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With the app still in its initial phase, the SFUO is taking suggestions from students on how to improve it. Photo: Tristain Pollard.

New service designed to help students connect to each other and the federation

On Sept. 28, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) released its first mobile app for students at the University of Ottawa, with the purpose of connecting individual students to the larger U of O community.

The app began development over a year ago, with SFUO president Roméo Ahimakin acting as the project director. The SFUO partnered with OOHLALA, an app development company that produces apps for different post-secondary institutes.

Francesco Caruso, SFUO vice-president of services and communications, told the Fulcrum that “the goal of the app is to be a hub for the students to know what’s going on at the university. So, they go there, they find out what’s going on with their fed body, what social events are going on, what activism is going on, what events are happening, parties, promos for business.”

Beyond student interaction, the app is also designed to help students better connect to the student executive itself, as well as federated bodies, so that resources will be available to students at their fingertips—quite literally.

“We wanted to get students more connected with our federation. One of the things students say often times is ‘I don’t know what the SFUO does’ even though we have twelve services,” said Caruso. “We wanted to make sure students have the best way to connect with us as possible and the app is one of the best ways to do so right now.”

Even though the app is already released, the SFUO is still making continuous improvements. One setback of the app is the default language. While the U of O is an officially bilingual university, the app does not allow students to easily change between French and English. Instead, the app follows the phone’s pre-set language.

“If you’re a Francophone but you have your phone in English and you download the app, the app’s going to be in English. There’s no way to change the language yet so that’s one thing we’re working on,” said Caruso.

The SFUO’s decision to go mobile is a step forward, according to first-year English literature student Michael Agreste.

“I think that an app to connect students is a better strategy than one-on-one in-person connectivity. The level of interaction doesn’t change—it’s just a different medium,” said Agreste. “An app can more effectively reach students en masse and enhance the speed and convenience of communication.”

Sarah Murphy, a first-year conflict studies and human rights student who recently downloaded the app, said she finds it user friendly and convenient, though she does have her own suggestions.

“I would prefer if there was an automatic schedule sync. I’m too lazy to take the time inputting my schedule,” said Murphy. “Also, they should take down the 101 Week orientation link button because it is no longer relevant at all.”

According to Caruso, future improvements for the app will be based on what the students want. In its initial stage, the SFUO is taking suggestions from students on how to improve the app.

“We sent it out to students and now we’re in the process of getting all of their comments. So it all depends on what the students like and what they want to see changed.”