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Friday, July 16, 2010

Southern U gets its own "app"

Students at Southern University can access news, sports scores or even financial aid information on their iPhone using the new “Jag App” the university recently launched. The app is available for download for free.

Southern has made the next step in social networking by putting the app in its mix along side Facebook and Twitter.

Southern Student Government Association President Demetrius Sumner said many students get most of their news through their phones.

“It’s a great attempt by Southern to meet students where they are,” Sumner said of the brand-new Southern University System iPhone app.

Schools in the Southern System, including those in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport, are the first public colleges in the state to unveil an iPhone app.

Tulane University released a similar app in March and LSU plans to go online with its own by early September.

New Southern President Ronald Mason Jr. said the Jag App will be a great way to communicate with Southern constituents — parents, students, alumni, faculty and staff.

“We’re out front,” Mason said, joking that he is “a little too old” to be an expert on iPhone apps.

Southern has started out with just the iPhone app, but could still move beyond to programs for BlackBerry and Android smartphones as well.

Heath Price, LSU assistant vice chancellor of finance and administrative services, said LSU’s plan is to release iPhone and BlackBerry apps nearly simultaneously for the start of the fall semester.

“That’s the model now — it’s all going toward the apps,” Price said. “It’s amazing how many kids on this campus use iPhones or iPod touches.”

The $40,000 LSU app programs completed by the Blackboard software company will feature LSU news, videos, directories, maps and even GPS tracking for campus bus services.

The only thing missing will be LSU sports news. Price said LSU athletics has a contract with Verizon, which is a competitor of the AT&T-based iPhone.

“We’ve run into some of those little quirks,” he said.

Southern and Tulane have similar iPhone apps created by Tulsa, Okla.-based Straxis, which has done apps for more than a dozen colleges.

Rachel Hoormann, Tulane’s director of web communications, said the Tulane app is already very popular, noting that the only complaints are from BlackBerry users upset that it is only available for iPhones.

“We wanted to give people easy access to frequently read info … in your pockets,” Hoormann said.

Southern’s Jag App came a lot cheaper, costing less than $5,000 that was paid with private funds, according to the university.

Former Southern interim President Kassie Freeman said Straxis offered quality service at an affordable cost with a quick turnaround time.

“It’s big for us to release it in the summer,” said Freeman, currently the Southern System’s vice president for academic affairs.

She said the unveiling of the new app coincides with new student orientation and last week’s national alumni conference.


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