Alexa Tawzer, who studied at Central Oregon Community College last year, said she used the community college’s website to check her student email, view her grades and perform other tasks during her time at the school.
When she found out that COCC just launched a mobile app to handle those things in a neat package, she admitted that the old method was confusing at first.
“If the new app is more intuitive, I probably would’ve used that,” Tawzer, 21, said.
In September, COCC unveiled a new app for students and faculty.
Oregon State University-Cascades launched its own app a year earlier. Since this fall, more than 1,500 people have downloaded COCC’s app and 600 people have used OSU-Cascades’ app.
Dan Cecchini, COCC’s chief information officer, who advocated for the creation of the app, said creating it was a no-brainer, given how many millennials and members of Generation Z choose to use their phones.
“There’s tons of data saying that typical college-age folks are doing more and more things with apps every day; that’s just the way they’d like to interact,” he said. “We thought we would provide the medium they like to use to do business.”
According to Cecchini and Darren McCrae, the college’s technology project manager, COCC staff configured and modified an existing app template from Virginia software company Ellucian, which operates the college’s information systems for grades, finances, and more, to build the app.
McCrae and Cecchini said their team took Ellucian’s basic app and integrated COCC email accounts and other specialized, school-specific features. For example, if students click on a class on their schedules, the app will pull up a campus map that shows what building the class is in and displays a photo of that building — a necessity for new students navigating COCC’s sprawling, hilly Bend campus.
“It’s very stressful being a student in that first week, and the last thing you want to do is be late,” said Cecchini. “I think we’re seeing less lost-looking students during the first week of class than we used to.”
Bend’s other higher-education institution, OSU-Cascades, launched its app in September 2017. Nearly half of the university’s 1,259 undergraduate and graduate students have used the app since this fall. The Bend campus had to wait a few months after its larger sister campus in Corvallis received the app that March, according to OSU-Cascades spokeswoman Christine Coffin.
The OSU Mobile app offers a slightly different experience for students in Corvallis, and unsurprisingly, there are more users on the larger campus — 13,681 unique users in Corvallis since Sept. 1.
According to Coffin and Edward Lee, OSU’s mobile services manager, 85 percent of traffic on the app is generated by the “My Classes” module, where students can see their schedules, check assignments and grades, participate in class discussions and view a campus map.
According to Lee, OSU also bought an app framework from a company, Ready Education, and personalized the content and design. Lee added that OSU Mobile will have a refresh by fall 2019, which will have more features emphasizing the social side of student life. For example, students can create groups and have private conversations in the new app, post on a “campus wall,” and confirm their attendance at college events.
However, another app OSU-Cascades students and faculty use alongside OSU Mobile, Canvas, might be even more popular. Professors can post assignments and grades online through Canvas, and students can turn in assignments. Tawzer, a junior at OSU-Cascades, said she uses Canvas every day, while she rarely opens OSU Mobile, except for checking her tuition bill or registering for classes at the start of a new term.
“I used it a lot in the fall, but I don’t find myself using it much any more,” she said.
Just as OSU plans to revamp its app soon, COCC staff said they don’t plan to keep their app in stasis.
“The app isn’t in its infancy, but it’s certainly going to be evolving and getting better over the next couple years,” said McCrae.
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