The trend in the last five years in higher education tech is to engage students with apps. Apps are being utilized by universities and professors to get students involved on campus, to access academic resources and to stay connected in the classroom.
With the aid of a smartphone, users can summon rides with Uber, order their coffee at Starbucks and, now, they can set up an appointment with their academic adviser; all from mobile apps.
Large universities such as Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin have centralized apps that provide information to students such as bus routes, campus maps and class schedules. Apps are an established part of the student experience at larger universities and are becoming the new normal for smaller universities like UHCL.
UHCL is jumping in on the app trend this spring with the introduction of Navigate, a new app for undergraduate students. An app from the Office of Student Life will be launching later in 2019 that utilizes the GetInvolved platform, which is a new website that launched in January for student organizations on campus.
Using the Navigate app, students can log in through their E-Services account and access their class schedule, make appointments with advisers, see events going on at UHCL and look up campus resources. As of Friday, Jan. 25, 812 students have downloaded the app.
Angie Montelongo, director of orientation & new student programs, is a member of the Navigate marketing committee and anticipates the new app becoming a great way for students to stay connected with UHCL when they aren’t on campus.
“It gives us another way to connect with students, the university as a whole,” Montelongo said. “Students are the heart of this institution, and so if there’s a way to make their experience easier or better with this technology, you are ideally using this technology to connect students to people on campus who care about their experience that they are having.”
Charity Panciera, education major, downloaded the Navigate app shortly after the launch and thinks the concept sounds useful for students, especially those who are new to UHCL.
“I think it gives you a lot of information about the things going on around campus that would’ve been nice information to have as an incoming student,” Panciera said.
The Navigate app features class schedules, to-do lists and tips for students’ success. A feature that Panciera would like added in the future is an interactive map of the campus.
“I would like to see a map of the school with a GPS tracker so I know how to get places,” Panciera said.
Peyton McClain, sophomore physics major, used Navigate to make an appointment with her academic adviser. She said it was easy to use and to set up appointments, but she would like to see more notifications from the app.
“I’d like it to set reminders,” McClain said. “It didn’t tell me on the app today that I have an appointment with my adviser. I got an email, but I think it’d be better if the app did it.”
Dillon Nash, coordinator for student life organizations and activities, said that the new GetInvolved app will be based on the GetInvolved website that their office launched at the beginning of the spring semester. Get Involved is an events hub that student organizations can use to broadcast events and students can use to search for an organization that they’re interested in joining.
“It makes everything easier to streamline all the organization paperwork through this platform that we’re using,” Nash said. “Student orgs are able to broadcast their events, unlike before where they had to flyers around campus to get the word out there. Now there’s a hub for all things student organizations and events.”
The GetInvolved app is being developed with the upcoming generations of students in mind.
“It’s targeted to Generation Z students coming in and millennial students that we have currently,” Nash said. “As we are moving into a more traditional campus with our students, it’s something that most traditionally-aged students are used to.”
Apps are also a resource for professors in their classrooms. Anna Klyueva, assistant professor in communication and public relations, uses an app called iClicker Reef when she lectures.
The iClicker app tracks attendance and students can take quizzes in the classrooms straight from their smartphone. Klyueva uses the app to take polls in classroom discussions and show the results in real-time in her Powerpoint presentation. The app replaces an older technology called a classroom response system, or “clicker.”
“iClicker works for the majority of students,” Klyueva said. “I find that it helps students stay engaged and be motivated to come to class.”
Klyueva also thinks that the addition of apps is a great way for UHCL to engage students with technology.
“In the diffusion of technological innovation, UHCL is in the late majority that has the size of a student body as we do,” Klyueva said regarding the addition of apps on campus. “This is something that, for us, will only be moving forward, hopefully. We’re very dependent on technology, so I foresee a lot more introductions [in apps]. Any technology that helps facilitate learning should be embraced, and we should promote it.”