By Simone Dixon
Students at Furman are constantly running “technological errands.” In order to complete a single task, like deciding whether or not to add or drop a class, students need to access data scattered across multiple Furman resources.
They may need to access the course syllabus on Moodle, ARMS on MyFurman, the academic calendar for the add/drop deadline on Furman’s website, Outlook email to send their advisor an update, and OrgSync to inform club members that they are now free on Tuesday afternoons.
Two students, Weston Catron and Nick Holt, are collaborating with a team of other students to create a Furman Student Mobile App to consolidate data and resources into a single tool.
Holt says the team envisions the app as a project “designed by students for students” that unifies data from multiple resources.
Other universities across the country and world have student apps, but Catron mentions that many of the large university apps contain features “not designed for the students.” It is for this reason that the project at Furman is student-driven and focused.
The app development team decided to crowdsource possible features through an online survey accessible through facebook over winter break, to which there are now over 140 respondents. The survey is quick and includes an optional free response section for additional suggestions (see url at end of the article).
The survey indicates that the greatest interest is in the following features: a Cultural Life Program (CLP) calendar, sporting events calendar, dining hours and campus facility hours, dining hall menu, a way to track the number of remaining dining hall meals and PalaPoints, and a combination of features on OrgSync and Moodle.
Catron says, “we want to make it [the app] accessible to everyone,” so the team is considering a mobile version for iPhone and Android as well as an online, non-mobile version.
The project is in initial stages of development, but the group envisions that it will be launched by next year, with a beta test later this semester. Presently, they are investing a lot of energy towards determining the scope of the project and obtaining the data they need from various groups at Furman.
The team has already communicated with representatives from Student Government Association (SGA) and the Division of Student Life to discuss how the project will affect students. They have also met with representatives from Information Technology (IT) and Marketing to assess “the extent of student data that the app will be able to unify,” according to Holt.
During the initial phase of development, the team is trying to gain additional support from the student body. A large number of students have already provided support through the survey, and any additional students are encouraged to become involved.
Most students find that the current set-up is inefficient, and Holt agrees, stressing that the team’s goal is “not [to] duplicate, but unify” data.
Catron believes that the app will increase the efficiency of the existing technology. He describes technology as “a tool for human interaction, and if we’re constantly having to interact with technology, [we] lose out on the human interaction.”
Both Holt and Catron emphasize that any input from students is welcome.
The student survey can be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/T58L2DR
The Facebook page for the group can found at www.facebook.com/FUStudentApp
Team members include:
Weston Catron – Programming Leader
Nick Holt – Manager
Zach Hall – Programmer
Ryan Maas – Programmer
McKenzie Martin – Graphic Designer
Ahmed Mustafa – Programmer