Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New app, ‘Liberty Today,’ will help students

Liberty develops first mobile tool that will include announcements, maps and degree completion plans

Liberty University is currently developing its first mobile application as an institution, according to Matthew Zealand, chief information officer.

The new application will have a home-screen with different cards for each module available, according to Edgard Luz, manager of software engineering at Liberty. Modules that will eventually be able to be accessed by users will include degree completion plans, announcements, indoor and outdoor maps, and news, among many others.

Liberty currently has two apps, Liberty Today and MyLibertyU, but neither were built by Liberty. The new app will be a fusion of the two apps with increased functionality, according to Zealand.

The new app will retain the name, Liberty Today, and will, according to Zealand, be launched by August.

“I think it can be a good tool if we get the right information and people can engage with it over and over,” Ron Kennedy, senior vice president of Marketing, said.

Liberty Today will be tailored specifically to students to keep them coming back for more, according to Luz.

“Our new strategy is to create modules that are specific to the student experience,” Zealand said. “As we launch the modules, they will be able to provide specific information for each student.”

One such module is the Library module, which will send students push notifications when their library books are due or when a book they want from the library is available.

“It’s the strategy of the university to have a single official app and then have all the information that is pertinent on it,” Luz said. “So you only download one app whether you are a student, faculty or parents.”

Despite the reduction of the number of apps, Kennedy says that all of the information that people need will be present.

“We’re trying to come up with a solution to limit the number of mobile apps but find ways to make sure all the information is in there and covers everybody’s needs,” Kennedy said.

According to Zealand, there will be a soft launch of the new application at the end of June. This launch will not introduce new features but merely replace the minimal functionality of MyLibertyU.

“People loved it when it first came out, but now it’s antiquated,” Zealand said. “People expect more. They expect a customized personal experience and that is what we hear on a regular basis.”

The soft launch will give IT the opportunity to perfect the app before the real launch in August or September.

“It’s a complex system, and it takes time to make it just right,” Luz said. “We are doing to our best to come up with the best product at the beginning.”

Challenges that the development team are facing at this stage include fitting all the information into the app without a huge file size and cross-compatibility.

“We honestly believe that what we have so far that we have planned and designed is going to make it the best app for any university that’s out there,” Luz said.

According to Zealand, IT sends out surveys to allow students to drive product direction. These were the whole reason for the development of the new app.

“As you see those, participate, because the voice is there,” Zealand said. “We listen.”

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