A host of Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) websites and online services now are at the fingertips of smartphone and tablet users through the free “CSULB Mobile” application that’s receiving national recognition.
In Campus Technology’s article, “6 Higher Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2013,” CSULB’s mobile app initiative is singled out as leading in tech trends for this coming year.
“Everybody needs a presence in the mobile app environment these days, so because we’re working with a younger audience, it even makes more sense that we would have an app,” said Leslie Kennedy, CSULB’s director of Instructional Technology Support Services (ITSS), who noted the need for apps isn’t just trendy but has solid support from major educational technology organizations including Educause.
Since its launch in the fall, more than 14,000 users have downloaded CSULB Mobile, which is available on Google Play for Android devices, the Apple App Store and BlackBerry App World, making CSULB one of the first CSU campuses to offer its app on all three major platforms, Kennedy said.
“We didn’t build the app, we licensed it from our vendor Desire2Learn, which we use for BeachBoard,” said Liem Nguyen, ITSS learning technologies system administrator. “It’s a tool that they created and the beauty of it is that it lessened the development time, and it supports all three major mobile platforms. In addition, we have coordinated with the campus stakeholders on the campus regarding how the information is going to be displayed.”
According to Roman Kochan, dean and director of the University Library and interim associate vice president of Academic Technology Services at CSULB, “Leslie called me up one day and said, ‘Roman, we have this great opportunity,’ and we took it. We’re excited about this.”
“The app is meant to be an information tool at the university community’s fingertips,” Kennedy explained. “We consider students to be the CSULB mobile’s primary audience and so not only does it allow students to access our BeachBoard learning management system, but it also helps them to access the bus transit sites or news feeds from various university news areas, access the library and the research databases,” and much more.
For instance, students can log onto BeachBoard to see faculty and campus announcements and their grades; visit the Associated Students website for activities and schedules; and even review book lists by class name and place book orders online through the 49er Shops Bookstore site.
The University Police link provides its phone number for emergencies, the community service officer’s night escort contact information, and an information board to be used in the event of an emergency.
In addition, “There’s a map that allows students to look for buildings and/or parking lots. It describes where the lot is and how many parking spaces and even disabled parking spaces there are. So, we anticipate that the map will not only help students currently but also campus visitors and the SOAR students coming for freshman orientation,” Kennedy said.
A variety of campus calendars also are available along with the university faculty and staff directory where users can click on phone numbers to call or e-mail addresses to send messages. There even is a 49er Athletics site including news, schedules, rosters and links to the full athletics site.
Kennedy said her team including Nguyen and Stephanie Garcia, ITSS mobile app developer, received input and assistance from a variety of CSULB and external individuals and offices. “We also did some of our own research and looked at some of the other mobile sites that universities have currently—Stanford University was the first to release a mobile app in 2008—and others like the University of Central Florida, UC Berkeley and all the CSU apps to see what standard items are found on those apps.
“We worked with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s mobile app team, which shared its code for parts of the app with us,” she continued. “That was really helpful. We talked to San Diego State as well. The app development process has been a collaboration and that was the recommendation from several resources such as Educause.”
In turn, her office works with CSULB departments and program webmasters to create mobile-friendly web content. For example, they have worked with Vu Mai, webmaster with Student Services, and Duong Vuong, web developer for Associated Students Inc.
“Publications web art director Jorge Hurtado had everything to do with the display, which is consistent with the university web look,” Kennedy noted. “We coordinated with many campus organizations, and we contacted constituents who might be interested in being represented on the app. For instance, under News you’ll see the Daily 49er, ASI news, Inside CSULB, Beach Review and even EmeriTies.”
She also credits Information Technology Services’ Ed Lara for mobilizing the campus directory.
Like most apps, CSULB Mobile continues to expand and improve to add new content and capabilities, Kennedy said. She expects future additions to include the ability for students to view the variety of campus dining options in the residence halls and in the food courts, view class schedules and eventually register for classes; stay in touch via an alumni area including the myBeach site; and make appointments and find health information via the Student Health Center site.
Thus far, CSULB Mobile is a big hit with users, Kennedy said. “The app store ratings and comments are very positive. Only about six or seven CSU campuses are using apps, but more are releasing their mobile app in 2013.”