As part of our mission at the Futures Initiative, we conduct research projects aimed at understanding the complexities of the higher education landscape. In past years, FI fellows have conducted various data-driven projects focusing on CUNY’s FI community. Graduate Fellow Michael Dorsch led the CUNY NYC Language Mapping Project to map the languages spoken across New York City and to compare the languages spoken in communities closest to each of CUNY’s campuses with language education opportunities offered at each campus. The results of that project highlighted not only CUNY’s incredible linguistic diversity but also opportunities for greater support and new scholarship on language policy in higher education. Graduate Fellow Lisa Tagliaferri led a network analysis research project that mapped the pathways of FI site’s users and showed how students grow their communities through the online tool. This research provided feedback for how to best structure the FI site to facilitate network building through the website.
This year, my focus of research, as a Futures Initiative fellow, will be to build a tool that can benefit both the FI and broader CUNY community. Specifically, I will build the FI Events Mobile Application.
Although located within NYC’s five boroughs, CUNY schools are geographically spread out. On average, CUNY students have a commute time of 45–60 minutes each way and typically use public transportation. Research on CUNY students has found that although laptops are designed to be easily transportable, few students regularly bring laptops to campus because of security concerns or because they are just too heavy to carry around. Instead, students report that they use their mobile devices to connect to friends, family, college, and their jobs via email, Facebook, and other communication applications on their phones. Some students have even reported doing homework, readings, and even writing papers on their mobile phones. It is clear that the mobile device is an important medium for accessing and disseminating information and therefore represents an integral tool in students’ daily lives.
Currently, FI events are announced and displayed on our website and shared via social media and email. However, each of these outlets of information faces one major issue: the need for cellular data or wifi to access. CUNY students spend much of their time commuting and given the nature of NYC travel are often in locations where signals are unavailable. Therefore, a mobile app that could provide offline access to events has the potential to improve accessibility. The FI Events Mobile App will allow offline data access, providing students with events information in any environment.
The first version of the app is mocked up below. It will have a very simple interface with a calendar and list view. Each event will also have a detailed view, which lists the date, time, and location of the FI event. The app will also include the option for notifications, which will allow users to set-up reminders for events they wish to attend.
The main goals of this research project are the following:
Build an Android Mobile App that displays FI events, which provides greater access to information
Share the code publicly to enable users to see, use, and build upon the code used, which supports our belief that tools should open-source
Post bi-weekly reflections, which will share with users development tips and resources
Lastly, a goal for future work, would be to analyze the effect the mobile app has on the FI community, i.e. does sharing information via this platform increase FI attendance and therefore build a stronger FI community?
Technology is an integral of the FI mission. We believe tools have the potential to build community and foster greater access and we hope our FI Events Mobile App will make progress on both of these fronts for both the FI and broader CUNY community. Events are a key component of the intellectual and cultural offerings that make CUNY valuable not only to students but to their surrounding communities as well. Making events easier to find raises the profile of the intellectual life of each college, while also making it easier for members of the public to find and attend events on topics that matter to them. Please follow the development of our app on its GitHub page or via my bi-weekly posts on both the FI and HASTAC sites.