For some, browsing library shelves in search of that book is half the fun; but with deadlines looming and Jammie Shuttles to catch, who really has the time?
Now, the nifty new UCT Mobile application for smartphones and tablets allows students to - among other things - access the online catalogue, search for and reserve books, and even check fee account balances. Along with library access, UCT Mobile zips every conceivable bit of information a time-pressed student might need to navigate a semester at the university into a handy package available in the palm of a smartphone user's hand.
Developed by the Information and Communication Technology Services (ICTS) in partnership with the Communication and Marketing Department, the app seeks to eliminate the sense of foreboding that sometimes goes with having to manage one's diary.
From course timetables and Vula access, to course results and the Careers Service portal, UCT Mobile promises to be a one-stop-shop for students' administrative requirements.
The app has been designed for - and will work optimally on - touchscreen devices, be they of the Android, IOS or BB10 varieties. With that in mind, UCT Mobile will work on any phone running Android or IOS, and the free download can be found in each platform's app store. The app can also be downloaded from UCT mobile.
"We built the UCT Mobile app with our students in mind, by looking at their everyday needs and requirements," says ICTS's Dave Heyns. "Our goal was to provide a platform that would enhance their integration into campus life and make it easier and more convenient to access the tools they use every day. We hope that they will benefit from the app and that they will assist in its further development and improvement by sharing their experiences with us."
That will come as music to the ears of students who need to check their lecturers' latest notifications on Vula, but find themselves far from a computer lab. App users can skip the notorious lines at the Fees Office, too. A glance at your device is all you need to discover your fee account balance. Alternatively, if a student is determined to brave the queue in the Kramer quad, he or she can pass the time by streaming UCT Radio, using the same app.
The vast expanses that are UCT's campuses can be a maze for those new to the university, which is where the comprehensive map function comes in handy.
"The app is the first step in a number of steps that we want to take around improving the online experience of our students, the public, our alumni, and anyone interested in UCT," says Kylie Hatton, deputy director of UCT's Communication and Marketing Department (CMD).
"Although the app focuses primarily on students, looking forward we know that mobile is where everybody is moving to. So, for me, the most exciting part of the app is that it's going to push us to look at all of our online offerings and question how they look and work in the mobile space.
"Another exciting thing is that we are not reinventing content - just taking existing content and packaging it so that it's more user-friendly."
This means, for example, that the 'Libraries' function will direct students to the UCT Libraries website, where they can go about their business.
"One of the things that the app is trying to do is to answer the highest-priority needs of students in terms of their user-experience," says Hatton. "So we are reviewing existing products, like Vula and the Jammie Shuttle, and looking at how to make access quicker and easier. "Ultimately, the ideal is that all of those different services work across multiple platforms, so that it doesn't actually matter where you are or what device you're on, because your experience will be seamless."
While users would still need an active internet connection to awaken the app's full potential, Hatton gives her assurance that the app was designed to be light on data-use.
"One of the things that we are trying to create is a user-driven experience. We'll ask ourselves: who are the people who use these products? How can we make it better so that we can communicate what UCT needs to give them?"
Hatton praised ICTS for its work in developing the app, which began around the second half of 2013.
We've had a very nice working relationship with ICTS [on this app]. This project is a forerunner of other collaborative projects CMD wants to embark on to improve the communication experience at UCT."
While Hatton admits that there were some risks involved in embracing new technology, she describes the approach as "cautiously adventurous".
"It's new technology for all of us. There are always risks with these kinds of things; it's about managing and mitigating those risks, but at the same time being willing to try new things."
Story by Yusuf Omar.
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