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University News

Computing, Information Services solicits UCS feedback on BrownU app

App features include event information, dining menus, laundry machine availability

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 6, 2020

BrownU, the official app for information related to the University community, including dining menus and campus maps, has been built to have features specifically relevant to students. Both staff from CIS and students from UCS met to discuss the app’s future development.

Staff from Computing and Information Services presented on the recently launched BrownU mobile application and solicited student feedback at the Undergraduate Council of Students’ general body meeting Wednesday evening.

CIS Director of Digital Innovation and Ecosystems Delphine Lucks and Customer Experience Specialist Charissa Prentice were joined at the meeting by Stephanie Obodda, assistant director of IT communications and training, over video conference. They discussed possible improvements and expansions to the app to be incorporated in its upcoming redesign.

BrownU, available for iOS and Android, was launched prior to orientation in August, The Herald previously reported. The app has “on-the-go information for the Brown University community including campus events, dining menus and laundry machine availability,” according to its description in the Apple App Store.

Obodda highlighted the app’s emphasis on features that she believes students would use every day. “We wanted to whittle down the ideas to what we felt would really resonate with students,” she said.

Rather than building the app from the ground up, CIS used an existing app platform and adapted it for specific features relevant to Brown students, Lucks said, adding that the department had about six weeks to create the application.

Obodda said that the University plans to redevelop the app “in-house” later this year, taking into account faculty, staff and student feedback obtained in-person and through in-app surveys. “Those little micro features of the app are the things we really want to hear” about, she said.

UCS members brought up several functionality issues they had experienced with the app, with several pointing to the laundry machine availability, shuttle tracking and dining menu features as primary causes of concern.

Obodda responded by detailing the difficulties of integrating the app programming with the existing online interfaces that track these services. She told the general body that making the integration process between these services smoother is a continued priority for the development team.

CIS has also investigated the possibility of installing occupancy sensors around campus to allow the app to display crowding levels for spaces such as dining halls and the mailroom, Obodda said.

Lucks said that the app is intended to easily accommodate functionality changes in response to future events or initiatives that may occur on campus. She highlighted the app’s “persona” element, which tailors the interface to a specific student or campus visitor’s most relevant functions. Currently there are both undergraduate and graduate student “personas,” as well as ones for attendees of temporary events such as conferences.

Lucks talked about the development team’s desire to continually adapt the application for wider groups on campus. “We didn’t think initially that graduate students would be interested in the app, but it turns out they were in need of an app as well, so it’s really been a learning experience,” she said.

Chair of Student Wellness Shivani Nishar ’20 suggested that the app include more information about the accessibility of various spaces on campus, such as restrooms.

Chief of Staff Melissa Lee ’20 asked about the possible inclusion of future UCS initiatives in the app. She suggested the Council’s airport shuttle program as an example of information that students would benefit from having access to on their phones.

UCS also discussed the election process for committee positions currently occupied by seniors, a new career mentorship program to connect Council alums with current UCS members and plans to continue the airport shuttle program during University breaks using recently obtained funding.

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