Technology continues to develop at a pace that will make your smartphone spin. Any problem in need of a solution seems to have prompted another technological wonder, sometimes in the form of an app. Apps are great for both consumers and producers: they make life easier for consumers while ensuring you cannot do without the producer’s creation.
Surprisingly, there are still areas where an app is desired but has not yet been designed. This is particularly evident at an online university. Sure, there are all the regular student apps, including the AUSU-sponsored mobile app. But AU students are not “regular”. We are unique. We work differently. There is no cookie-cutter solution that works for us.
AU students have unique needs unimagined by traditional techies. Consequently, our student lives are burdened with situations under the techie radar. Here are a few apps we’d like to see:
Obsessive Marks and Grades app (OMG app.) This app, custom designed with the AU student in mind, relieves the student of the tedium of checking for grades. Valuable student minutes and hours are wasted after every submitted assignment and exam checking for marks. AU students have been known to begin checking for grades within mere moments of submitting an assignment or exam—yes, you’re not the only one! The OMG app does all the work of logging into the myAU portal at user-defined intervals of 30 seconds to 30 minutes. If newly-posted grades are detected, an onscreen alert appears on the student’s mobile device, tablet, or laptop. Alerts can be accompanied by an optional music selection depending on the grade: from the glorious Hallelujah chorus of Händel’s Messiah for an A+ (90-100%) right on down to the encouraging Beautiful Loser by Bob Seger for an F (0-49%.)
Save Our Submission app (SOS app). How often have students begun to submit an assignment through Moodle but forgotten to click the Submit button? After clicking Add Submission, Upload, and then Save Changes, students often overlook the final click to Submit. The SOS app will identify assignments stalled before the Submit phase and send a progression of alerts. The first alert is triggered when the student logs out of myAU without clicking Submit on an assignment. A reminder alert is triggered 24 hours later. If the Submit button isn’t clicked by the course end date, an elevated alert is sent to the student and the course tutor and, optionally, the student’s mother or spouse.
Spam aLert app (SLAPP.) Never again will a student’s email to a tutor languish—unnoticed, unread, and unanswered—in the tutor’s spam folder. This app traces every email sent from AU student to AU tutor. If the app detects that an email has been directed to a tutor’s spam or junk folder, or that an e-mail has been unread for more than 48 hours, an alert is sent back to the student. An optional feature sends a pre-recorded message to the tutor’s phone number with a gentle reminder to retrieve the important student message from the spam heap.
Social Media app—Retrieval Troll (SMART.) AU students consistently report that massive chunks of study time are lost to social media. Without a doubt most of that time is spent looking for valuable educational information on Facebook. This app searches the most popular social media sites, including Facebook, reddit, Twitter, The Landing, and many more, for user-defined search terms. Now students can receive alerts whenever, for example, a relevant course name or code is mentioned, or the term “easy course” or “no exam” appears in relation to an AU course on social media. No more fumbling around asking for tips: the tips come to you via an onscreen message and/or a daily email digest.
These apps will save the AU student time, money, and frustration. These apps recognize the unique quality of an AU education. These apps are what AU students—if they had been consulted—would have asked for.
Unfortunately, these apps still reside in the technological future. But surely it is only a matter of time before the super-smart and motivated scholars taking COMP courses offered at AU fill this technological void. The demand is great, so hopefully students won’t have to wait for too many more spins of the smartphone for these essential apps.