News Column

Time to Turn in Your Homework? UW-L Has an App for That

April 11, 2013

New technology initiatives at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse will keep students connected to campus, whether in class, the dorm or a coffee shop.

A new mobile app even allows them to turn in homework from a smartphone or tablet.

The app and "virtual lab" are part of UW-L's efforts to give students greater access to the resources and information they need to complete a degree, said Mohamed Elhindi, UW-L's chief information officer.

"Students don't sit in one building, they move," Elhindi said. "They want to be connected, 24-7."

UW-L officials have already released the new mobile app for students available as a beta test, though the word "beta" should be dropped in the next few weeks, Elhindi said.

The UW-L Mobile app links phones to Desire2Learn, the online server where instructors post assignments, class schedules and grades.

UW-L student Colleen Huibregtse, 22, found out about the app last week. She hasn't used it yet, but said it's a good idea.

"It's really nice because teachers post stuff on D2L all the time," Huibregtse said. "I think they know that a lot of students have smartphones."

The app gives instructors the same convenience, with the ability to look at class rosters and update grades, Elhindi said.

Students can also map out a walking route to any campus building with the app. They can look up phone numbers for faculty or staff in the campus directory, access email or look up course offerings for upcoming semesters.

Students access the app through a Web browser; it's not available in app stores such as iTunes because university officials wanted to make it more accessible.

Also being tested by university officials is the "Virtual Desktop Pilot," a program that would give students the ability to remotely access pricey academic software they typically can't find outside of a campus computer lab.

Economics professor Taggert Brooks is helping with the pilot.

"This is a long time coming," Brooks said. "Some of the specialized software we use is just really expensive."

Econ classes use statistical software that can cost as much as $500 per installation, and it's usually off limits to students unless they have access to the right computer.

The virtual desktop allows them to log on to that computer from a laptop.

Students are the driving force behind UW-L's push for accessibility through technology, Elhindi said.

"Everything has to be at their fingertips," Elhindi said. "Everything has to be today, and right now."

Source: (c)2013 the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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