Our mobile app – the story so far….

We first started looking at Mobile Apps for Education and Learning in February time and it seems to have taken a long time to get to where we are now. We’re not finished as it will always be an ongoing project but hopefully we will have a working app very soon.
When we are started we had three strands – one was to investigate suitable apps for education and promote them to students and staff, secondly to acquire devices and install apps on them that could be borrowed and used effectively and thirdly to have a College app created and available for everyone to download.
The first part has not moved along much really but I’ll pick it up again after January. I’ve not made much progress because of problems with wifi in College and although there is supposed to be some College iPads we have to get round some authentication and proxy issues. This is the second part too really although we have got some iPod touch’s which we have used with some apps including QR code readers.
So the third part – we had asked students what they wanted it to include plus we knew that we wanted to have access to our VLE, Blackboard via the app.

Therefore we set about investigating the feasibility of producing the app through Blackboard – it’s not possible to access a mobile version of Blackboard unless you use their solution i.e Blackboard Learn. But we didn’t want just the Blackboard Learn facility, we wanted it ‘wrapped’ in a customised front end / user interface. We wanted to include images, videos, maps, news etc. Blackboard do offer a Central App which can be customised.
We produced our plan and went through the usual process of getting capital bid funding within College. We decided that we would sacrifice the content collection part of our Blackboard license if need be to fund the mobile.
There was also the possibility that our marketing department had an app in the pipeline and that there would be too much overlap.
We had wanted to have an app ready for September for new students and the new academic year but it wasn’t possible. Once we had agreed the license changes with Blackboard then we were assigned a project manager to discuss our requirements and ensure that we got what we wanted. Our eLearning manager and eLearning technologist have worked really hard to make sure that the interface is exactly what we wanted. The Blackboard Learn part is straightforward – it’s just there really and connects into the VLE in a mobile format. The ‘central’ part took more designing and developing. The important requirement was that it was one main app with everything else inside. We wanted students to go to the app store and download one app. Once the app is opened then there are 8 sub apps – news, maps, images, videos, contacts, twitter, dining and Blackboard.
The app has to be available for iOS, Android and Blackberry – from our questionnaire we knew we had lots of Blackberry users among our students. We have had a test build of the iOS App that we have tested and improved, also an Android version. The Blackberry one is still to come.
This is what it looks like so far:

Hopefully we will be going live in the next two weeks…….

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