Otago Polytechnic: Enterprise mobile apps on campus

Otago Polytechnic: Enterprise mobile apps on campus

CIO Michael Collins sees the school's development team as an app studio for the region.

Otago Polytechnic is moving towards a more mobile friendly campus by opening key systems to be accessed on mobile devices through apps. CIO and director – learning environment Michael Collins says there is also a future in using the polytechnic’s development team as an app studio for the region.

In July the polytechnic's new student management system will go live, and Collins says the institute's 8,650 students and 700 staff will be able to access profile information using their smartphones and tablets shortly after.

Otago Polytechnic is one of the largest IT using organisations in New Zealand, with the rank of 86 in the MIS100 2011.

In time class curriculums and other campus information will be accessible by mobile devices.

"A key strategic focus for us is to have our curriculum available anytime, anywhere, and on anything," he says.

"Most of our students and staff have cell phones, laptops or iPads - and they're encouraged to bring them in. These apps are just the next step in a natural progression."

Originally Collins brought on two developers to create custom apps for each of the key student lifecycle systems, but Collins says this project was halted when the number of standalone apps and individual databases grew out of control.

"This went against our principle of trying to keep IT simple and centralised as much as possible," says Collins.

"We didn't want to get app rash, with spreading databases and individual content management systems, each harder and harder to manage."

While searching for alternative methods and frameworks for creating enterprise apps, Collins was approached by Vodafone which suggested the Australian-based BlinkMobile. Otago has used BlinkMobile’s technology to expose the polytechnic's existing enterprise databases and uses APIs to display data inside of the apps, which are still developed by his team.

BlinkMobile takes its cut on developer licences for each of the apps created, says Collins.

Because of the relatively quick turnaround in using pre-templated apps, Collins says the polytechnic has been able to develop apps for other businesses in the region. One such business is Tourism Dunedin, which employed Otago Polytechnic to create a mobile version of its website. Tourism Dunedin says it is considering hiring Otago Polytechnic to develop a mobile app also.

“While Vodafone and BlinkMobile were going around drumming up business, the question kept coming up for Blink’s customers of where were the development shops in the South Island using their technology. They passed those enquiries to us,” says Collins.

“We’re in no way going to be the country's only dev shop for this kind of product, what we’re proposing is using our strong relationship with the region to create these apps for businesses in the area.”

Collins says where possible his team will focus on developing education focused apps, and the BlinkMobile framework will be integrated in the curriculum for next year's Bachelor of Information Technology third-year project.

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