New app brings CCM to smartphones

BY MARISA GOGLIA
Copy Editor

As students at County College of Morris gear up for class, smartphones have become as essential as  their books and backpacks.

With email, Blackboard Learn and WebAdvisor all accessible on smartphones, students hardly have to stop at a computer for anything.

On Feb.7, CCM released a new application condensing these features as well as department information all under one place to become accessible to the touch of a student’s fingers.

The original app project began in 2014 as an experiment in Android development by Professor Nancy Binowski for the CCM Department of Information Technologies, according to the credits section of the CCM app.

“The sabbatical project had the intention of exploring how the IT department could incorporate mobile software development into the curriculum,” said Binowski, chair of the Information Technologies Department and faculty project lead for the student-created CCM app.

Binowski said the experiment also caught the attention of the vice president of academic affairs Dr. Dwight Smith, who saw the benefit the app was creating and allowed Binowski to extend the app to all the academic departments at CCM.

“Initially student development teams worked on extending the app to six more academic departments,” Binowski said. “We quickly realized that it was going to be difficult to maintain 19 different apps. So, we designed an all-in-one app…We wanted to easily share department information with students in a format that was comfortable to them, their mobile devices.”

As colleges are remodeling their applications, many universities are relying on student developers to be the impetus behind the apps, to provide feedback on which features should be added, according to University Business Magazine, a magazine for college and university administrators. At the University at Albany a student developer suggested that their app should include a function that sends a text message to notify a student when their laundry is done.

Although CCM doesn’t have laundry notifications yet, some of the CCM app’s features specific to the campus include The Youngtown Edition, Titan Athletics, Career Services, Department Information, the event calendar, public safety and access to CCM’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

“Student app developers were instrumental in deciding what features that students would like to see included,” Binowski said. “Students are the main target audience, so it makes sense that they should determine what is in the app. We also collaborated with various department chairpersons and administrators to make sure that we created a well-rounded app.”

Following a similar replica to the University at Albany, Binowski also enlisted the help of students from her mobile app design class where students learn to design and create Android apps.

Binowski said she wanted to give her students a task to put on their resume once they leave CCM and enter the technology field.

“I needed a team to pull all the code together to unify it and test it,” Binowski said. “I had wanted to give students a real-world project to work on so that they could reference as being a contributor on and be included in their digital portfolio… I was very familiar with the high quality of work that these students created in the class. But, that wasn’t the only quality I was looking for in an app developer. We needed students who had good work ethic, were reliable, and who had good aptitude for learning new things quickly.”

Liam Shamhart, a computer science major at CCM, who was in Binowski’s mobile app design class joined Binowski along with one other student in December to help scale down the application file size.

“So far the major project that I’m working on is optimizing the app because the app is bloated with unused assets right now,” Shamhart said. “If you tried to download the app right now and you’re not connected to a wireless network it will say you can’t download it because it is over 100 megabytes. What I have been doing for the past few weeks is calling through the assets that we haven’t been using and making it smaller. So, that anyone who hears about it can download the app right then and there without waiting to go home.”

Dorothy Scheines, a computer science major said she downloaded the app while sitting in the Cohen Cafeteria and finds it gives her convenient access to WebAdvisor without bringing a laptop.

“Everyone usually has a phone with them at school and some people bring their laptops, and I personally don’t bring a laptop,” Scheines said. “Before when accessing my tuition, I would have to go to the website and go to a drop down bar, which got confusing. So, this app will make it easier because CCM’s website goes down a lot when I am trying to register for classes.”

Shamhart said another component his team is working on is the ability to allow department chairs to send out push notifications to let students know when academic advisement is being held before registering for classes.

“We have an option where you can select what departments you are subscribed to in the app,” Shamhart said. “We’re working on it so that department heads can send a message to all the people subscribed to in that department…We also want to incorporate images in the list view in the department page because a lot of students tend to not recognize their professors by the name, so we want to put a face to the name.”

Jake Sharp, a business administration major at CCM said the Titan Alert should be another asset that is supplemented into the app.

“The Titan Alert should be added or something similar to it,” Sharp said. “That way it can give students notifications when school is closed and if there is any type of delay because I am not opted-in to Titan Alert. So, that is why I rely on my school email to check if there is bad weather. Which is another reason why the app is helpful to check my email and to get those notifications because I don’t have it set up to my phone.”

At the University of Alberta in Canada, they use their app to send out emergency and weather alerts to anyone opted in the system, according to University Business Magazine. The university has 40,000 students and it takes 90 minutes to deliver 18,000 text messages. However, the time is minimized because it takes less than 10 minutes to send 44,000 push notifications.

According to Binowski at CCM, the Titan Alert system is separate from the app.

Shamhart said with certain systems like the Titan Alert it can be encompassed into the app through two formats known as Application Program Interface and Software Development Kits.

“It could totally not work,” Shamhart said. “Sometimes with services like these, they have ways that you could incorporate it either through a web system or an application…. Basically, the developer of the service like Titan Alert gives us specialized tools and functions that allows us to incorporate their service into our app and calls information and retrieves it. It is a possibility for that to happen in the future. I haven’t researched Titan Alert and if they have any API’s right now, but we are definitely always open to suggestions.”

Search for “County College of Morris” on both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store to download the app.

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