As soon as you walk through the doors of any campus building you can see it – students rushing to their next class, studying at tables or talking with friends on the sofa chairs, and they all have their cell phones at hand’s reach. So why not use them to our advantage in this academic atmosphere? More and more student-handy apps are popping up to make our lives that much easier.
The most recent of these apps, Hawk Mobile, was released shortly before this school year began. Originally initiated by Laurier’s Students’ Union three years ago, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) ended up taking over the direction. With the help of Laurier physics and computer science professor Chinh Hoang, three separate groups of computer science students have put in the time and effort to develop this free app. The last of which brought everything together over this past summer and received a school credit in return.
This app gives students the ability to check their grades and class schedules at the click of a button. Hoang mentions one of the most important features is the updated class cancellation list. Interactive maps of both the Waterloo and Brantford campus help if you don’t know what building you are needing to head to, and a “what’s cookin” app offers dining options in the area with hours of operation and contact information listed. Essential links such as MyLearningSpace, MyLaurier email, the library and both campus bookstores are attached as well. An important number directory is there to fall back on, and news feeds from Laurier Athletics, the Laurier official website and the Students’ Union keep you updated regularly.
Hoang is proud to say the best of his students were the ones to develop this app. “It’s good for the department, it’s good for the students, it’s good for everything,” says Hoang. “If you wanted to hire a company [to create this app], I’m just guessing, I would think about $20,000.”
As of now this app is only available for android and blackberry phones, and can be found on the Google Play Store and Blackberry World. Hawk Mobile hopes to be available on the Apple Store sometime this fall.
Switching over to apps available for iPhones, DisplayNote Technologies has recently developed a free app called Swoodle to help with collaboration in group assignments. This app actually began as a solving mechanism for collaborating between DisplayNote’s two separated locations in Belfast, Ireland and Spain. “We very quickly realized that this is a fantastic tool for students, because students are already texting, chatting, and video calling and voice calling, and there’s a convenience factor there of combining that with working,” explains Kris Nixon, a content creator for DisplayNote.
Swoodle is basically a combination of Google Docs, Skype, Slack, WhatsApp and email when it comes to features. Users are able to edit documents together just like within Google docs, but an additional feature gives users the opportunity to invite other users to watch what they are editing in real time. While doing so, users are able to pull up a video chat at the bottom of the screen, similar to Skype, and can explain exactly what they are changing and why. Just like messaging systems such as WhatsApp, Slack and email, users are able to send electronic messages on this same screen, and receive voice calls as well.
“If you’re not able to meet up and work together, Swoodle, as far as I’m concerned, is the next best thing,” says Nixon.
Swoodle gives users the ability to share photos, and edit them with similar options as Paint, and can also be seen as a real time presentation for invited users as well. A doodle option offers a virtual white board, which brings out time for the fun things such as X’s and O’s or hangman.
The amount of people able to collaborate on Swoodle at a time is potentially limitless, explains Nixon. It has been tested successfully with 22 users, but can only fit four video chats at the bottom of the screen during one time. This app offers grand possibilities for students such as: group work, tutoring, teaching, editing, and helping friends with homework. Swoodle is hoping to venture into the android world within the upcoming weeks.
Another recent app for students is called SAFEHawk, which is available for all phone devices, also free of charge. The official Laurier website sums its features up as: “campus-specific emergency contacts at all Laurier locations, personal support resources, safety tips, new feeds, and accessibility information.”
Tied tightly to the special constables, this mobile safety application provides real time campus safety alerts, flash light and alarm functions as well as opportunities to reach special constables, local police services, and personal or academic support resources on and off campus.
These three apps pulled together give us the informative value of having everything to know about Laurier at the click of a button, educational opportunities to collaborate with students even with our busy schedules, and features to help keep us safe while we’re at it all. Developers consist of students, Laurier faculty, special constables and even an exterior software company; obviously the people around us understand the difficulties during this school time, so let’s take advantage of their efforts and make student-life that much better for ourselves!