New app puts Baylor sites all in one spot

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

By Nico Zulli and Katdie Norton

Information on class schedules, shuttle buses and grades is now available to Baylor students on the move.

OsoMobile, a new mobile application from Baylor ITS, offers a way to access BearWeb and information from other existing apps.

“I think it is the first true mobile app that brings in some of the data from BearWeb,” said Steven Kucera, director of information systems and services and the team supervisor for OsoMobile’s development. “It brings together many features for Baylor students.”

The app features a current course schedule, all past semesters’ final grades, current holds, student and faculty directory, a Baylor bus tracker that links to an existing bus tracking app called Ride Systems, a campus map that uses current location and a Baylor Lariat news feed. The app also includes the emergency numbers of campus police, the counseling center, health center and the help desk at Baylor.

The app functions by hooking into maps, news feeds and banner data, which is data from BearWeb, while keeping student information secure. Similar to Bearweb, users will be logged out after 15 minutes of inactivity.

“OsoMobile interfaces with our student information systems in a way that keeps our academic records secure,” said Pattie Orr, vice president for information technology and dean of university libraries. “As vice president for information technology, I am concerned about keeping our data secure. OsoMobile provides a great combination of convenience and security.”

The app’s development process began in April of last year, pilot testing of the app began in October, almost two months prior to the actual release.

“Anything we do in this department goes through extensive testing,” Kucera said. “During testing we discovered that it was slow and we did a lot of tweaking to make it faster.”

ITS collaborated with Ellucian, a technology solutions company, to develop the app.

“We worked with a vendor to create an app that provides a framework, rather than trying to write an app ourselves,” said Becky King, associate vice president for information technology.

King also said the process of adding new features to the app starts with what Ellucian can deliver.

“We then take collaboration and feedback from students into consideration, we prioritize and then implement,” she said.

King and Kucera said ITS is working with Baylor student government to channel student feedback appropriately.

“We own the code and can make changes,” Kucera said. “But, we have to work with the vendor to see if it’s possible or feasible.”

At this point, no. 1 on the list of potential new features to OsoMobile is an integration with the Baylor ID card system. This would include the ability to check and update Bear Bucks, report stolen or lost ID cards, and perhaps even unlocking dorm room doors.

Kucera said the app could possibly be linked or have different funtionalities, but those additions have to go through a security officer to determine if there would be any threat or harm to information by including them in the app.

ITS is working on making the app as seamless as possible for the more than 350 active users who have downloaded the app so far.

“We have had, and continue to have, pilot students test this new app to provide us with their feedback,” King said. “We want to continue to develop the app and we will take into account the feedback that we get.”

Kucera said the app is a product that will continue to grow. He said class registration is also a possibility for the app.
“Registration is the queue from Ellucian,” he said. “But, that is down the road and has to be tested first to make sure it can handle the loads.”

While the app has been designed with students in mind, ITS would ultimately like to address faculty and staff functionality as well.

“I hope Baylor students, faculty and staff find that this new tool will help foster academic success,” Orr said.