App or Website?

by Kristen Abell

As college campuses continue to assess their websites, they find that more and more of our users are accessing sites through mobile browsers – smartphones, tablets, etc. (duh). What this calls into question, though, is what direction do we go from here? Do we invest our resources in a mobile app, or do we build a website easily accessible on mobile devices? A few thoughts to consider…

The majority of users on mobile devices access their favorite sites through apps (think Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.). They are used to the speed and ease of use of these apps. Most of these sites have created apps to be used across a variety of platforms – iOS, Android, etc. They highlight the most important aspects of the site for any user, and they turn them into buttons or easily used functions. This sets a fantastic example for universities in what mobile users are looking for when accessing a site on their device.

Quickly becoming more popular than mobile websites these days are responsive design sites – sites that adjust to fit the device on which they’re being viewed. These have a lot of potential for users to continue to be able to access all parts of the site, and once a responsive site has been implemented, it’s much easier to make changes to than a mobile app. In addition, for those users that are less familiar with using apps (believe me, they’re actually out there), this provides a more friendly interface.

One of the biggest challenges to universities is the breadth of audience and user functions required by their sites. They are providing information for students, future students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff and community. They are often large and unwieldy sites branching across a variety of departments and academic units. They also often use tools for registration, data-tracking and other applications that may not have ventured into the realm of mobile-friendliness.

So what is the best path for universities to take? What does your institution do? Do you have other thoughts on the mobile app vs. responsive website debate?

App or Website?

Blog Prompt: Technology & emergency preparedness

By Valerie Heruska

I work at Boston University, a school that is literally built around the tracks of the MBTA and runs up and down a very busy street known as Commonwealth Ave (or Comm Ave to the locals).  I work in a city, and while I love working here at BU, sometimes, it’s a little scary walking around at night. Now granted, we have those lovely blue emergency boxes, but when your campus is integrated into a city, there are bound to be some consequences.

Over the past two years that I’ve worked here, I am always thankful for Boston University police and their use of technology for emergency preparedness.  Here at Boston University, we have “BU Alert” system. According the BUPD’s website:

Boston University has established a notification system (BU Alert) for the purpose of communicating with the campus community upon the confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees occurring on the campus. For more information about BU Alert, visit the BU Alert webpage. Students may add or update their BU Alert contact information by visiting the Student Link and clicking the “Personal” tab to update “Address and Phone.” Questions concerning enrollment in the BU Alert program may be addressed to the Admissions Office (617-353-2300). Staff may add or update their BU Alert contact information by visiting the Employee Link and clicking the “Personal” tab to update“BU Alert Information.”

In the event a situation arises, either on or off campus, that, in the judgment of the Chief of Police and Executive Director of Public Safety, constitutes an ongoing or continuing threat, a campus wide “timely warning” will be issued. The warning will be issued through the BU Alert System. Notice will be sent via text message, voice mail, and email. Notice will also be posted on the BU home page, BU web pages, and scrolled on the University’s cable television system.

What emergency response plans are in place at Boston University?

The Boston University (BU) Emergency Response Plan (Plan) establishes a procedure for mobilizing the university’s resources and communicating with the university and external community in the event of a large-scale emergency. The plan was developed by the Emergency Response Planning Division of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) in cooperation with over a dozen departments, colleges, and offices as well as public safety agencies. It is updated annually and a campus-wide emergency response drill is conducted every 18 months to test and improve upon the plan. The plan describes three phases of emergency situations. These situations are as follows: Phase A is the initial response to a potential emergency situation or an actual event when the impact is uncertain. Phase B is an actual emergency that impacts the university and cannot be handled by on-site personnel in a routine fashion. At this phase, the Command Center may be established to bring key department representatives together to coordinate a response from a single location. Phase C is a large-scale emergency that requires the reassignment of on-duty and/or recall of off-duty personnel or contractors and transfers overall university coordination to the Command Center.

I’ve received texts, emails, and phone calls in a very timely manner.  I’ve received them so far in the case of robberies, weather, and suspicious packages. I think BUPD and EHS and the other areas of campus understand the differences in what students, faculty, and staff use on campus. I’ve definitely found it useful living on such a large campus, and I think BU is definitely prepared in a time of emergency.


How does your campus use technology with regards to emergency preparedness?

Blog Prompt: Technology & emergency preparedness

The End User

by Kristen Abell

Recently I changed jobs to work with websites and online presence for student affairs at my university. In my brief time in this position, I have already learned A LOT – and I’m still learning new things daily. But one thing that I’ve learned has me, well, not completely surprised, but definitely frustrated.

Student affairs has forgotten for whom they create their websites. (Okay, to be fair, not just student affairs, but this is a student affairs blog, so I’m focusing on that).

As we’ve met with various clients and website managers, I hear many of the same things: “We think this would be really cool.” “Can we add a slideshow? We want to make it look like that website.” “We want the latest look on our website.” We, we, we – well, you get the point.

In all the meetings that I’ve had with folks, I almost never hear anything about the end user – the students. How would a student use your website? Why are they coming to your site? What do they need to get from your site? None of that is even considered a majority of the time.

Have we forgotten that students are our audience, our clients, our reason for being here? Every time I have to remind someone about that (and then continue to be ignored), I have to believe that to a certain extent we have. Or maybe it’s just when it comes to tech. Every time I see a new social media account pop up when the user clearly hasn’t learned how to best engage students through the other three accounts they have, I start to think that when it comes to technology, we just want the latest thing, students be damned.

