Schools, tech companies tailor social sites for students

Wed Aug 18, 2010 1:40pm EDT
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By Carolina Madrid

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Heading to a new university for Fall 2010 and want advice from other students? Looking for housing, textbooks, knowledge about a professor or class, or simply a ticket to the weekend's big game?

Technology companies and your school may have answers on your computer or mobile phone, and it won't cost a thing -- at least not yet.

Colleges and universities across the United States are going beyond simply creating websites and pages on Facebook for students to "friend" or "fan." They are working with technology companies to build their own social networks and integrate them into campus life to boost admissions and retain students.

One new app from San Francisco-based Inigral, Inc. allows colleges to create social networks within Facebook, while a mobile technology from Foursquare gives students the ability to walk into an event, check their phone and find other students.

Like many apps from technology start-ups, these student-oriented ones currently are free for users, but the owners see the potential to make big profits in the future as capabilities increase and usage grows.

"We want to be able to find prospective students where they are, and it is clear to us that Facebook is the dominant source," said Columbia College Chicago's executive director of admissions Murphy Monroe, whose college recently adopted the new app from Inigral, called "Schools on Facebook."

"We want to meet them there in a secure way, and in a way that feels authentic to our school's culture, and the (new) product gave us an unusual way to do that," Monroe said.

The app, called "Schools on Facebook," allows colleges to form private communities that give students school-specific profiles and keeps them separate from personal accounts.   Continued...