Student life app meets varied reviews

For the NYU Abu Dhabi student body, a new school year is synonymous with change. The end of August always brings fresh faces, exciting events, Student ...

Aug 31, 2013

For the NYU Abu Dhabi student body, a new school year is synonymous with change. The end of August always brings fresh faces, exciting events, Student Interest Group frenzy and, this year, the debut of a new app.
NYUAD Students, released by NYUAD’s IT department on Aug. 14, is a new mobile application that offers smart, simple functions that ease the daily life of a typical NYUAD student. Free and accessible with an NYU Login, the app provides an electronic space for the information students need to navigate the university and all its offerings. With a tap of a finger, a smartphone screen unfurls into an electronic menu with options for a directory, announcements, shuttle times and more.
The IT Department at NYUAD hoped to release an app for some time, but only recently do their statistics and surveys of NYUAD smartphone users justify the creation of one.  Joel Leimer, director of online services and applications at NYUAD, said the process of crafting the app relied heavily on student feedback that was gleaned from direct interviews, surveys or dialogue with student government representatives.
“We followed a user-centered approach, which basically means that we spoke first with the intended audiences — students, faculty, staff — to identify where there were pain points that mobile could solve,” said Leimer. “Then we looked at where we could provide the greatest benefit to the community.”
The app is powered by Kurogo, an open source platform that has powered similar apps by major universities within the United States including Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology  and NYU New York. This platform was appealing because of its flexibility, which will come into play in the future as the IT department considers opening the app up to student development.
For many, the app provides an alternative to frantically poring over bus schedules in the Sama Tower lobby or navigating the online labyrinth of the NYUAD Student Portal. The app has also helped new, bewildered students, such as freshmen and NYU New York students, become acquainted with the daily routines of NYUAD.
“When I first got here I was kind of freaked out about the buses and [the idea of] being taken from one place to another, because I never use the NYU buses [in New York],” said Alexa Singh, an NYUNY junior currently studying abroad in Abu Dhabi. “I got the app as soon as they told us at the beginning of Marhaba, and I like it. I use it almost every time I leave Sama, though I haven’t used anything other than the schedules on it.”
Despite having found the app useful in some regards, Singh has also noticed drawbacks that she’s found frustrating.
“I hate that I have to log in every time I use it,” she said. “Also, the app tells you when it picks up from your place but it doesn’t tell you when [the bus] arrives at your destination. Once I had a class at 1:10, and I took a shuttle that I thought would get me [to DTC] on time, but I ended up being late.”
Freshman Quan Vuong said he has found the app especially useful when it comes to staying up-to-date with the latest university events and announcements. At the same time, he does not find the app to be very user-friendly.
“I have a Samsung, and I feel that the app is a bit lacking in terms of the interface,” he said. “The content is very good, but the interface is frustrating.”
Sophomore Rodrigo Ceballos echoed a similar sentiment. “It works fine, it’s just not very optimized. So for example, to see a bus schedule you have to skip through five menus. It won’t save your password, and I guess that’s for security reasons, but it’s annoying. The directory sometimes works perfectly, but there are some people that don’t show up. It’s little stuff, but at the end of the day that’s what makes an app great.”
The IT department has not finalized the app and plans to release newer, updated versions that tailor to student feedback. It will also release a mobile-friendly version of the Student Portal, which students will get a sneak peek of in the coming weeks.
“A few people have provided feedback and suggestions, which we're looking to address in future versions,” said Leimer. “We expect to be rolling out more regular improvements to NYUAD's mobile and web capabilities in the future, so we'd love to hear what works and what doesn't work directly from students.”
Zoe Hu is features editor. Email her at 
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