YSU Connects Students Through Mobile App

By Rachel Gobep

As a new semester begins at Youngstown State University, students will be welcomed by the recent launch of a new mobile app to enhance their student life experience.

“Youngstown State University” launched through a partnership with developer OOHLALA Mobile to aid in connecting students to the campus. Joy Polkabla Byers, director of Campus Recreation, said the app features include syncing work and school schedules to a calendar, a direct line to campus police, a student organizations tab and a deals tab for student discounts.

“[Students] should be proud of being a penguin and the deals aspect of this app shows students all the deals they can get for being one,” Polkabla Byers said.

The Youngstown State University app has been running for two years, but previously only focused on the Center for Student Progress and Student Activities. Polkabla said focus groups were formed in spring 2017 to determine what would make students utilize the app.

Campus recreation worked to add more student appeal, leading 30 different departments on campus to currently take part in it, she said.

The goal is to have it integrated with Blackboard by the end of the fall semester. Polkabla Byers said this will make it easier for students to keep their deadlines in one place.

OOHLALA Mobile has seen an impact across 200 institutions from their individualized apps. Alice Dinu, co-founder of OOHLALA Mobile, said YSU is an institution that puts their students first. She said this app can easily connect the digital generation to campus life.

“Generations are moving at a much faster pace, which creates a challenge for institutions to speak the student language,” Dinu said. “OOHLALA Mobile feels very strongly on creating a place where students can connect with other students and ask questions.”

Tiffany Brown, a YSU student, uses the app to ask questions, which she said are answered quickly.

“There are always people on here that have the answers I need,” Brown said. “I also have gained friends from the app, so I would say it keeps me connected. I am able to know what events are coming up next and where they are located so I can participate.”

Adam Earnheardt, chair of the YSU Department of Communications hopes that YSU will see this app as an opportunity for students in fields such as communications or computer science to work with OOHLALA to manage the app.

“Anything that connects students with the information they need to be successful and their college career is a step in the right direction,” Earnheardt said. “If we’re providing tools that get [students] the information they need where they’re accessing most of their information throughout the day on their smartphones, [it’s] all the better.”

Another YSU student, Riley Chiu, was skeptical about the app’s usefulness at first.

“When I looked through it entirely, I was so impressed,” Chiu said. “I had no idea how much information was put into it. I wanted to tell everyone I knew to download it too.”

According to Polkabla Byers, 2,200 incoming freshmen students were introduced to the YSU app during IGNITE, an event designed to connect new penguins to the campus and the community. Each student was required to check-in to the event using the app.

Taylor Dressel, YSU student who interned at Ignite, said the app benefitted the incoming freshmen.

“It’s a great way for first-year students to interact and to have their questions answered about YSU,” Dressel said. “A lot of the Ignite leaders and interns go on there and answer their questions.”

Campus connectivity and keeping students involved is important, Polkabla Byers said.

“Just by the click of a finger you can see what’s going on at YSU,” Byers said.