When online just isn’t enough – go mobile!

At the start of autumn semester 2013, OSU mobile peaked at 2,640 concurrent users—tripling the prior peak of about 800 in spring semester. We had so many users that the traffic nearly overloaded our server, so we added processing power. We had so many users we needed an additional server, which we installed in just five hours. This story has a happy ending, because we prevented an outage that would have been extremely disruptive to students. This story is also an excellent illustration of how much mobile usage has increased and continues to increase.

“We saw more than 37,000 unique users on OSU Mobile the first week of classes,” said Steve Fischer, Director, Web and Mobile. “Students use it daily to check bus schedules, class schedules and news. We’re always looking for ways to make the app more useful.”

The proliferation of mobile devices, many of which are personally owned, has happened quickly. It’s challenged IT teams like ours at universities across the country to come up with solutions—great solutions that students will love—in a short timeframe. Our mobile journey began in 2010, at a time when no one was sure how big the mobile craze would become.

We had practically no resistance to the idea of launching a mobile application in 2010—at the time applications were all the rage, and it seemed only logical that OSU would have one. We started small, not at all sure what our app should include or what resources we would need to get it off the ground. After some research and a lot of hard work, we were able to create apps that are used daily by thousands of students. Three years later, OSU Mobile is even more successful than we dared hope it would be.

“I mostly use the mobile app for the bus tracker, the map, the schedule and the grades,” said Hannah Hetterscheidt, a sophomore majoring in Early Childhood Education. “Even as a second-year student, it helps me stay organized and plan out my week as well as helping me find my way around campus, whether I am walking or taking a bus.”

It’s not only students who love the mobile apps for everything from news to grades, but our faculty and staff are using the app too—to look up phone numbers in Find People and check the map when they just aren’t quite sure of the location of a seldom-visited building across campus. We want all of our users to continue to love the app, so we continue to make upgrades. In the most recent iterations we focused on improving the user experience on the most popular features. Upgrades included adding ADA accessibility tools, upgrading the map, adding user-specific information to allow students to see classes immediately at launch and polishing up the iPad interface.

There are always new hurdles when it comes to accommodating mobile technology, so we expect the work to improve mobile will be continuous. Among our concerns for the future is ensuring that the information available via mobile is convenient and secure at the same time. Mobile is certainly an important part of our present strategy, as well as our foreseeable future, and we can only speculate about what opportunities lay ahead.

If you have questions about OSU Mobile, contact said Steve Fischer, Director, Web and Mobile via email or at 206-2402.