October 24, 2012
SpaceScout app hunts for study spaces, and MyUW goes mobile for students
When the Mary Gates Hall computing lab closed three years ago, researchers in UW Information Technology (UW-IT) began a series of conversations with students to learn about their study space needs.
After conducting surveys and focus groups, the researchers discovered that students didn’t know about the spaces available to them and couldn’t easily find a space that had what they were looking for. UW-IT decided to create a solution that would connect people to various study spaces and resources across campus.
The result is SpaceScout, a mobile app developed over the past nine months. The mobile web version launched this week, while an iPhone app has been out since August and an Android app is slated for later this year.
“Where on campus can a group of six people meet with a whiteboard, nearby printing, and food and coffee?” asked project lead Janice Fournier, a research scientist at UW-IT.
SpaceScout was designed to provide an easy answer to those types of questions. Fournier imagines that after a class, students working on a group project might get together to compare schedules and then pull out a smartphone to find a place to meet.
“We’re really hoping to hear from students about how and when they use it,” said Fournier. She encourages faculty and student advisers to tell students about the new tool. “Hopefully the word will be getting out.”
With Odegaard Library’s first floor closed this year due to renovations, the team launched the project on a fast track to have it ready for the beginning of the fall quarter.
A major part of the effort was working with housing and conference services staff, librarians, computing directors and others to document every study space on campus. The UW-IT team took photos of each space and noted its attributes.
The current tool includes about 200 spaces in 26 buildings, though that number will change as they add spaces in the renovated HUB and other buildings.
Rooms can be searched by capacity or open hours, of course. But the tool goes far beyond that — it also lists noise levels, including “quiet,” “low hum” and “chatter.” Users can specify that they want food or coffee available in the building or neighboring buildings. They can also select for spaces with natural light, or that have scanners, printers, digital displays, power outlets and overhead projectors.
Once students find the perfect space, the app links to a map and, if applicable, information on how to reserve it.
While primarily aimed at students, the tool might be useful for staff or faculty looking for a meeting space on campus. In the future the team also hopes to add ways for users to include ratings, comments and to add their own study spaces.
“I really hope that students will find new places that they fall in love with on campus for studying,” Fournier said.
UW Tacoma and UW Bothell are working with the team to include their campuses in the app. The tool is unique, Fournier said, and the code is open-source so other institutions can create their own versions.
Funding came from the UW’s Student Technology Fee and from UW-IT.
Also this week, UW-IT launched a mobile version of MyUW for students. The new site automatically detects when students are accessing the site from a mobile device and provides them with easy-to-scan lists of their classes, classroom locations, book lists and instructors’ e-mail addresses. The tool was developed by UW-IT over the past year as part of the provost’s Two Years to Two Decades initiative to improve the student experience on campus.
Students told developers of the tool that they didn’t want all the features of MyUW, said project manager Greg Koester, just the features they most needed while on the go.
Only registered students are directed to the mobile version; others will see the full MyUW site. The next installment, planned in the next two months, will show students’ Husky card account balances and allow them to buy books.