UNL goes mobile with iHusker

Jon Pike, a junior at UNL, relies on his iPhone when he's not near his laptop. Photo: Katy Healey, NewsNetNebraska

Fans of Apple’s iPhone and iTouch can now tap into a wealth of information about the University of Nebraska-Lincoln thanks to a new application, called iHusker, created at the school.

The app features campus maps, athletic schedules, news and an events calendar. It boasts a novel social network – Planet Red – that links users to one another personally and professionally. There’s even a link to iTunes, a Husker music player and UNL’s YouTube channel.

“Universities are trying to find ways to repurpose the content they already put out publicly and make sense of it on a mobile device,” said Brian Moore, iHusker’s lead developer.

He explained that iHusker was designed to supply “all things UNL” to iPhone and iTouch users in a way that makes sense on those gadgets. It targets UNL students, alumni, faculty and anyone interested in university affairs.

Everything featured in iHusker is also accessible through the university’s Web site. Moore said that formatting the online information for mobile phones is more convenient for those on the move.

“A lot of times we want information, and we’re not always on a desktop. For instance, folks are using the map feature because they don’t always know abbreviations of [campus] buildings. The people finder allows you to send emails [on the go],” Moore explained. Using an iPhone or iTouch, he said, is “more efficient.”

Jon Pike, a junior at UNL, downloaded iHusker shortly after its March 31 release. He applauded the university for creating an app that is compatible with mobile phones.

“iHusker is customized for the iPhone so it’s easier to use its features than an Internet browser,” he said. “Now, I can replace my laptop with my phone.”

Pike added that he is impressed with UNL’s commitment to developing mobile technology.

“It shows that UNL is trying to reach students through all mediums,” he said. “It’s good to see that [the university] is thinking about adapting technology and moving forward.” [media id=11 width=360 height=264]

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln recently released iHusker, an Apple application designed for the iPhone and iTouch. Click the image above for Katy Healey’s break down of iHusker’s features.

Many schools have been upgrading their technological systems. iHusker’s unveiling coincided with similar programs available at other colleges and universities.

Stanford University was the first academic institution to create a school-sponsored application. Many other universities, including Northwestern, Duke, MIT and now Nebraska, have followed suit.

Moore worked with UNL’s New Media Center and communications department to develop the application. He said the inspiration arose from teaching an honors course that explored the relationship between professional productivity and personal technologies.

“Students are coming to campus with all this technology, and we’re under-using it from an academic standpoint,” Moore explained. “We want to stay on top of what’s cutting edge in academia.”

Seth Meranda, one of the communications department staffers who helped develop iHusker, said UNL wants to expand its use of mobile technology in school settings. Doing so, he adds, will modernize the university and appeal to incoming students.

“We’re branding through the university Web site and other mediums, and wireless devices are an extension of the Web,” he said. “As these mobile devices become more of a requirement, we need to a have presence.”

The application’s six-month development required fewer than five people to collaborate on the project. Moore said the university is devoting more energy and resources to developing the next edition of the application. He hopes to include students to improve future versions of iHusker.

Pike downloaded iHusker after its March 31 release. Photo: Katy Healey, NewsNetNebraska

“Because we have majors and minors in this type of area,” Moore said, listing music technology, graphic design and computer science, “students need opportunities to work in these areas.”

The university plans to release a second version of iHusker this fall. The updated application will deliver live statistics during Husker football games and include a link to the UNL libraries that is formatted for mobile devices.

UNL also plans to develop iHusker for non-Apple platforms. The Android operating system is most likely to host the application next, according to Meranda. He explained that UNL’s computer science expertise lies outside of Microsoft’s mobile software, though the university hopes to eventually develop iHusker for BlackBerry users as well.

The current version of iHusker is available to download free through the iTunes application store.

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