Tech Corner: The Colgate App

Colgate has had a rocky relationship with new technologies over the past few years. In my first year, Wi-Fi frequently cut in and out in my third floor Curtis room and Internet speed fluctuated throughout campus. Things just didn’t feel consistent, steady or complete. The only thing Information Technology Services (ITS) has used to educate people about automatically backing their files to the cloud is a poster that hangs in the room behind the help desk, out of view from students. However, things have been on the upswing now with the school offering services like Lynda, web print and the new media lab on the fifth floor of Case Library.

Our university is finally getting into the mobile space as well, with two new apps: the Colgate Alumni app and the Colgate app. While the Colgate Alumni app is available in both the iOS and Android app stores, the Colgate app is currently in beta testing, with a handful of people testing it in order to get the kinks smoothed out. As a disclaimer: this app is not final and any problems I find with the app may very well be ironed out by the time it is available to the wider student body.

The icons, which can be rearranged by clicking customize at the bottom, dictate what this app can do. It is a portal to the useful things that are found across four web destinations that students visit: the Colgate website, the Colgate portal, Moodle and ‘Gate Card management. As such, the app’s different categories are Moodle, Portal, Facility Hours, Cruiser Schedule, Calendar, News, Directory, Dining, Athletics, Maps, Emergency Info, Videos, Photos, Local and Social. Currently, the ‘Gate Card section is missing, but I have been told it will be in the final version. Some of these, like Local, are pointless. Everybody with a smartphone has either Google Maps, Yelp or some other, more robust way of finding places to eat. To a lesser extent, the map feature is pretty useless too. The app’s map is powered by Google Maps, so if you also have the Google Maps app on your phone (if you don’t, download it now; it is far better than Apple Maps), you can search for the same places on Colgate’s campus.

However, other sections are far more helpful. I use the Moodle section the most and it offers a superior interface to the mobile web page. The best part is that I can actually view the titles of my courses, which, if you’ve ever used the mobile website, you already know is an improvement. While documents and PDFs are easy to download, not everything is buttery smooth. If there are more than ten files within a “Topic” the app directs you to the Web browser to a page that does not load. While this should be a quick fix, the app should not be sending users to an external web page if there is more than the paltry limit of ten files; I hope that can be changed.

The Facility Hours section is simple yet strikingly helpful. It lists different facilities by day and a swipe left or right will take you to the next or previous day, respectively. The ingenious part is the small circle next to each of the facilities that is green if the facility is open and gray with a line through it if it is closed. The Cruiser schedule is nice to have on your phone, since it is ordered in regard to time as opposed to line; furthermore, the times are dynamically updated and only show times that are during or after the current time of day. Athletics and Directory are notable mentions as well. The first allows you to see the schedules of sports teams and follow your favorites, while the latter allows you search the whole Colgate directory easily, showing you mailbox numbers and e-mail addresses of students and phone numbers and office locations of professors.

Overall, the app is a great start and I can’t wait for the kinks to be smoothed out. If it works this well for a beta app, the final product should be really useful for the Colgate population.

Contact Austin Allen at aallen@colgate.