Phone app aims to make campus student-friendly
A new UALR app with a variety of functions was released to students and faculty on Tuesday, Sept. 18 through the Apple app store.
The concept, which was drawn from a number of other state universities, was developed by a team of three departments that includes the UALR Office of Communications, Information Technology Services (ITS) and Scholarly Technology and Resources (STaR). While a separate Blackboard app was released to online students last year, expansion for a general app gained momentum during the summer months and ultimately resulted in the newly-released final product.
Jennifer Godwin, UALR’s Web Communications Manager, has only been with the project since May but expressed surprise at the fast-paced nature of the creative process.
“If you think about it, two and a half months is not a long time to do something like this, so we went with the essentials first,” Godwin said. “This is a work in progress. It’s only in phase one, and we’re excited about it.”
The app, which is available on Apple iOS, contains 12 individual widgets that include useful tools for students on and off campus. While it includes some standard functions, such as faculty and emergency contacts, it also implements an augmented reality map that marks specific UALR locations. Trolley schedules, news and access to the university’s YouTube channel are also included.
Godwin says that once general reactions are garnered from the intended market, the development team will begin to expand the app to include a variety of other features. That includes making a version available to Android users as well as possibly including a map of all blue-light emergency stops.
“If you look at some of the other school apps, the University of Arkansas [in Fayetteville] also used Blackboard, so it’s a very familiar concept. But we designed our own widgets so it does look and feel like UALR,” she said. “We just feel like we did a great job of getting the essentials out there and we’re excited to keep adding as we get feedback from everyone.”
Godwin also believes that while Blackboard has caused some problems in the past, the app’s development saw many rewards with utilizing such established software.
“Because Blackboard Mobile has helped develop more than a few apps for universities, we reaped the benefits of its expertise,” she said. “Ultimately, we see this app as enriching the campus experience by providing the UALR community with the best mobile technology has to offer.”