The African & African Diaspora Studies Department has created a smartphone app that is now available to students across the UT Austin campus.
The app was created to make it easier for undergraduate students to take control of their academic futures. It’s also an essential tool for the department to get information out about AFR courses, professors and events. AADS hopes this increased accessibility will lead to more students majoring in AFR.
After noticing that expecting students to get information solely through email didn’t work well, AFR advisor Nia Crosley and other department members shifted their focus to another communication tool.
“Having an app seemed like a way to keep in touch with students in a format that’s not punitive or tedious,” says Crosley. “I’m hoping the app will be a fun way to let students know about events, classes, their professors and important deadlines.”
The app has five sections—news, events, professors, courses and advisor—which keep users informed of everything going on in the department. Through push notifications, Crosley will be able to notify students of important dates and messages, such as drop deadlines and registration times, and make sure they don’t get buried in email inboxes.
Keeping up with classes is also easier through the app. Students looking for a professor’s contact information, office hours and research interests can now find it all in one convenient section. Undergrad courses are also listed and separated by area requirements to make registration easier. Students can review courses they’ve taken through the app to help others choose which classes will work best for them when registering.
It took more than a year of planning, designing and redesigning the app before it was ready for release. The department worked with freelance programmer and McCombs webmaster Yasin Ali, a former AFR major, to design an app that would be as useful to students as possible. A student panel also weighed in throughout the planning process, and continued student involvement is essential to the heart of the project.
Now that the app has been released, the department is looking for more student feedback. The next update will rely heavily on the experiences users have with the app and their suggestions for improvement.
“My goal for the app is for students to be able to use it in a way that empowers them academically and socially to reach their own goals on campus,” Crosley says. “We see the AADS department as a hub for resources about Black populations that intersect with projects relating to themes like policy, literature, LGBTQ studies, performance, history and law. Having an app that makes these resources more central is key, so that students can be more plugged into our mission of liberation and can help us shape the department as a whole.”
The app is available for download through the iTunes app store by searching for ‘Texas AFR.’
Photo credit: Jennifer Yin / Flickr