Ferad will be available for download on Apple and Android mobile devices come January 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Ferad.
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U of T entrepreneur set to unveil free app nationwide in early 2019

Sparking friendship through academics and recreational discussions are just a couple of ways a new student-focused app hopes to connect students at Canadian universities.

On Jan. 7, 2019, students will be able to connect with other students through Ferad, a Sudanese-Arabicnamed application that translates to “friend” in English.

“There’s a lot of disconnect between students on campus,” said Amru Elmassad, Ferad creator and third-year commerce student at the University of Toronto. “You’re not able to interact with as many people as you can.”

Elmassad explained there are many students in programs and years beyond one’s own that students may not have classes with, but connect with nevertheless.

With these issues in mind, fostering friendships within the student community is the central aim of Ferad.

Once a student is logged in, the app will connect them to all students currently enrolled in the given university who are also using the app.

Though the app has many social features, like video stories that mirror Snapchat and Instagram, Ferad will focus on academic use as well.

Currently, the app Brightspace Pulse allows students to view their courses on uoZone, but it does not connect students. Meanwhile, the app Study Buddy connects students in an area, but it lacks discussion groups and video stories.

Elmassad plans for Ferad to bring all these things to one platform, and hopes that his app will allow users to   browse their course timetable and syllabi by connecting to Brightspace, granted permission from university administration.

Through Ferad, Elmassad says that students will be able to  upload and download notes, view grades, share course information, as well as update personal statuses.

Additionally, discussions can be  facilitated by groups and organized by sections. Groups currently on the app include: a carpooling section, a comic book section, and a “meet me” section, which will allow students to introduce themselves to each other and arrange coffee meetups or study sessions.
Though the idea of Ferad had been brewing with Elmassad for a couple years, he took action in October by pairing with Oodles Technologies to bring the idea to life.

“There’s no application right now in Canada for students,” said Elmassad. “We want a platform for students to love their community.”

Elmassad added that the app’s social aspect is beneficial for international students in particular because it will help them adapt to new environments more quickly.

And Elmassad is no stranger to seeking community as a way to adapt to new environments. Before pursuing his undergraduate degree, Elmassad moved to Canada from Sudan. He also switched universities during his second year of commerce studies.

Elmassad found transitioning to the U of T was difficult without the support of his original student community.

“I was devastated,” he said. “When I came to U of T — I was an outsider that just needed a sense of community … and that’s why I created this app to solve this problem.”

When it launches, Ferad will focus on connecting students within a specific university, but Elmassad says future updates will allow students to interact with universities across Canada.

In the meantime, users will be able to see the social features of other universities, like trending video stories on a specific campus and user status updates.

Ferad will be available for download on Apple and Android mobile devices come January 2019.