Six computer science students at Freed-Hardeman University (http://www.fhu.edu/) in Henderson, Tennessee, teamed up to create a free iOS app that enriches visits to the campus.
FHU Mobile — which works with any device running iOS 4.0 or later — connects you to FHU social media, news, current events, faculty, staff and the admissions office. You can apply via the app, then take a look at your dorm. If you’re visiting the campus, you can use the interactive campus map to get where you need to go.
Michael Jenkins, a May 2011 graduate, was the student project manager. The other members of the team were Caleb Hutson, Cameron Czerwonka, Trevor Robertson, James Allen, and Jeff Boyd. All six were enrolled in Dr. Kenan Casey’s Advanced Topics in Computer Science course. Michael Plyler, university webmaster, was the project manager.
In addition to the usefulness of the completed app to the university, the development process provided a rich learning experience for FHU computer science students, says Casey, Chair, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. The app’s development was the central project of the university’s capstone course in computer science.
“It provided the six seniors with an opportunity to design a mobile app from scratch, learn a new programming language/framework, and implement a complex software product that would be used outside the scope of a class,” says Casey. “I’m also proud to say that all the students who took the class and graduated in May had a job within two months of graduation.”
The original reason for developing this app was to give FHU a presence in the Apple App Store. It took approximately six months and 550 man-hours to complete from the planning phase to deployment on the App Store.
“We’ve developed web apps on several platforms, but the native iOS is something we had not done at the time, mainly due to time and resources,” Plyler says. “Kenan was looking at incorporating iOS development into one of his classes, so the thought was to combine the two and develop a ‘student created’ FHU app for the iPhone, giving us the presence we desired and allowing students the real-world experience and finished product.”
He adds that, “Nearly all the feedback about the app that I’ve heard has been positive. We were very committed to a sound development process from the start, so there were various stages of testing, which I believe has led to a successful app.”
The FHUMobile app is also important because of how it plays into the university’s iKnow initiative (https://www.fhu.edu/iknow/). iKnow, started in 2008, has seven objectives.
“The primary focus of the iKnow mobile initiative has been to enhance instruction and improve student learning outcomes,” says C. J. Vires, vice president for Academics and Enrollment Management. ” As demonstrated through the iPhone App project, FHU is using technology opportunities and projects to engage students in co-curricular activities that extend learning well beyond the classroom in real and meaningful ways. This focus is at the center of many of FHU’s technology initiatives including the new iLearn program, a five-year program seeking to further integrate the effective, relevant, and transparent use of technology in learning.”
Since the fall of 2008, each freshmen student has received a MacBook or MacBook Pro and, until this fall, an iPod or iPhone. FHU discontinued the iPhone or iPod for the reason that most students coming to the university already have an iPhone or other smartphone.
In addition, the school is piloting the iPad this fall, along with Inkling (http://www.inkling.com), an interactive digital textbook publisher. Plans are to provide each incoming freshman, in the fall of 2012, an iPad. This iPad will take the place of the MacBook. Mark Scott, vice president of Technology and Innovation, says they’re excited about the potential of the iPad for the following reasons:
° Overall cost savings for the student compared to current iKnow initiative;
° The ability to maintain a standardized device for classroom usage;
° Facilitates usage of digital textbooks, creating a financial savings for students (textbooks cost an average of US$400-$600 a semester);
° Less distraction for students than a laptop ( i.e., they’re less likely to stray off to Facebook, etc.);
° A more convenient form factor and extended battery life;
° Aligns with professional workplace expectations;
° Supports discipline specific apps;
° Supports PLE (personal learning environment);
° Richness of information via the iPad;
° Strengthens the newly implemented iLearn initiative (http://www.fhu.edu/iLearn).
FHU is a private institution associated with the churches of Christ.