Mobile application allows students to connect to large campus from anywhere

Campus Guide Plus from AT&T gives University of Illinois at Chicago students one-stop access to campus information

With over 25,000 students, the University of Illinois at Chicago is the largest university in the greater Chicago area. Its urban setting just west of the Loop means it is an important part of the educational, technological and cultural fabric of the city. With such a campus, the institution’s leaders knew that students, staff and visitors would need a singular place to access directional and other information. “We had tried to implement a mobile app, but it turned out the platform could not perform a key function on Android devices,” says Cynthia Herrera Lindstrom, chief information officer and executive director of the Academic Computing and Communications Center. “That was unacceptable.”

So Lindstrom’s team at the Academic Computing and Communications Center partnered with the Office of Public and Government Affairs, Campus Auxiliary Services, and the Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services to vet a vendor that could build an app that would include all desired features. “AT&T presented for us and told us about the many universities they had helped with their apps and the extensive experience they had,” says Lindstrom. “They could incorporate what we needed into Version 1.0 of our app.”

Campus Guide Plus from AT&T is an open-source mobile app built specifically for colleges and universities. Institution leaders can select from a vast suite of features. Options include admissions, course registrations, directories, events, news, maps, transit and more. Apps can be accessed from multiple device platforms, including iPhones, Androids, Blackberries and tablets. The apps are highly customizable, integrating each institution’s branding and content. The University of Illinois at Chicago’s app, which was launched in August 2014, includes a searchable campus map powered by Google Maps, a campus phonebook, emergency information, a student’s schedule and grades, events calendar, news, photo galleries and dining options.

Its most unique functionality–and according to Lindstrom, most appreciated by students—is the shuttle tracker. With such an expansive campus, buses are necessary to transport students. Previously, students had no way of knowing how long it would take for a bus to reach their stop, making it difficult to plan the time needed to commute from place to place. “That was one of the main reasons we went with AT&T,” says Lindstrom. “We needed a commercial application that could integrate with the bus tracking so we could offer this service that we had been lacking for a long time.” The maps are also a popular feature. “Visitors can search for a building and see exactly where it is,” says Lindstrom. “Having that information on a mobile device is what people today expect.”

AT&T manages the application for the university. “We don’t have the resources to do this in-house,” says Lindstrom. “AT&T updates the app when a new operating system is released. We don’t have to worry about doing anything.” Looking ahead, Lindstrom’s team is already thinking about what features they should integrate for Version 2.0. Users can and have been submitting requests. “For example, we have heard that students want to be able to search for an office based on title, such as provost, without needing a name,” says Lindstrom. “They also want to know where the closest ATM is. We know we can improve the app on the AT&T platform for Version 2.0.”

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