How fitting that the birthplace of social networking as we know it is also the birthplace for the new medium for connecting with students and friends: geosocial. Arizona State University, built on the DoubleDutch platform, launched spark this week (iTunes link). Here is the story behind the app, as well as the plans ASU and ASU Online have for it.
Sarah Krznarich, who is leading the spark implementation and management at ASU and ASU Online, let us know why she went geosocial:
It's a natural extension of our current engagement efforts. Students who learn online obviously don't have that physical campus where they meet people in classrooms or walk past student booths. By providing a platform in the mobile space, we're giving our students a way to connect with each other, and with the university, outside of their computer. Smart phone use is increasing dramatically. With a mobile app, they can share their study location, compete with classmates, discover nearby cafes—activities normally limited to campus.
And why DoubleDutch
"DoubleDutch gives us the ability to 'customize the universe' by limiting use of the app to ASU students, they provide a student-centric place to connect, compete and share. And because we own this network, we can easily see how students are using the app and in what ways we can further engage them. Their private life stays private, while their student life is augmented by the development of this community."
Due to ASU's strong community of students and alumni, Sarah and her team decided to brand the app after their mascot, Sparky. From the outset, ASU Online is a core focus of spark, and games and badges have been designed specifically for ASU and ASU Online students. From their 'Friends' tab, they can see where their friends are studying and hanging out, and connect and share without hesitance over their data being found elsewhere.
My ASU Integration
ASU provides a great mobile site for their students, so ASU decided to take advantage of DoubleDutch's custom tab option and integrate the site with spark. With this combination, students can connect and share with fellow students and alumni, as well as stay connected with the university. Another social aspect of the app is the ability to push out to Facebook and Twitter. If a student wants to share his or her location with friends on those networks, it is as simple as a tap of the finger. Within the app, photos and notes are a major part, enabling students to share experiences visually. On the data side, with a simple spreadsheet, ASU was able to upload all of its buildings, halls, and campus landmarks, and include along with them photos, descriptions, and links to a visual tour through the browser.
Spark's Grand Plans
Again, from Sarah:
"As online enrollment increases, our student population will live in areas not only all over Arizona, but all over the country. By providing a network that consists only of other ASU students, spark users can easily connect and engage with one another no matter where they are. The serendipitous nature of checking in and discovering fellow Sun Devils will be all the more valuable when that discovery is made not in Tempe but in Santa Monica, or Baton Rouge."
We are very excited to start what is surely only the beginning of the movement by universities to adopt geosocial technology. ASU has long been a leader in educational technology, a university to which others look, and we are proud to be a partner.