corporation and Ingram Content Group Ventures.
Duke University, Stanford University, and Foothill College will roll out Campus Quad this fall.
It is based in San Francisco.