iSouthernMS app offers map, news
Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Updated: Monday, February 21, 2011 17:02
Technology is the hottest thing at USM right now, and the new iSouthernMS app for smartphones is just another milestone for the university's iTech department. The app, released in October of last year, was developed under Blackboard Inc. – USM's long-term educational technology partner.
The idea for an app specifically for USM students came about when Homer Coffman, Chief Information Officer for USM, saw a demo for it at a conference. The app was based on an idea conceived by a group of students from Stanford University, where they built an app for their own university. Blackboard eventually bought them out, and began catering to different universities around the country.
"It was an exciting opportunity for our distance learning initiative and allowed us to make it more convenient for students to stay connected," Coffman said.
The iSouthernMS app has multiple functions, all aimed at increasing connectivity across campus between students, classes, and university news and events. Current features of the app include a campus map where one can search for individual buildings by name, a full list of classes and their respective schedules, athletic events and up-to-the-minute scores, campus news, and videos. The app is easy to use and minimalistic in design, featuring the traditional black and gold of the Golden Eagles.
"I think it's a cool app," said Linell Bonnette, a freshman computer science major at USM. "There are issues that need to be dealt with, but the coolest feature is the map, in my opinion. I can see that being very helpful."
Michael Sims, freshman polymer science major, said, "I think it's a useful app, and I have it in case I need to look something up. But most of what I do on the USM website is on SOAR, so I wish they would add that feature to it as well."
In fact, iTech and Blackboard have several improvements and additions that they hope to make very soon. Chuck Knight, Director of Enterprise, Software and Solutions, said that they are looking at new modules to be added to the app, such as a centralized calendar of events, a directory much like the one currently available on the USM website, an emergency contact module, as well as an upgrade to the course module, making it more flexible.
"The most exciting update is one that I'm looking forward to very much myself – a way to integrate SOAR into the app, so students can log in and manage their accounts from their phones," Knight said.
There are also future plans to include integration with the Blackboard course management software, a GPS-enabled map, and parking availability across campus.
"We're pleased with the success we've had so far," Coffman said. "There's a major shift in the way students use technology, and we're striving to make sure their diverse needs are met."
The app is currently available only for the iPhone, iPad and iTouch devices; however, the Android version is expected to be released in the next month, followed by one for Blackberry. The app is available for download from the Apple iTunes App Store.