Mobile Apps Give Students Instant Access to Information

COLUMBUS, Ga. -- In what may be a nationwide first, new cell phone and PDA applications developed by Columbus State will allow students to have instant access to academic and financial aid information, as well as events around campus.

Programmers in CSU's University Information and Technology Services have been working for months to interface Google Apps for mobile devices with the university’s online, password-protected Student Information System.

With the new Columbus State Mobile Apps, students can now use any Web-enabled cell phone to securely view information about:

• Academic status, such as GPA, adviser contact and grades
• Schedule of classes
• Required admissions documents, such as financial aid and immunization
• Student account information, such as amount owed, refunds available or account holds
• Student activities
• Athletic events
• Campus shuttle bus schedule
• Campus map


“Our ultimate goal is to duplicate all of the services that we now provide to students through our university portal,” said Robert Diveley, UITS executive director of operations. 'By doing so. students will literally have all of Columbus State University’s services on hand at all times.'

Diveley said discussions with colleagues around the country have led him to believe Columbus State may be the first university to put together a mobile application portfolio of this extent.

Google Enterprise Blog asked Diveley to be its guest blogger this week, discussing the new applications. He and Columbus State Chief Information Officer Abraham George will describe CSU’s experiences in developing the apps at a Google reception during the national Educause Conference in Denver on Nov. 5.

Columbus State started using Google Apps Education Edition in early 2009, successfully implementing campuswide Gmail and calendars, as well as using Google’s tools to work with several other sites and applications.

”We’re excited to see Columbus State integrating Google Apps into their mobile student services,’ said Gabe Cohen, Google Apps Education product manager. “This new suite of mobile apps will give students more convenient options to access information important to them.”

Diveley said the mobile apps project was a natural progression of the Google technology, designed to help solve a problem many universities are facing.

“One challenge for Columbus State University, as with many universities in today’s economy, is student enrollment is increasing while budgets remain flat. Therefore, staffing to handle the influx has not been able to keep pace with demand,” Diveley said. “By offering information live through a cell phone or PDA, we hope add to our customer service capabilities, providing Columbus State students access to their most current university information.

George, the university’s chief information officer, noted that, while the state budget has been stagnant, students have embraced the new technologies that Columbus State has introduced and, in fact, voted to raise the student technology fee to bring the best technology experiences to campus.

The Mobile Apps project is yet another way that University Information and Technology Services is putting into action the university’s new strategic plan, George said. The strategic plan calls specifically for developing a best-in-class technology platform and information-based services, as well as identifying partnerships and alliances with world-class technology enterprises. Both are accomplished with Google’s backing of the Columbus State’s Mobile Apps project, George said.