The University of North Dakota recently launched its mobile app with iTunes (download here).
Currently available for iPhones, the app will be available for Android and Blackberry users in the near future.
Some of the mobile features include news, maps, directory information, athletics, courses, video and photo albums, TheLink, and emergency contact information. The list will grow in the future to include such things as events.
Senior Garrett Wedan uses it because, "I can pull up the UND app while sitting listening to music and sipping coffee in Archives (a UND coffee shop), go to Blackboard, log on and look at the lecture notes from last week," he said.
"I can double check when my group is supposed to be meeting, look at my grades or take an online quiz all at my fingertips. I can look at the UND news we see on the website or maybe if I'm wondering what the men's basketball score was last night I can tap the Athletics icon."
Wedan sits on a number of campus technology committees and serves as the campus's Apple rep.
"We're happy to join a select group of universities around the world that have an official mobile presence," said Tim DeBolt, UND's director of communications and e-Marketing. "Now that we're launched, the UND mobile project will remain in a constant state of evolution as we work to improve and add to existing apps. Plans for our mid-summer upgrade releases include MobileLearn™, transit schedules and a UND/Grand Forks Community Events app. This is something that we have been developing in communication with Mayor Mike Brown's Office, so that we can provide an online Community Events calendar and accompanying free mobile app for all residents of Grand Forks.
"App users will be able to search, experience, and find out about greater Grand Forks events online or on their smart phones. UND is very much part of the Grand Forks community. We are working hard to give Grand Forks residents something they find useful and fun. Stay tuned," DeBolt said.
The project has been in the works since roughly 2009 and championed by Chad Bushy, LMS administrator and application specialist, and Timothy Pasch, UND assistant professor of communication.
"At that time, most of the Blackboard Mobile Central technology was focused around the iPhone and North Dakota didn't have AT&T as a carrier so that really wasn't an option for us," said Bushy. "As the technology evolved over the last year, new apps became available for Android OS and Blackberry phones.
"In January 2011, Verizon announced they would be a carrier of the iPhone so it pushed us even more to make it available as soon as possible."
As the technology evolved, so did general use of mobile devices - meaning demand for more options has skyrocketed. Pasch noted the widespread increase in mobile device use by American postsecondary students (as reported in Educause Quarterly, Vol 34, no 1), as well as a survey of UND students, specifically, that indicated a growing demand for mobile devices. In fact, 62 percent of UND students report owning some kind of Internet-capable mobile device (Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, Android, etc).
"These trends continue to increase, making the presence of a mobile app for UND even more essential as a vehicle to provide up-to-the-minute data essential to the student experience," Pasch said. "This data can consist of information related to academics, wellness, and social events and opportunities, potentially, facilitating participatory engagement both on-campus, and in the greater Grand Forks community."
The app can offer legitimate help, too, not just convenience. "For new students, say they live in Brannon Hall, and on the first day of classes they start walking and realize they don't know where they are going. They can go to Maps search for the building they want, map their current location and figure out how to get there," said Wedan.
Pasch added, "From a faculty perspective, I am thrilled that students will have the ability to rapidly browse the course catalog."
There are only a few universities across the country making advances with mobile apps at this time, and the group responsible for UND's is proud to be "ahead of the game in regards this type of technology." Schools that UND looked to while building the app included Stanford University, the University of Washington and Duke University.