What do you think? Has technology blinded us to how to best serve students online? Are we so intent on having the newest, the best, the coolest that we’ve forgotten that students just want the easiest way to find and use our services? Have you noticed this at your institution?

The End User

Linkage Love: A Few of My Favorite Student Affairs Bloggers

By Kathryn Magura

One of the things I enjoy doing is reading through my Twitter feed at the end of a day and see who in the Student Affairs community has written a new blog post via the sachat hashtag. For this week’s Linkage Love, I thought I’d discuss some of my favorite Student Affairs bloggers:

  1. Becca Obergefell: Becca is an extremely thoughtful blogger with a wonderful grasp of the English language. I frequently find myself chuckling through her posts or having to reflect on the deeper meaning afterward. Becca has an uncanny ability to speak in prose that usually leads to deeper thought, frequently through metaphor. It has been a pleasure to be on the Student Affairs journey with Becca over the last few years, and I look forward to reading along wherever she takes us next on this adventure!
  2. Chris Conzen: One of the things I appreciate most about Chris Conzen’s blog is that he isn’t afraid to be vulnerable with his readers. Chris has an incredible way leading by example through his own flaws. Not only does this build trust with the readers, it demonstrates an honesty and sense of realism that’s refreshing. Too often I read blog posts that only highlight the great things someone is doing, without taking the time to reflect on the learning that happens through failure.
  3. Kristen Abell: I know, I know, Kristen is one of our very own bloggers, why would I highlight her here? Well in her “spare” time, Kristen is often reflecting on her life via her personal blog. I am frequently humbled by Kristen’s raw honesty about everything from being a parent to struggling with depression. Kristen has overcome so much on her personal journey, and I feel fortunate to have been any part of that journey with her.
  4. Women in Student Affairs: Every week the Women in Student Affairs blog (a.k.a. WISA) posts another entry from a woman working in Student Affairs. The blogger has free reign to post about whatever topic they choose, which results in some amazing reflections upon the journey to working as a woman in our field. I look forward to these posts each week, and am frequently inspired by the bloggers to help other women on this journey.

So those are some of my favorite blogs and bloggers within the Student Affairs Community. Who did I miss? Which bloggers do you follow?

Linkage Love: A Few of My Favorite Student Affairs Bloggers

Highlight an App: Vine

by Jennifer Keegin

Vine is a new app that lets you take 6 second videos and share them via Twitter and/or Facebook. You can follow others like you do with Instagram. Others can follow you. The trick is to come up with interesting videos that are only six seconds long.

Here’s an example from me:

Not the most exciting video, but showed the company that was selling the furniture and I convinced someone else to demo for me. It’s fun once you remember to hold your finger down as you tape, release to stop. Lots of stop motion happening here when you explore other videos. I love the travel section. Of course there’s selfies and food and cats and all the other types of videos you would imagine. Definitely worth checking out especially since it’s a free app.

Here are some more articles about Vine:

How to use Vine and other video apps for marketing.
Twitter’s Vine App Will Make Social SEO Campaigns More Awesome.

Highlight an App: Vine

Blog Prompt: Playlist of the Week

By Anitra Cottledge

Tell us how your week went by putting together a playlist of  five songs that represent it.

1. “We Used to Be Friends” by The Dandy Warhols

Um, hello! The possibility of Veronica Mars, one of my favorite shows of all time, being made into a movie? Good news all around.

2. “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge

I don’t have sisters, but I love my family, and was reminded of their awesomeness this week.

3. “Glory Box” by Portishead

Does one need an actual reason to include Portishead in a playlist? It’s not so much the lyrics but the music; I felt like I was in a slow, slightly trippy brain fog for most of the week. I blame Daylight Savings.

4. “Breathe” by Lalah Hathaway

“Just breathe/remember to breathe.”

5. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by The Eurythmics

I have had nothing but odd dreams all week long. I’m also going to blame Daylight Savings for this, too.

What song(s) represent your week?

Blog Prompt: Playlist of the Week

Highlight a Woman – Make that 2!

By Kathryn Magura

Today I have the pleasure of highlighting a woman in the field of Student Affairs. As I ruminated on who to highlight, I decided to bend the rules (Sorry Kristen!) a little and highlight 2 women I have met via Twitter.

  1. Kate McGartland-Kinsella: Representing our friendly Canadian neighbours, Kate is passionate about serving students and championing for the success of other women. I had the pleasure to meet Kate last year at the ACUHO-I annual conference in Anaheim, CA, and immediately noticed how Kate is very genuine and friendly. I also think it’s possible that Kate is always smiling. Kate is a stalwart champion for finding ways to provide “PD for Free” opportunities for staff who may have limited resources for professional development. I recommend connecting with Kate on Twitter to learn how to be a selfless advocate for the success of others. Or if you liked the Sweet Valley High series growing up.
  2. Amma Marfo: Amma is a young professional whose authenticity and genuine spirit shines through in all her interactions on Twitter. Amma and I connected via the student affairs community on Twitter, but quickly learned that we have a lot in common: from a love for all things 30 Rock/Tina Fey to serving students on campus with an unwavering passion. Amma impressed me this past January when she decided to take on the “Snap Challenge” and live off of a food stamp equivalent diet for the month. If you want to push yourself past the traditional ways of serving students, I highly suggest you connect with Amma and check out her blog as well!


Kate and Amma inspire me, and I can say I’m a better person for having met them (well, Amma and I have yet to meet in person, but watch out when we do!). Who inspires you?

Highlight a Woman – Make that 2!