Students, left to right, Zach Bergquist ’21, Shawn Preval ’20, and Erika Hedden ’20 are helping to make the Emerson College app more student-centric. Photo/Derek Palmer
The Emerson College app debuted last year, chock full of information. This year’s app is full of information students want to know, right this minute.
Three Emerson students – Erika Hedden ’20, Shawn Preval ’20, and Zach Bergquist ’21 – are helping Director of Web Services Jason Beals G’01 redesign the app so that it’s more transactional, practical, and customizable.
“I thought there was some opportunity to make it more student-centric and more user-friendly in a way, so the average Emerson student could use it every day,” said Bergquist, a Marketing Communication major.
The redesigned app is building on a pretty solid foundation. Last spring, the Emerson College app, designed by a different team of students led by Beals, won Best Student Designed App at Kurogo 2018, a mobile technology in higher education conference hosted by Modo Labs, which Emerson partnered with to create the app.
But in focus groups and through personal experience, Hedden, Preval, and Bergquist realized that not only was there was room for more “situational” uses for the app, but that students weren’t fully aware of all the functions the app already had.
“[W]hen you’re trying to develop a product for people, you should tell them what it’s for and how they can use it in their lives,” said Preval, a Marketing Communication major.
So now students are able to submit time sheets, check grades, book study rooms, research papers, and catch up on Emerson news from a host of campus sources from wherever they might be. They can check to see if there are any washing machines available in their dorm, or how much time they have before their load is dry.
New this year are push notifications, which will alert students to campus events and important deadlines whether they’re in the app or not.
Hedden said living off campus last year, and not being part of any organization or club, she often felt disconnected from what was going on socially at Emerson. She’d often learn about interesting events after the fact, or too late to change plans.
With the app, “I wanted to focus on events happening on campus and keeping students in the loop and making sure they know about them,” Hedden, a Communication Studies major, said.
Students can opt in to one of two (or both, really) channels of notifications: “What’s Happening” will tell students about one-time events like performances, lectures, and fun activities. “Get Involved” will let them know about auditions, informational meetings for campus clubs or organizations, and other actionable events.
A third channel will push things that students absolutely need to know, like academic deadlines and calendar changes (last day to add/drop a class, Monday holiday schedules) to their smartphones.
And because everyone knows “push notifications can get annoying,” Hedden said she tailored the feature so that no one should get more than one of those pushes per week.
The team spent a lot of time rearranging the app so that the functions students said they would most use was the most visible, Preval said.
“[Now] brains are trained to think like that: ‘If I don’t see it, I don’t use it,’” he said.
Hedden said during Orientation Week, she was tracking new downloads, which numbered in the hundreds, and was able to see the results of the team’s work in real time.
“It was cool seeing how many people were at this very second using it,” she said.