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UCSD recognized for superior campus mobile apps

UC San Diego, frequently named among the country’s highest-ranking schools, has another advantage to tout: its iPhone app.

The university’s News Center notes that it was one of the first campuses to launch a mobile application in 2009, and continued innovation landed it a spot on a USA Today list of “Five Colleges With Great Mobile Apps.”

Over 20 different apps designed for use by students and faculty do everything from providing customized walking maps to class to offering online textbook purchasing to loading menus at various campus eateries. The Mobile Web Framework technology, originally developed at UCLA, is “device agnostic,” meaning it works on new and old versions of both iPhone and Android operating systems, making individual programs more universally accessible.

“Today’s students have a deep connection with mobile devices,” Brett Pollak, director of the Campus Web Office, tells News Center. “Most haven’t known life without them. We have to be on the forefront of this technology so that we can deliver content on the devices that students are using.”

Another innovation touted in the technology is “responsive design,” which custom-tailors the look of pages to fit the format being used. Since 2009, the number of different screen sizes on internet devices viewing UCSD’s homepage has jumped from 22 to over 500, creating the need to configure pages on the university’s site to reflexively adapt to provide optimum viewing on anything from a full-size desktop screen to a mobile phone. Cost savings by using this technology instead of creating two separate designs (for computer and smartphone view) for each university page is estimated at in excess of $1 million.

The next project, web designers say, is to make students’ grades and course information accessible via mobile, including an option to receive a text message when the latest exam results are available for online review.

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UC San Diego, frequently named among the country’s highest-ranking schools, has another advantage to tout: its iPhone app.

The university’s News Center notes that it was one of the first campuses to launch a mobile application in 2009, and continued innovation landed it a spot on a USA Today list of “Five Colleges With Great Mobile Apps.”

Over 20 different apps designed for use by students and faculty do everything from providing customized walking maps to class to offering online textbook purchasing to loading menus at various campus eateries. The Mobile Web Framework technology, originally developed at UCLA, is “device agnostic,” meaning it works on new and old versions of both iPhone and Android operating systems, making individual programs more universally accessible.

“Today’s students have a deep connection with mobile devices,” Brett Pollak, director of the Campus Web Office, tells News Center. “Most haven’t known life without them. We have to be on the forefront of this technology so that we can deliver content on the devices that students are using.”

Another innovation touted in the technology is “responsive design,” which custom-tailors the look of pages to fit the format being used. Since 2009, the number of different screen sizes on internet devices viewing UCSD’s homepage has jumped from 22 to over 500, creating the need to configure pages on the university’s site to reflexively adapt to provide optimum viewing on anything from a full-size desktop screen to a mobile phone. Cost savings by using this technology instead of creating two separate designs (for computer and smartphone view) for each university page is estimated at in excess of $1 million.

The next project, web designers say, is to make students’ grades and course information accessible via mobile, including an option to receive a text message when the latest exam results are available for online review.

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UCSD is highly ranked in many ways, but it does not connect with its students, and has a weak alumni connection. While it may be true that “Today’s students have a deep connection with mobile devices”, those at UCSD do not connect well with UCSD. Oh, they go there, graduate, and head out into the world, but few have fond memories of the time they spent there, and fewer are likely to be "old school" alumni. In fact, that campus may be the sort of university of the future, where every student is connected through mobile devices to all sorts of "friends" that are really unknown to the "friend", tapped into the instructors gradebook, very aware of the fine lines of the curriculum, but deeply unhappy. Some years ago the campus ran a piece about the Muir College campus and how it had been designed to mimic some of the outdoor spaces at Oxford that provided places for students to gather, socialize and study. Centuries of use there had proved their effectiveness, or so the piece claimed. But they were describing the area in and around the prison-like, stark and sterile towers constructed about 1969, Those are the ugliest buildings on any university campus that I've ever seen, and some alums laughed themselves silly when they read that description. Yet the campus pats itself on the back over and over with claims such as "superior campus mobile apps." LOL, or cry. Your choice.

Sept. 6, 2012
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