DU connects through apps

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DU connects through apps

Delhi University is disseminating information to students through mobile apps—a medium that they are familiar with.

The 5WH in brief

Who: Professor Gurpreet Singh Tuteja, Deputy Dean, Admission/Placements/Technical issues, Delhi University (also Associate Professor of Mathematics at Zakir Husain College)

What: Is the mastermind of two apps, one sharing information pertaining to undergraduate admissions and the other sharing information pertaining to postgraduate and other courses

When: Since 2013

Why: To improve how the university communicates with students and to facilitate greater communication between the university and the student community.

How: By single-handedly developing and maintaining the Delhi University Undergraduate Admission app and the Delhi University app.

How Delhi University is communicating with students through apps

Despite India’s prowess in information technology, most universities in India communicate with admitted and aspiring students through their websites and to a certain extent, through help lines operated by the university’s information centre.

Communication gaps

University websites can be fairly congested with information and hence hard to navigate, especially during admission times when updates are frequent and traffic is heavy. Also, accessing a website made for full screen viewing on a handheld device, students’ preferred method to access the Web, can be even more cumbersome.

Appropriate response

Being clued in about the difficulties students face in accessing information, Professor Gurpreet Singh Tuteja, Deputy Dean of Admission/Placements/Technical issues at Delhi University, took it on himself to figure out a better way for the university to communicate with students—especially the thousands of students seeking admission to its undergraduate programmes. Heaimed at evolving a communication strategy that best fits students’ needs and yet which can be implemented with minimal resources—since all he had at his disposal was his own skills in information technology and his will to help students. Here’s what he did:

MOBILE APP VERSUS MOBILE SITE: One option was to create a mobile version of the Delhi University site. But students would still need internet connection to access a mobile site. Instead, Dr Tuteja decided in favour of creating a mobile app because a lot of the information that students need to access is more or less static. “An app can have a lot of static information builtin. Such information includes the admission schedule, lists of the various undergraduate courses on offer with their respective syllabi and a college directory including their respective contact details and website. It is more convenient for students to download and install the app once and subsequently access such information without an internet connection,” he explains.

The Delhi University Undergraduate Admission app (DU UG Admission app) is an installable file of size less than 2MB, downloadable from the DU website as well as from Google play. It fetches all the information it holds from the university’s main site and presents it in a classified form. “Apps can mine data very easily and present information at the click of a button,” he adds.

INCLUDE LINKS FOR DYNAMIC ELEMENTS: During college admissions, the university makes frequent updates to its website as well as issues notices. But, updating the app twice weekly or more was proving too challenging for Professor Tuteja, who also has a full time professorial position in Zakir Husain College. To keep things simple yet ensure that students could access dynamic content, he embedded links to certain Wordpress (a free service) pages in the app. These pages contain all the dynamic information, and are more easily updatable.

GRADUALLY SCALE UP: At the outset, Professor Tuteja tackled the challenges of prospective undergraduate students seeking admission related information, and developed the DU UG Admission app. Next, he wanted to address the information needs of students seeking admission to post graduate professional courses, M Phil and PhD programmes. So, he created a second app, which he says is more like “a complete Delhi University (DU) app.” It provides information about those other courses and even lists MOOC courses coming up in the near future and lists add-on courses such as journalism, languages, web designing, theatre appreciation, photography, etc. which are run privately by DU’s constituent colleges. Information about placement opportunities, internships, workshops, events, celebrations, examinations, news and notifications is also available. A section allows students to upload details of books, notes, furniture, etc. they would like to sell, share or donate. Essentially, even DUs undergraduate students can benefit from the main DU app.

The two apps co-exist and will continue to be maintained separately. Dr Tuteja explains why—“Takers for the DU UG Admission app are different to the Delhi University app. Also, the latter is more dynamic in nature. I would like to maintain the simplicity and offline functionality of the DU UG Admission app.” Next, he proposes to add a push notification facility to both the DU UG Admission app and to the Delhi University app so that students receive notices automatically without having to look up

CHOOSE TECHNOLOGY THE MASSES ARE USING: Both the DU UG Admission app and the DU app work on any Android device (not on Blackberry’s, iPhones and devices running the Windows operating system). “We are catering to the masses, and most students and adults in India are using handheld devices running Google’s low cost Android mobile operating system.

Such devices are less expensive to own and operate,” explains Dr Tuteja. Students’ response to the apps has been phenomenal. More than 6000 students or their parents currently have the DU UG Admission app installed. It has been downloaded in India as well as overseas—in the USA, Singapore, Japan and the Middle-East. During admissions, the dynamic content of the app receives about 15,000 hits per week. It has received more than 115,000 hits so far.

Now that awareness is spreading about the DU app, Dr Tuteja expects it will be downloaded. It is a university’s responsibility to provide students with information that can enrich their student life. As also, universities must communicate with students in ways that best suit them. “You could say a measure of a university’s communication skills and tech savviness is its ability to fulfil these two objectives. It doesn’t take much by way of resources; just the will to make a difference can help the student community tremendously,” says the futuristic deputy dean.

Professor Gurpreet Singh Tuteja, Deputy Dean, Delhi University, explains how they are using mobile apps to reach out to their students