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Kenyon: There Might be an App for That

By Madeleine Thompson

Kenyon is slowly but surely moving into the age of social media. According to a recently conducted survey about a possible Kenyon mobile app, the two most desirable features, out of 20 options, were the availability of a Peirce Dining Hall menu and a campus calendar. Out of 240 responses, the Peirce menu had a 96 percent approval rating, with the campus calendar following at 81 percent.

The idea of a Kenyon mobile app arose around last March, when Social Media Director Josh Fitzwater began his job. What brought it on the forefront of conversation was, How can we bring students the information they want in the way that they get it now? Fitzwater said.

Currently the project is in the early planning stages, and Fitzwater is vetting several different companies to see which one is most efficient and embodies what Fitzwater called Kenyons crazy amalgamation of intellectual, quirky and creative. Fitzwater is hopeful that the project will make it through to completion and that Kenyon will be able to implement a mobile app, something many schools already have.

You could argue that this isnt on the cusp anymore. Im trying to get us to stop playing catch up and to start being innovators, Fitzwater said. With any place doing new things there are pluses and minuses and sometimes new ideas can be sort of scary.

Fitzwater sent out the survey in early December in an attempt to determine what would be most helpful to students. After a Peirce menu and campus calendar, the next three items of interest were access to grades (76 percent), Kenyon news (69 percent) and campus happenings (68 percent). What we want is something that is for everybody, Fitzwater said. There are two different audiences at hand students and alumi. If we were to make an app we dont want to make it one thats too limited and doesnt do everything we want it to.

The next step in the process will be to narrow down the features of the app. App-making companies can be large and cookie-cutter, or small and boutique-like. Blackboard Mobile is one of the former, and has made apps for schools like Duke University and Ohio Wesleyan University. Pykl Studios, on the other hand, would allow for individuality. Its like dating, said Fitzwater, who has several pages of school apps on his iPhone that he peruses for ideas. Right now were sort of seeing whats out there and testing the waters. But we need an app that reflects us, and that means expensive.

The cost of creating and maintaining an app is hard to predict, and in general, the more customized it is, the more expensive it is. According to Fitzwater, some of the important questions facing those working on the project are, do we have the money to do it? and do we have the money to sustain it?

Cost is not the biggest obstacle, however. Money plays a factor in every decision, Fitzwater said. Its silly to say that it doesnt affect [this project] in some capacity, but I think [the biggest issue is] finding the best fit.

The mobile app project is part of a larger technological renovation of Kenyons online resources, including its website. Were making a big leap forward technologically, Fitzwater said. Were in the process of … improving our social media presence and trying to digitally get out there and be more a part of the conversation and of the web. Because thats where everybody is.

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