There’s an app for that: UNA enters app store

The new UNA app will allow students and other members of the university community to access Banner and Angel on their wireless devices.

UNA, with the approval of the Strategic Planning and Budget Study committee, has decided to develop an app for the university for Apple, Android and Blackberry devices, according to Web Communications Manager Jeremy Britten. The week before Christmas break, UNA signed a contract for the app, which should launch in about two months, Britten said.

The app will be hosted and provided by AT&T and is a customizable template that will be tailored to UNA’s needs by Britten and a web developer who will likely be hired this semester.

“(The app) will give students access to their courses, Portal and Angel,” Britten said. “We’d also like to develop a virtual campus tour, maybe have ticketing for events and integrate social media.

“The great thing about it is that we can add our own things.”

Other possible features Britten mentioned include discussions, sports, UNA press releases, social media integration, videos, maps and emergency numbers.

But bringing the app to UNA will not be free. The startup fee is $20,000, and the annual renewal fee for the first year is $10,000, according to Director of University Communications Josh Woods. The renewal fee for subsequent years will be $12,000.

Other universities of comparable size to UNA have found cheaper apps with a little less functionality.

Marketing Director for Tennessee Tech University Bobbie Maynard said her university’s app, hosted by a company called EZ Axess, is free.

Like UNA’s app, TTU’s app is a customizable template, but the ability to integrate with the TTU equivalents of Angel and Banner is a paid premium feature that TTU does not currently receive. Another difference between the two apps is the TTU app does not integrate with Blackberry, according to Maynard.

The reason UNA is pursuing the more expensive alternative for an app is because of the app’s functionality.

“When making the decision, we were really looking for the ability to integrate with Angel and Banner, which takes a pretty sophisticated system,” Woods said. “The direction we’re taking with our app will enable a more innovative approach. We want it to be as useful as we can possibly make it.”

Among paid apps for universities, UNA’s app will come at a fairly conservative rate, according to Woods.

Woods said the app has been in the works for a long time.

“We’ve been talking about getting (the app) for years, but it hasn’t been feasible until now,” he said. “There’s a lot of infrastructure involved; we have to have a way to grow it. That’s why we’re getting a web developer.”

The web developer will focus on the development of the UNA app but will also take on other projects, according to Britten.

Woods believes the app is an important addition to UNA’s methods of communication.

“Social media, in about the past decade, has brought about a major paradigm shift in university marketing,” he said. “Phones are becoming the front door to universities. Apps are quickly becoming the first thing (prospective students) are going to see.”

SGA President Ralph Akalonu said he is happy to see an app for UNA but a little wary of what it will cost.

“I would support this app with full cognizance of the financial strain that many schools in Alabama are under right now because I do not want to see UNA lagging behind in technology,” he said. “But I am not sure that the returns from this app will be worth the initial investment as far as how many students we will attract with it.”

UNA junior computer science major Atticus Wright hopes UNA will get its money’s worth.

“That’s a pretty steep cost for an app,” he said. “But if it is really guaranteed to work and draws interest to the university, then I guess it will be worth the price.”

Akalonu said he will be attending a meeting to discuss a marketing plan for UNA, which the app could possibly be a part of.