University releases MyBelmont app

After sitting on the backburner for eight years and finally undergoing more than a year of development, a mobile app has been released for MyBelmont and the university itself.

In response to an innovation challenge issued by administration, Sybril Bennett, a professor of journalism, brought the idea of a mobile app into the light.

“My students have been asked to create mobile apps, and, inevitably, students would create a Belmont mobile app,” Bennett said. “Clearly, I could tell this was something they wanted. Being in the digital universe, I know is something we should have.”

The idea has been talked about on and off for about eight years, starting with the suggestions of students in a media class co-taught by Bennett and Paul Chenoweth, the web programming services manager of the technology services staff.

“We honestly didn’t get a lot of traction early on,” Chenoweth said. “Part of it was so new, and, honestly, Belmont’s not one to jump in on every new little thing that comes along.”

Due to changes within the information technology department and other factors, production on the app wasn’t able to start full-force until the fall of 2013.

“About the time when apps were really beginning to catch on, we were making major changes in information technology services,” Chenoweth said. “We were having to deal with bigger loads for registration. There was a lot going on.”

When it did start, the development of the app began with the students – a survey was distributed asking exactly what students would like to see in an app for Belmont.

“We came up with a Top 10 list of that, and we delivered all but one of those things on the initial launch,” Chenoweth said. “About two-thirds of people said they wanted to see what’s on today’s menu in the cafeteria. And we’re working on that right now.”

Although the idea was suggested by Bennett and Chenoweth, it became a campus-wide project during development. Because of what the app was trying to accomplish, it needed the help from the registrar, the communications department, information technology and more.

“You have marketing, communications, student affairs, registrar’s office,” Bennett said. “All these areas are affected because they are represented on the app. If you apply for courses, the registrar’s office has to be intimately involved to make sure there’s integrity in the process.”

Help didn’t only come from inside the school. Chenoweth said the team looked at other universities’ apps as a model for Belmont’s. It looked at what worked, what didn’t and what students wanted.

“There were several things that were just across the board, uniform, that everybody wants,” he said. “We covered those and then some with the initial app.” Of course, not everything other schools had was relevant to Belmont.

“That was a really interesting experience because a school in the northeast, for instance, the No. 1 most-used module on their mobile app was the shuttle service,” Chenoweth said. “But we’re going ‘Well, we don’t have a shuttle service.’ That really doesn’t help us a whole lot here on campus.”

On the other hand, there were things uniquely Belmont that Chenoweth wanted included on the app – convocation, for instance.

“Students liked the idea of being able to click and see what convo events are today,” he said. “That’s a custom thing unique to Belmont. That’s not something that every school does.”

The app, although released, is still in its beginning stages. It will hopefully be adding more features each fall and spring semester, Chenoweth said.

“Hopefully, we’ll do a couple of new releases every year on the mobile app,” he said. “We have one full screen of icons in the Belmont app. I’m going to guess within a year or two we’ll have three screens of things that you can do.”

Chenoweth encourages students to use the feedback option in the app to let the development team know what’s good and bad about the app.

“We depended on student input to make this thing happen,” he said. “We’re hoping for a lot of downloads and getting good feedback.”

Chenoweth said he is also hoping to involve students by using a “app-a-thons,” where students will present their mobile app ideas and, hopefully, have them become reality.

“We’ve just opened the doors to apps on campus,” Chenoweth said. “We have students all over campus that are already developing apps on their own. To say the least, we know how creative Belmont students are.”

The app is currently available on iTunes and Google Play for free – just search for “myBelmont Mobile” and “Belmont University.”

If you have any suggestions or feedback for the mobile app, contact mobileapps@belmont.edu. If you have any problems with the app, the team prefers students use the feedback form within the app.

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