DePaul goes digital with phone app

 DePaul students can now find out everything they need to know about the university with the help of iDePaul, a new application for mobile phones.

Through this application users are able to access course information, events, maps, news and more. According to Bob McCormick, vice president for Information Services, students can log-in using their Campus Connect ID and password. They are also able to connect to course assignments and discussions from D2L.

If users aren’t students, they can access everything but course information and the DePaul directory feature, which allows students and faculty to look up anyone in DePaul’s system. However, users with privacy settings have been respected and omitted from the app’s directory.

“The rest of the application is really there to answer the question, ‘What’s going on at DePaul?'” said McCormick.

He also believes it’s a way to unify the campus and make students’ lives easier.

“You get that sort of sense of community and engagement, of people not being able to have to go to multiple places to find out what’s of interest to them,” he said. DePaul students had expressed interest in having an app for quite some time, according to McCormick, but he claimed there was “no expert on mobile application development” in DePaul’s IT department to carry out the request.

Instead of hiring someone to design an app, McCormick said they kept an eye on third-party vendors. Their patience paid off about a year ago, when AT&T offered DePaul an application for purchase that they couldn’t refuse. Last January, the university signed a contract and began compiling information for the app. McCormick said they formed a committee with members from a variety of different administrative offices, from Student Affairs to Public Safety.

This software has three distinct perks, according to McCormick. It allows DePaul to brand the app and personalize its code if desired. Plus, any changes the university makes to the app will be updated automatically, so students and other users don’t have to re-download it.

“If we want to create new things in there…we could do that ourselves and not have to wait for the vendor to do that,” McCormick added.

The content of the application was organized by the vendor. According to McCormick, the vendor has sold this software to about 300 schools, and it surveyed the students at all of them to determine what content would be the most useful.

“This is literally what the vendor has out of the box,” he said. “These were the things that students wanted from a sort of meta perspective.

“Over time, we need to figure out what makes sense for our campus,” he added.

iDePaul is being released on iOS, Android and BlackBerry and will be free in all three marketplaces. Eventually, McCormick said the vendor might write software for Windows 8 phones. However, he said the initial three are a reasonable representation of the phones most people have on campus.

With technology advancing like it is, McCormick said that he believes this application is a good way to “see a DePaul presence” in more ways than just standard Internet.

“The technology is moving very fast at the moment, and students especially are keeping up with that technology change,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure that we can keep the university aware of those and present in those arenas.”