Tampa— Technology is constantly influencing how information is distributed and received. With the introduction of the mobile age there is a demand for services to be optimized for use on handheld devices and their varying platforms.
To target the growing use of mobile devices the University of South Florida has partnered with software companies to create applications that target the mobile market. USF has taken numerous steps to improve the functionality of its websites and resources for mobile use.
One of the first such steps was the optimization of the main website for access through cell phones in March, 2007. Following the introduction of mobile applications, USF launched its very own school-orientated app called iUSF.
“I use applications often, they’re convenient. At first when websites became mobile it was really cool but I don’t always want to open my browser to do certain things,” says Bobbie Stuff, a junior. “It’s good that USF has it’s own application but it needs to be improved, I want to see Blackboard.”
iUSF was launched July 23, 2010 and first made available in the Apple Store. The application allows students access to basic information such as campus news, the directory and emergency notifications. The project was funded by the Student Technology Fee with an initial budget of $50,000.
It wasn’t long before the application expanded and became available to both Android and Blackberry users. In October, 2010, the iUSF application was relaunched with updates that included access to myUSF, bulltracker and USF places. The application has approximately 3,000 downloads in the Apple Store and between 500~1,000 in the Android Market. There was also an accomanying USF Health applicationthat was released shortly after the initital launch of iUSF.
The Oracle, USF’s on-campus paper, took an initiative to join the mobile market just this month. The Oracle application was released and made available in iTunes on April 8, 2011 and the Android counterpart will follow shortly after. Anastasia Dawson, Editor-in-Chief of the Oracle, recognizes the importance of a changing climate in information relation.
“Readers consume media at an increasingly rapid rate, and creating a smartphone app was just the next logical step in keeping up with the increasingly competitive market,” said Dawson.
Alongside its application development the Oracle also begun featuring a QR code on every printed copy. The scanable code is located on the left hand side of the front-page. The code surfaced just this academic year and like any other QR code can be scanned with any QR scanner on devices that have the feature enabled. The decision to implement the code was inspired by reader input.
“A student contacted us toward the beginning of the semester about placing QR codes next to our printed stories so students could email copies of the story back to themselves instead of carrying around the entire paper,” said Dawson. “As we began to research QR codes a bit more we decided that they would be perfect for linking readers to videos, photo galleries and our Scene and Heard section — a new entertainment section that exists primarily online.
”By creating a customized application for itself the Oracle is hoping to increase readership as more students turn to digital media. Dawson is very aware of this and believes that the steps the Oracle is taking are necessary to survive in a field where the timeliness of information distribution is absolutely essential.
“The mobile audience is definitely important because it’s a growing demographic, especially among college students and professionals on the go. Being able to connect with an mobile audience gives us the potential to make our content seen before our competitors. Even if another newspaper were to break a story before we were, if audiences have to wait until tomorrow to read their story yet could access ours instantly from their cellphone, we come across as the more reliable, more dominating news source. ”
Furthermore, on April 11, 2011 there was a notification sent out to all USF students informing them that their @mail.usf.edu accounts had been transitioned to function like a regular Google account. This now enables students to use their USF e-mails in the Android Market and improves synching with devices.
Hannah Case, who works in her spare time as a freelance application developer, is not surprised to see an increased interested in mobile applications. Almost every major business or product has an application on the market that is either free of charge or relatively cheap. Case feels that the appeal of applications is that they’re small and every effective.
“Applications are so attractive because they get straight to the point. When you download an application that’s made well it can perform its task perfectly. A good example would be a popular application like Poynt, it’s a dream to have something work that well,” said Case. “Institutions such as universities need to be able to adjust and enter the market. You can order food, bank and shop online, why not study or turn in homework?”
The University of South Florida’s departing student body president, Cesar Hernandez, will be graduating this spring, and his ambitions continue to guide his future.
Hernandez won the 2010/2011 election and his administration has since served admirably.
“We had every single level of government here except President Obama,” said Hernandez. “We had every district council member and mayoral candidate here to debate. We also hosted the state gubernatorial and federal senate debates, both of which were televised on CNN.”
Despite the academic year nearing its conclusion Hernandez’s commitment to his work has remained constant. Today, Hernandez and his team began an attempt to break the longest speech record, aiming to speak continuously for 78 hours.
As the academic year draws to a close, the date for president-elect Matthew Diaz to take office quickly approaches. Soon, he will begin the work he campaigned so passionately to do.
As student government begins the transition between administrations, Diaz and his vice president, Zachary Johnson, will be faced with many tasks. One of the most immediate concerns is filling the positions that will become vacant.
“As soon as it’s May 9, the executive branch will be Zach and I,” said Diaz. “We’ll be starting day one by hiring the staff, once we get those positions full we can start working on our initiatives.”
