DSU app soars in popularity

Image via itunes.apple.com
Image via itunes.apple.com

BC schools are looking to Douglas for their own app’s development

By Jamal Al-Bayaa, Staff Writer
The DSU’s newest app is gaining a strong user base locally, and turning heads elsewhere in the province. Engagement on the platform is at an all time high for Douglas. Of 14,000 registered students, 2,400 are currently using the app—a 17 per cent adoption rate that staff and students in the DSU are proud of.
“One of the things we wanted was to make the app functional for students,” said Tracy Ho, College Relations and Membership Outreach Coordinator. One way they did that was by adding a way for students to upload their U-Passes directly from the app. “We guessed that students would like that,” she said, and since then it has become one of the most universally used features.

Elim Ou, a student who tried the app said that what she found most useful was the study timer located in the course schedule, and says that it’s something she sees herself using regularly.

Further, the app assists students in accessing a campus map, connecting with representatives, and looking at a full list of the school’s 56 available clubs. Outside of pure college-functionality, students have been using the app to connect with extracurricular activities at school, and perhaps most of all, each other.

What’s especially great about the app, Ho said, “is that we’re facilitating these kinds of campus-to-campus and student-to-student interactions.” On the DSU’s messaging board—which is akin to a Facebook news feed—students can be seen reaching out to each other for things such as textbooks and course questions on one of the platform’s six topic boards, which include news, housing, and ride sharing. When Ou discovered the app’s social experience, she quickly used the feature and messaged friends with it.

In a survey conducted with 475 students who use app, 91 per cent say they would recommend it to a friend, 78 per cent agreed that the app helped them learn about campus services such as counselling and peer tutoring, and 79 per cent of students said that they felt that they app gave them a louder voice within their institution. This is part of the DSU’s larger plan of increasing student engagement in the school as engagement levels on average mean more student feedback, more student satisfaction, and the ability to run more impactful campaigns and events.

Those numbers are also causing heads to turn elsewhere in the province, as other BC schools are looking to Douglas as a model on how to move forward with their own app’s improvement. Camosun College, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, the College of New Caledonia, and Vancouver Island University have all reached out to Douglas with at least one or two questions about how to improve their app. Specifically, representatives from Victoria’s Camosun College are coming to New West to discuss with student representatives how they can better improve their app and make it more functional and relevant to students. The meeting is slated to take place mid-August.

In the future, the app will likely have a feature enabling students to share textbooks, achieving similar results to what an Open Textbooks program would do for the school. While Open Textbooks may take a while, as that involves a significant amount of contract renegotiation, a textbook sharing feature may be a faster and more organic—although shorter-term—solution.