Meeting Mobile Needs
College offers new mobile site plus apps

With an explosion of users on smartphones and other portable devices, the college recently rolled out a new enhanced mobile website while launching complementary apps in the Apple and Android stores.

Mobile-enabled websites focus on user tasks. The college developed its first such site in house in summer 2011. The original site’s most popular features have included an online directory where users can call or email contacts directly, an interactive map, dining menu and modules supporting events like Reunion or Orientation.

Screen capture of mobile websiteFor the new mobile site, academic enhancements are on the horizon, such as better integration to support online and hybrid learning, as well as opportunities to better allow students to check grades and register for classes via mobile devices.

Web analytics demonstrate the need to adapt to mobile technologies. For the 12 months ending October 2011, 2.9 percent of all campus visits to oswego.edu came via mobile devices—smartphones and tablets. For the 12 months ending October 2012, the figure more than doubled to 7.8 percent. By last month, 10.1 percent of visitors to the website were on mobile devices. Sift out internal traffic—such as in computer labs and personal computers on campus—and the external mobile traffic for the past month leaps to 17.3 percent.

The college’s Public Affairs Office and Campus Technology Services partnered to work with Modo Labs, which provided a mobile Web framework and designed and implemented the new mobile site.

“Modo also adapted the mobile site into two native apps—one for iPhones and iPod Touch devices, and one for Android devices,” said Rick Buck, Web support specialist in the Office of Public Affairs.

Ongoing development

Buck developed the early mobile website from Mobile Web OSP, “a cousin framework of Kurogo, which Modo Labs uses,” he said. “Kurogo has a very active developer community and Modo Labs encourages its developers to continue building upon and improving its open source framework. It means there is a lot of community and professional support, more so than our previous framework.”

James Daniello, a student employee majoring in computer science until his summer 2012 graduation, developed the new dining menu and weather modules in the mobile Web and native apps. “We were very fortunate to have a student of James’ skill level and problem-solving ability to take on parts of the project,” Buck said.

One challenge the boom in the mobile marketplace brought was providing a presence that represents the college as a whole in a way that makes smart use of resources, said Tim Nekritz, associate director of public affairs and director of Web communication.

“For the past few years, you’d have vendors contacting various offices and departments trying to sell them one-off apps that just addressed a small niche at what were, honestly, outrageous prices,” Nekritz said. “And that was just for set-up fee. Once someone goes with them, they are stuck with additional costs any time they would want to change something, which would be often.”

Such a decentralized approach also would have yielded different silos with no central representation of the college that can answer all of a student’s problems, he added.

“It’s like the old parable about the blind men and the elephant, where each one only encountered one part and mistook the animal for something else—a tree, a wall, a rope, a spear, a snake and a fan,” Nekritz said. “The elephant in the room is that we’re one college where our students, faculty, staff and visitors should have one mobile site or app that can address needs across departments and offices.”

Users can find the mobile site at m.oswego.edu or the apps listed as “SUNY Oswego Mobile” in the App Store and on Google Play.

PHOTO CAPTION: On the move—Through a partnership with Modo Labs, the college recently launched a new custom mobile web site (pictured, as well as mirroring apps in the Apple and Android stories. The move comes as visitors to SUNY Oswego’s web properties via mobile devices continue to skyrocket.

(Posted: Nov 02, 2012)