Skidmore goes mobile: Wireless, mobile solutions proliferating across campus

Posted by Julia Leef

Skidmore Geographic Information System

Last year, the Geographic Information Systems Center (GIS) published the Skidmore Campus Map, accessible to mobile devices, using Layar, an augmented reality platform that allowed GIS Center to create a "virtual campus" that people could view from their iPhones or Android phones. Augmented reality refers to views of a real-world's physical environment virtually generated by computer imagery.

"Basically, the Augmented Reality campus buildings project was a pilot to test the feasibility of this type of technology on Skidmore's campus," said Alex Chaucer, GIS instructional technologist. "As a GIS specialist, I focus on maps and location-based technology, and applications of this type of technology in education."

The Skidmore Campus Map allows students to view various points of interest around the campus on their mobile phones, much in the same way they would take an online college tour through a computer. This technology is not only helpful to current students, but potentially to prospective ones as well who wish to get a visual representation of the campus.

The GIS Center used sources such as the New Media Consortium's Horizon Report (NMC) and the 2010 Horizon Report for information on new emerging technologies. They first began to look at augmented reality in Spring 2010.

"Our goal was to look at all the available platforms, pick one with some promise and try to get some basic information about the campus up and running as a proof of concept," Chaucer said. "Our basic ‘prototype' could then be shown to faculty and students for feedback and possible changes or additions, and could be used in brainstorming for classroom and research possibilities."

The GIS Center is currently working to put up a more advanced version of Layar, which would involve including local businesses in downtown Saratoga Springs. Although the project is a conceptual test, Chaucer hopes that the technology may soon be ready to test in a campus course.

For more information, go to http://academics.skidmore.edu/blogs/onlocation/2010/10/21/augmenting-reality/ for an article written by Aaron Miller '12 on the subject, a GIS student assistant who has been working on the project as well.

Blackboard Mobile Learn

This semester, students went on to the school website to find a brand new version of Blackboard (9.1 to be exact). Not only is this site a vast improvement over the original Blackboard 4 from 2002, but it is also available for iPhones and Android devices as well. According to Kelly Dempsey-Little, instructional technologist, "The biggest change [of Blackboard 9.1] is its utilizing web 2.0 technologies, and its offering the mobile platform as well."

Dempsey-Little said that, since research has shown that about 70 percent of college students own smartphones, the department decided to enable Blackboard for students to access course materials through their phones. She first learned about the Blackboard app through a Blackboard convention, and brought the information back to the college to have the application installed. She says that it has worked very well ever since, and is easy to use.

Students may download the Blackboard application, titled "Mobile Learn," from iTunes or the Android Market. This application is free and allows students to do everything they could on a computer. Although there are no short-term plans for new mobile-related upgrades, Dempsey-Little said that the department is looking at sources such as the 2011 Horizon Report to see what to expect for upcoming technologies.

"We are really paying close attention to this, and we know that this is something that will be very important in the near future," she said.

To provide feedback on the new application, fill out a short survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CNXMTS3

 

Skidmore Urgent Notification System

As many students are aware, Campus Safety has recently set up an emergency notification system, also known as the SUN system. "The SUN system consists of a multilayered communication program to inform and alert community member when serious incidents occur on campus," Lori Parks, Safety Systems Administrator, said. "Or when we need to distribute important information, such as a snow emergency."

The SUN system notifies students via texts, sirens, e-mails, the web, phone alerts, and personal contact. According to Parks, almost 2,000 students and employees have signed up for the text messaging service, which has been made available through the college's contract with e2Campus.

Campus Safety learned about the SUN system through their contacts with various organization that deal with Campus safety issues, and events from other colleges such as Virginia Tech influenced the college into quickly making this tool available on campus.

Students who are not signed up in the SUN system will still receive important e-mails, but Campus Safety encourages students to sign up so that all of the available ways of contact provided by the system will be at their disposal.

"We feel the system is very effective," Parks said. "Especially during the latest rounds of snow we received. This was the most effective, efficient way of getting the word out to the Skidmore Community to clear lots for snow removal efforts."

Anyone who wishes to sign up for the SUN System should visit https://www2.skidmore.edu/e2campus/index.cfm, and use their Skidmore username and password to begin the process. Any other questions may be addressed to Lori Parks or Terri Sanacore in Campus Safety at 518.580.5567.

 

Scribner Library Mobile Version

Last September, the library website became available for access by any mobile device. According to Kathryn Frederick, the Systems Librarian, the site is not feature-packed as the original, but it does include the library's hours, phone numbers, a simplified version of the catalog, and access to the mobile interfaces of several popular Research Databases. The site will expand over time, adding more details and features for the mobile version.

Frederick also mentioned that the library will continue to monitor other libraries and schools for possible updates to the site. "I expect that by the fall semester we will have improved and expanded our mobile web presence, though I don't have specifics right now," she said. "We welcome feedback about the mobile site, especially ways in which it might be made more useful for students!" The site can be accessed by any mobile device at http://lib.skidmore.edu

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