Although the transition period will be busy and demanding, Diaz is happy and excited. He’s confident everything will run smoothly and is optimistic about the handover.
Diaz also feels prepared for the responsibilities ahead. He’s been involved in student affairs since high school and continued throughout his attendance at USF. Diaz has amassed knowledge through his work as a Senator, Orientation Team Leader and Senate President Pro Tempore.
These experiences have also served as motivation for Diaz to continue enforcing the principal of familiarizing students with their governing body. He feels that in order for Student Government to fulfill its purpose properly they have to get more and more students involved.
“The senators, the executive branch…we have to get out of this office and interact with the student community,” said Diaz. “We have to go out to the Bull Market or the student halls and talk with students and say, ‘hey do you know that this is going on?’”
Time is running out for USF Student Government Senate-hopefuls. In preparation for new legislation, Wednesday, April 20 is the last day to apply for interim elections to become a senator for the 2010/2011 term.
The application process began on Tuesday, April 5 and lasts until the deadline. Mandatory candidate meetings start soon after, taking place from April 18 through April 22. The approval process lasts from April 21 to April 26.
After being approved, candidates will begin campaigning for the open seats. The campaign and election period will run almost concurrently, with the campaign period starting just two days earlier on April 25. Both campaigning and elections end on April 28 and the day after is reserved for a run-off election if necessary.
There are currently 23 open seats in seven different colleges:
The application is available on the Student Government’s website with rules and guidelines for participants. Formally filled applications will be accepted until 4:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20.
USF may have a new student body president in Matthew Diaz, but for some students, the election and surrounding controversy never came up.
Last February, Matthew Diaz and his running mate, Zachary Johnson, were declared victors in the USF student body president vote with 51.29% of the total vote. Both Diaz and Johnson were immediately challenged by their opposition after the results were announced. They faced four grievances but after proceedings the Elections Rule Committee declared them the rightful winners.
Despite the controversy and importance of the elections few students seem to know they ever took place. Furthermore, it’s been more than a month later and many students are still unaware of the outcome or who the exiting officials are.
Natalia Prieto, a junior, admits she isn’t well informed.
“I didn’t know we had a student body president election, I didn’t know it already passed,” said Prieto, who has lived at Cypress Hall since August of 2010.
With more than 47,000 students enrolled for the 2010/2011 academic year 6,001 voted. Only 6.98% of the population voted which means less than one percent put Diaz and Johnson in power. The senate elections, which ran alongside the executive, had even less participants with approximately 2,969 voters.
Prieto feels like there isn’t enough done to inform the student body and campaigning should be more aggressive.
“If I’d known I would have definitely voted. I live here eight months out of the year, it’s important for me to be involved,” she added.
Students who are interested in being more involved in their student government should visit room 4304B in the Marshall Student Center or the official website.
Students rejected a proposition by the University Board of Trustees and put forward by Student Government in the general election last February that would make health insurance mandatory.
Looking back, there were a few reasons why it did not pass and USF is taking those factors into account for a continued push. Despite a local focus, a Supreme Court decision has the efforts for mandatory student health insurance hanging in the balance.
The plan would have allowed the university to begin serious considerations about making health insurance of some kind mandatory for incoming students in the Fall of 2013 at the earliest.
Currently, USF does not have a specific policy concerning students health insurance and there are no repercussions for not having any. Students who are not insured and receive medical attention on campus are simply charged and required to pay their balances.
Kyshon Hepburn, a sophomore, voted against the proposal because she feels making health insurance compulsory would be detrimental to USF. “The real problem is that people can’t afford plans, not that they don’t want to have them. If we force it on people it’s just going to turn them away,” she said.
Students without a health insurance plan would have a hold placed on their registration and would see their tuition increase by approximately seven percent. Most students without health insurance come from low-income households and minority backgrounds.
Gina Brown, a junior, also voted against it but still believes health insurance is important. “I wouldn’t want the increased cost but we pay for less important things. There are a lot people who just stay home when they’re sick because they don’t have insurance.”
For now, the effort has been put aside with more than half of the voters going against the proposition.
“Although we were looking into the issue of mandatory health insurance it is on hold for now. There are state and federal challenges and since students voiced their intentions there is really no need to push forward,” said Susanna Perez-Field, Office Manager of the Student Insurance Office. “We also still have to for the Supreme Court rulings, after that, we will see.”
The University of South Florida is heading a consortium of five universities who do not mandate health insurance and would rather provide cost-effective voluntary insurance. The other four are the University of North Florida, the University of Central Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of West Florida.
“The more members in our consortium the better, it’ll give us more buying power. Currently there is only one university in the state that has mandated insurance and that’s Florida State [University],” said Fields. “We want to be able to provide our students with the best options available.”
Students can view the details of the health insurance regulations on the student government website. They can also check current information about USF’s insurance policies at MyHealthcare.