Thursday, June 27, 2013

UQ Information Technology student’s UQnav map app heads in the right direction

A navigation app for getting around the University of Queensland campuses has proven popular, with more than 53,000 downloads in less than three years.

Students, staff and visitors can use UQnav to find lecture theatres, laboratories, as well as where to grab a coffee, the closest bank and nearest public transport stop.

Learn more about IT programs at the University of Queensland
Aaron McDowall of the University of Queensland shows off the UQnav app

UQ Information Technology Services (ITS) Director Rob Moffatt said the success and popularity of the app highlighted the growing relevance of mobile technology in the university environment.

“UQ provides a growing suite of mobile tools for staff and students, such as UQ News, UQ Contact, UQ Open Day, and commercial apps such as Blackboard mobile, Adobe Connect mobile and Skydrive.”

Students Aaron McDowall and Kim Hunter launched the UQnav app in early 2011, after developing it as part of the Bachelor of Information Technology.

McDowall, who now works for UQ ITS, said the figure (last updated in May 2013) included 38,500 Apple downloads and 14,500 Android downloads.

“Android is a little younger, so the downloads aren’t as high, but those figures are growing exponentially,” he said.

UQnav links to other useful sites, including UQ Contacts, UQ News Online, UQ events, the library, plus iTunesU, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube.

The built-in favourites functionality allows users to bookmark the locations they visit most frequently, and they can also email a Google Maps link to others.

Office of Undergraduate Education Director Dr Jessica Gallagher welcomed the app as a key tool for enhancing the student experience at UQ.

“As Queensland’s largest university, it’s important we’re harnessing the latest technology to deliver information and services in an accessible way that’s relevant to students who grew up in the digital world,” Dr Gallagher said.

McDowall said the idea came from trying to navigate campus using a mobile phone, scrolling between a static PDF map.

“I bet there is not a single person who would be able to recall or know where every building is at UQ. It’s most difficult at the beginning of semester when students are trying to find their way to class,” he said.

Their project came to the attention of UQ ITS staff, who were keen to harness the technology to benefit the students, and to reward the pair for creating such a relevant and useful tool.

“It is a wonderful opportunity that has changed our lives and has given us the opportunity to be gainfully employed,” said McDowall, and encouraged students to consider studying for a career in Information Technology (IT), noting that co-creator Kim Hunter, was the “iOS brains of the operation.”

“IT is a universal language and has much more international mobility, allowing you to export your career,” he said.

“It helps that UQ lecturers are proactively integrating new technology into the academic arena. That is because, at the end of the day, it is highly practical that you can graduate and then hit the ground running.”

“Mobile apps are still growing and still expanding as a new and innovative space in IT,” he said.


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