New Indiana State mobile app, website grant Blackboard access for students and faculty

By: Austin Arceo, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
September 6, 2012

After Indiana State University launched its first smart phone mobile app in January 2011, ISU's mobile team wanted to learn what additional features students wanted in the app.

The overwhelming response has led not to minor improvements, but to ISU's next generation smart phone application - and a new mobile web site.

Indiana State has launched ISU Mobile, the new smart phone application that features multiple upgraded features initially included in the previous version along with new features requested by students. ISU Mobile includes the ability for students to access Blackboard, which features details about university classes and information professors post for their students. The university now has a mobile website that resembles nearly all the features provided in the mobile app, which students highly sought after the first mobile app was released, said Santhana Naidu, web services director at Indiana State.

"At the heart of this release is the integration of Blackboard so students can view all of their class information from their mobile device," he added. "Then it also brings in other elements that were already available in the previous mobile app in a much more user-friendly format."

The previous smart phone app could not be modified in the ways needed to grant access to Blackboard, which helped lead to the creation of ISU Mobile. The new application has been created as an "open source model," making it easier than the previous application to be changed. Consequently, student programmers and professors are encouraged to create new features that they would like to see in ISU Mobile, and university programmers will review them before potentially integrating them into the application.

"Not only can they create their own app," said ISU social media developer Amy Bouman, "but they can also help us to improve."

Several student programmers working on the ISU Mobile also have been its initial testers. Chris Ndife, a senior information technology major from Terre Haute, has enjoyed several of the new additions he worked on in the interactive map. While the previous version had a map with some informational elements, the new version includes details on bus routes and schedules, along with where to find ATMs, print stations, offices "and anything you might need to access on campus," Ndife said.

The Directory and Events tool in the mobile app can be added to smart phones easily by touching an icon. Students even will have the opportunity to search through course catalogs and plan for future semesters.

The opportunity also has given the programmers hands-on experience with technology in a growing field, as they have worked on various aspects of the app, including debugging it prior to its official launch.

"It has given me a new insight into my field and potential outlets in the future for what I could do as a professional," said Steven Riley, a senior information technology major from Clinton. "The whole thing is impressive. It's something that I've never known about until just recently."

The app does not provide access to ISU e-mail. Members of the ISU community are encouraged to program their smartphones to directly receive their university e-mail (instructions can be found at http://www.indstate.edu/mobile/).

"Smartphones can already be programmed to directly receive ISU e-mail," Naidu said. "This capability provides far more direct and instant access to e-mail than integrating it with ISU Mobile."

While people can now download and use the new ISU Mobile application on their smart phones, those who choose to access www.indstate.edu from their smart phones will not miss out. Modo Labs, the company working with the university on the new app, also has been working on the same modifications for the Indiana State website when accessed from a mobile device. People visiting the mobile site from their smart phones can also access Blackboard and get much of the same information without necessarily downloading the app.

Indiana State programmers also expect that, as additional features are added to the ISU Mobile app over time, many of those features will likely be added to the mobile website as well.

"That way we're killing two birds with one stone," Ndife said, "and it's consistent between the app and the mobile web, so there's no room for confusion."

The new application was launched in the first of what will be multiple phases for the project, with additional features to be released in subsequent stages. The web services team in Indiana State's Office of Communications and Marketing have teamed with the Office of Information Technology, along with Modo Labs, which has created the smart phone application platform for multiple universities, including Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Villanova.

ISU Mobile will continue to be updated, likely after the phased rollout is completed, to accommodate further desired features, or as they become more feasible.

"It's not like once it rolls out it's a final product. It's something that's going to continue to be worked on well past our time here into years in the future, depending on where this technology goes," Ndife said. "It'll be something that students working in this department will probably continue to have a chance to work on."

You can download the app by texting mobile to 63566 or by going to www.indstate.edu/app from your smartphone's browser.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-rmjmZFm/0/L/i-rmjmZFm-L.jpgThe new ISU Mobile and Indiana State University mobile website are now available for use on smart phones.

Contact: Santhana Naidu, web services director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana state University, 812-237-8037 or santhana.naidu@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu