AVON PARK - In a day when it seems as if almost all college and university students have a iPhone or some mobile device attending classes with them, mobile technology is becoming not only more important, it's almost mandated.
To help the learning experience be more conducive and the teaching experience more cohesive, South Florida State College is incorporating its own mobile application (app) - a software application designed to run on Smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile devices - into regular use.
Called the "Panther Den-D2L (Desire to Learn)," the mobile app is expected to be up and running by February at SFSC, a state college serving about 16,000 total students with campuses in Highlands, DeSoto and Hardee counties. Enrollment at the Avon Park campus is about 6,000.
Christopher van der Kaay, chief information officer at SFSC, said the D2L would serve as a student aid in several ways. He said students will be able to access the D2: course resources like content, calendar, news and grades; post to discussion boards; take quizzes; access the library; and get notifications for updated grades, course and campus news; and view campus maps. The app will work with Androids, iOS or Blackberry devices.
Van der Kaay, who's been at SFSC for about five years, said the use of mobile apps is the trend on campuses around the United States, He said the impetus for implementing use of the device came from two focus groups of about 40 students on what they said was lacking on campus.
"It was pretty clear that they thought a mobile app would help with their receiving information," he said. "We knew we needed to get this going as soon as possible. We put this in a place as an area of importance."
The process was coordinated by Van der Kaay and Melanie Jackson, college director of e-learning. Van der Kaay said the initial cost of the project was about $3,500 to set up and $470 per month to use. The annual cost to the school after the first year would be about $5,650.
To make students aware of the app and to get them to use it, the South Florida Student Government Association distributed flyers at the current spring semester's "Club Rush," where students can find out about campus clubs and social organizations.
Deborah Latter, South Florida director of community relations, said getting the D2L or another mobile app on campus was inevitable. She said the focus groups and surveys prompted administration to roll it out as soon as possible and it would help with student retention, preventing them from changing schools they see as more technologically up-to-date.
"It gives them (students) more access away from home and the computer; we can communicate better and faster. They don't have to be at home to access information from the college," she said.
To use the D2L, users will log into it using computer credentials. To get the app after Feb. 1, students and staff can visit an app store and search for "South Florida State College," then download the app to the mobile device.
The new aspect to campus life will make learning more efficient said a student and South Florida professor.
Physics and astronomy teacher Eric Christensen said all of his material text is online and for students, knowing its online and can be accessed on a Smartphone, he said, would make it easier to keep up with lessons and assignments and hopefully, prompt the to check their seemingly-antiquated e-mail.
"With e-mail, if you don't answer in a half-hour, they wonder what's going on," he said. "This is really expedient for a rapid interchange."
And for those that will mostly be affected by the D2L, its use couldn't come any sooner.
"Everyone has a smartphone anyway. People use the Internet for their assignments, now that there's an app for D2L, it will make it even easier to use," said Taylor Layner, 21, a SFSC sophomore in elementary education and member of the baseball team. "It's all about convenience."