As students return to the University of Indianapolis for the start of the new academic year, they will have a new mobile resource for all things UIndy—the UIndy app. The change was announced in an email from Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Steve Herriford to students, faculty and staff in April. UIndyIT, Communications & Marketing, Professional Edge, Student Affairs, Admissions and Indianapolis Student Government were also announced as having a role in the development of the new app, which uses a framework and platform provided by Ready Education.
The app officially launched on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store on Aug. 19, but students were able to access it almost a week earlier. The early access was not planned, said Herriford, and led to some complications.
“To get it [the app] into the Apple App Store and into [the] Google Play [Store], you have to submit it ahead of time and it actually ended up hitting the stores…quicker than we expected,” Herriford said. “We had students joining student organizations that weren’t even real student organizations. They were just there…[for] testing.”
There were many reasons why the university decided to switch, from the number of users on the old app, which was provided by Ellucian GO, to the feedback they received from talking with student groups Herriford said.
“The other app [Ellucian GO] just wasn’t providing the services that students wanted,” Herriford said. “Students were using the app in the very beginning of the semester to see their course schedule and then they were never using it again.”
According to Herriford, there were roughly 130 users a month on the previous app, while the new app has already had nearly 600 to 700 downloads before it officially launched. The usage numbers were one of the main reasons why Herriford made the inital decision that the university needed to replace Ellucian GO.
“I didn’t want to spend the money on something students weren’t using,” Herriford said. “So we made the decision to do a very rapid development [and] deployment of this mobile app.”
The new app has several features for students that the previous app did not have. This includes a campus wall for students to post messages on, student organizations, the ability to see every campus event in one, unified location and the ability to interact with university offices directly and a tile for students to provide feedback on the app.
The campus wall will be monitored by the university, Herriford said, as students will be posting content using their UIndy accounts.
“We promote the free exchange of ideas, but students are under the same social conduct policies for this app as published in the student handbook,” Herriford said. “Any user can flag a post as inappropriate via the app and those flagged as inappropriate will be reviewed. I would recommend that students use common sense and remember they are posting as students of the university.”
Both Herriford and Assistant Director of Student Activities Steven Freck said that more features are going to be added to the app in the future. The first of these features going live during Welcome Week will be a QR code scanner that will allow students to check in to events using their phones.
“I didn’t want to spend the money on something students weren’t using.”
Freck said that he was most excited for the potential that the app has to inform students about events on campus.
“All they’re [students] going to have to do is open their app and scan a QR code,” Freck said. “That will directly tell us who has attended the event, what event they were at and all of that information. It’s going to allow us to hopefully improve the programming that we’re offering students because we’ll be able to see [that] these events were well attended, [and] these were not.”
One of the best features of the new app, Herriford said, is the ability to have a list of all campus events in a single location.
“I think you’ll see, as students start using it, I think the engagement with other students, with student organizations will get a lot of use,” Herriford said. “The one thing that, when we talked to students and we demoed a couple of different apps to get student feedback, [what] they really liked was the ability to have one spot to see everything happening on campus.”
The app will have integration with ACE, which will allow students to see their assignments and courses in the app instead of having to go to their mobile device’s browser.
Herriford said that the mobile app will likely play a role in the future of myUIndy. The university is in the beginning stages of reviewing myUIndy and how it should evolve to meet the needs of students.
“Between the public website and the mobile app, what is the purpose and reason for myUIndy?” Herriford said. “That kind of remains to be seen because we want feedback from the students on the mobile app as we roll out new features and then [ask] what would they like to see? Then the next phase of that is you’re gonna…[be asked] ‘What does myUIndy give you that the mobile app doesn’t?’ and vice versa.”