Interdisciplinary project creates new app for students to connect
KENNESAW, Ga. (Jun 29, 2017) — Students usually know what they need most, especially when it comes to their study habits.
So when Michael Williams, a computer game design and development student, and Jared Breedlove, a software engineering student, were asked last summer to further develop a mobile app that would help students organize study groups around campus, they enthusiastically agreed to help.
They liked the idea of shaping a new app into something that they, as students, would want to use. The app, called Study Buddy, began in 2012 as the brainchild of Mark Anderson, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.
“In the sciences, we encourage students to work collaboratively in groups, then they leave class and go off to study in isolation,” Anderson said. “With smartphones and GPS technology, there had to be a way to develop spontaneous study groups for students.”
As a scientist, Anderson needed expertise from students – the very users of the app – as well as those with an aptitude for mobile application development, so he tapped Jon Preston, interim dean of the College of Computing and Software Engineering for help.
With the original code and Anderson’s articulated idea, Breedlove and Williams began brainstorming new concepts, integrating better mapping features and determining how to pull from the university’s course scheduling system in real-time.
“We looked at better hierarchies and wanted to embed better functionality for the user,” Williams said.
The interface offers a map where students create a study group and electronically pin their group location, with each pin color-coded based on a specific class or subject area. The working prototype gives students a quick visual glance at what courses, and specific course sections, have study groups going on at any given time.
To determine what features within the app would be most beneficial for students, the developers conducted research at the Marietta Campus through student focus groups. As a result, the team extended the original intent of the app – a study group organizer – to also provide a forum to ask questions about classes.
“We found that students also want a space where they can talk about what’s going on,” Williams said. “As a commuter student, if I have a question for a class, I can lean on my classmates to ask them.”
The developers built in more of a social media component by adding a messaging feature. This detail will help to straddle the ways in which students want to connect with their classmates, Williams explained.
“We see it more like a Twitter feed,” said Breedlove.
From Code to Market
While speed and usability are important, the developers’ biggest concern is the app’s security.
“It all depends on a student’s level of comfort,” Williams said. “We want to provide a range of options. Not everyone wants to create a study group with random people.”
This past spring, during the app’s alpha-testing phase, a user-centered design class and an Android development class, tested the developer’s first iteration, helping them to resolve user navigation problems.
Horacio Garcia, a senior software engineering student, was asked by the developers to show fellow KSU students the app and elicit their feedback. Students were able to create study sessions or view those set for a particular class.
“It took me less than two minutes to explain the app, and another two minutes for them to set up a study session,” Garcia said.
With the beta-testing phase set for fall, the app will provide an easy mechanism for students to make connections and develop relationships earlier in their academic careers, according to Anderson, especially as many students attend lecture courses where they cannot connect with others as easily.
The Kennesaw State University Research and Service Foundation (KSURSF) played a significant role in managing all of the developments of the apps since its inception in 2012. The app has undergone several versions, and KSURSF obtained the copyright for the app and holds the trademark on the app’s name, Study Buddy.
In the future, Williams and Breedlove hope that the app can integrate video so students can share knowledge or work progress visually, and speak face-to-face with classmates in a direct and secure online environment.
“I may have had the original idea, but that idea has no value without implementation,” Anderson said. “The students have really done all of the work, adding more functionality and usability for students.”
- Tiffany Capuano; photos by David Caselli
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 35,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university's vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. A Carnegie-designated doctoral institution, it is one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.