Inside USD

Mobile App Connects Students, Resources

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Moises Barón focuses his attention on the issues of University of San Diego students’ health and overall wellness. Indra Bishop is in the business of producing technology that simplifies the process of gathering information for the campus community.

So it made perfect sense this summer when Barón, assistant vice president of Student Affairs and Student Wellness, approached Bishop about working together to give USD students access to important campus information via the university’s MySDmobile program.

The result is the launch of the USD Resource Connect mobile application, the “first in-house fully developed app,” Bishop said, and part of MySDmobile’s recent Version 2.1 upgrade.

“We wanted an app that would be very useful to our students,” Barón said. “USD Resource Connect gives them all of the different dimensions of wellness in one location and access to the information to be connected.”

Barón’s team developed the concept and provided the content after getting a good cross-section of student and staff feedback. It was submitted to Bishop, director of Enterprise Administrative Systems and Services, who took student involvement a step further. Robin Luo, a full-time USD MBA student from China, served as the app’s lead developer.

“It was a win-win,” said Bishop of Luo’s involvement. “We wanted to give Robin a chance to develop his project management skills and we utilized the skills he already had for developing an app.”

Luo, scheduled to graduate in May, said it was a great hands-on experience and that he’s proud to be part of a technology product that all USD students can use.

“Robin was wonderful to work with,” Barón said. “We provided the visual of what we wanted and he had the programming knowledge. It was a very good collaboration.”

USD Resource Connect’s visual look centers on a “spinning wheel” mechanism. It allows students to search 10 different dimensions — academics, environmental, financial, occupational, physical, psychological, safety, social, social justice and spiritual — to then determine categories and campus resources available.

Say, for instance, to know more about USD and the environment, simply spin the wheel to the “environmental” dimension. The category menu wheel will automatically go to sustainability. From there, you have resource options: Be Blue, Go Green; Outdoor Adventures; Parking Services; Recycling on Campus; Solar Dashboard; Tram Services; and Zip Cars. Push one button and you’re connected.

“We wanted to provide a level of care that helps students find that connection, whether it’s social, academic or another dimension of wellness. With this app, you’re covered,” Barón said.

Bishop said the new app delivers technology that helps students get the most out of their college experience. The other key upgrade on Version 2.1, the second since MySDmobile debuted in Fall 2009, is giving students with Android smartphones access to MySDmobile. Android users can download MySDmobile from the Android Market for free.

Bishop has a lot of praise and admiration for her team of developers who, in addition to their regular technology projects, have given of their personal time to support the USD mobile applications. The team includes Shiva Ayalasomayajula, Paul Melia, Rommel Rico, Steve West and Rahul Dhiman.

Bishop said the next major update is to add authenticated applications to add/drop classes, check grades and pay bills. Given the security issues involved, this update is tentatively expected by next fall.

Meanwhile, the partnership with Student Wellness on the USD Resource Connect app worked so well that Bishop encourages others with an application idea and the desire to collaborate to contact her.

“Our plan is to use the ‘Design and Develop Once — Deploy Everywhere’ approach, to make serious inroads into developing a mobile development strategy that may work for us,” she said. “Surging ahead with limited resources poses a huge challenge. We’ve been very successful using a community-wide approach to meet this challenge by tapping into the skills of our developers from other teams and student and staff expertise on campus. We hope to continue to use this power of crowdsourcing to expand mobile applications at USD.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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