Helping University of Rhode Island students better manage their time was the top priority for Shaun Kavanagh, senior information technologist for dining services, and his team as they set out to develop a new mobile application for the department. “We saw a need,” Kavanagh explains. “More and more people aren’t going [to their laptops] for information, they’re going to their smartphone.”
The team used a plug-and-play web-based tool to build the application to allow mobile access to services already available on the dining services website. Now, students can add money to their dining services accounts, check the arrival status of the campus shuttle and even get a real-time view of the line at the dining halls from the convenience of their phones or tablets. “We have cameras that allow students to view the line going into the dining hall and how crowded the dining hall is,” Kavanagh explains. “Overall it’s been pretty popular and allows students to manage their time better. They can, coming back from a class, check to see how long the line is to get in and if it’s too long make a couple stops along the way and hopefully catch it when it’s a little shorter.”
Launched in March 2014, the free application currently has more than 2,400 users, the bulk of which Kavanagh estimates to be students with a campus meal plan. “But the shuttle service brings in students that don’t necessarily have a meal plan, [so] it exposes them to our menus, it shows them our dining halls, even if you’re just using the shuttle GPS tracking. It was a way for us to tie that all in.”
After gathering user feedback, Kavanagh and his team are already working on version 2.0, he says. Updates will include more features to help students manage their time even more effectively, like cameras that can count guests as they enter a location so students can get a more accurate estimate of time to service based on the number of people in the dining hall. The addition will “give [students] some kind of tool that will allow them to predict when the dining hall isn’t going to be busy and better utilize their time,” Kavanagh explains.