The Redeemer community says the new Campus app is lacking, but Redeemer’s Marketing and Communications Team assures students improvements are on their way.
The app, launched in the summer of 2020, was the university’s first major step to cleaning up the campus portal, previously known as Dash.
“One of the key components, when we started to look for a vendor for this new solution, was the ability to actually have interaction and to have customization,” Shannon McBride, Redeemer’s communications manager, says.
With these priorities in mind, Redeemer partnered with Path, a company dedicated to creating streamlined campus portals. Path has worked with a variety of schools, including John Brown University, Wilson College, and Salve Regina University. They promise to eliminate the information labyrinth that older systems create, making it easy to access all resources in one organized place.
But many members of the Redeemer community don’t feel the app is as easy to navigate as it should be. Features such as the search bar don’t lead to the appropriate pages, and the social media atmosphere of the app takes away from the app’s practicality.
“If you’re looking for a specific page, there are dozens of pages on there. And some of them seem so similar. You really have to search to find what you’re looking for,” says Tyler Kwalik, a fifth-year honours psychology student.
But for Kwalik, the biggest issue is the layout: “When you open it, it’s like Facebook. That’s what I don’t like. To find anything useful, it’s a sidebar. It’s helpful in asking questions, but what happened to just emailing somebody?”
Dr. Jonathon Juilfs, associate professor of English, expresses similar sentiments. “If there’s an announcement on the app, then three other announcements posted within five minutes of that, it gets lost.”
This constant stream of information on the newsfeed is another feature that makes the app feel more like a Redeemer Facebook page than an information hub. Though McBride says the option to create groups, leave comments, and like posts allows for community building within the app, many users don’t feel the same.
Despite these complaints, the app does bring with it some major improvements. Colleen DeKlerk, learning strategist at Redeemer University, says being able to provide direct page links to students has been a game changer.
“I feel like people are really used to the instant gratification of having a link and then all they have to do is click on it,” DeKlerk explains. Unlike Dash, step-by-step instructions are no longer needed. With one click, students can get to where they need to be.
And even while the University body is frustrated with specific features of the app, communication has never been easier. Kristel Forcier, manager at 21Five, says the app’s phone alert system allows her to effortlessly reach the student body. “I posted something that said, ‘How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens is here.’ Within five minutes I had students in the door.”
But third-year environmental science student, Shauna White, says she still prefers these types of announcements to come through her email. “You’re getting hundreds of notifications on the app. Email just feels like the most reliable way to get everything.”
Thankfully, there are solutions for those who still prefer email. The app allows users to push notifications directly to their Redeemer inbox if they don’t wish to receive them via the app. Additionally, outside of mandatory groups such as “All University,” users can mute notifications from groups they don’t want to hear from, making the experience much more customizable.
Second-year English student, Devan Ferrier, is one of many app users who has her notifications sent to her email. Ferrier says she doesn’t find herself on the app very often since the information she needs can be found in her inbox.
When asked about major changes moving forward, McBride said the Redeemer community can expect the app to get better with time. “We would like for people to be able to customize a lot more than there is right now,” says McBride. However, these changes don’t happen overnight and require dialogue between the University and portal design company.
Though the app has been functioning for over a year now, user uptake was slow after the initial launch. It’s taken time for people to really start using the app, and because of this, there hasn’t been a large amount of meaningful feedback yet.
“Until you get on the app and start using it and start understanding how you’re going to use it, you don’t always know what feedback to provide. So, there’s a bit of a time lag there,” McBride explains.
And just like with any major change, it will take time to adjust to the app and learn how to best utilize it. McBride is hopeful that, given more time, they will optimize app functioning to suit the Redeemer community’s needs.
“Sometimes it’s important to take a step back,” says McBride. “Look at what we had before. This is a huge improvement. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. And we know that. It may never be perfect. But it’s a tool that we’re always trying to improve.”