When students returned from winter break, they were met with a new, updated version of the Ohio State app. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

A new semester brings a new look for the Ohio State app after changes were implemented while students enjoyed their winter break.

The changes will help with student and staff accessibility on campus, keeping students up to date while also setting up the app for more changes in the future.

For starters, students can now look for a content feed on their Ohio State app, a feature brought over from the Discover app that was implemented along with the Digital Flagship initiative in 2017 for incoming freshmen.

Benjamin Hancock, director of application development at Ohio State, said more than 160 pieces of content have been made for the Discover app since its implementation.

“That was an effort to take the work we did for the freshmen students — they’ve been putting a lot of time into that content — and make it available for everyone,” he said. “You don’t wanna spend all that time doing all that content and not make it available for everyone.”

To ease campus navigation, the app now contains a feature that shows the location of gender-inclusive bathrooms and lactation rooms.

This change was driven by a request from the Office of Student Life, as well as the Title IX office, Hancock said.

“They reached out and asked, ‘Hey, can we include these?’ and it turned out to be really easy so we said, ‘Heck yeah,’” Hancock said. “Any time we can make it more comfortable for people, we do, and the lactation rooms were similar; that’s a little more staff- and faculty-focused but it impacts some students as well.”

The final immediate change is a new feature that will notify students when a waitlisted class has been added to their schedule.

“If you’re on a waitlist now, and that class gets added, you get a push notification now, whereas before you’d have to log in to BuckeyeLink and see if this class was added or if it showed up on your schedule, but you wouldn’t get a proactive notification,” Hancock said.

There was also plenty of work put in behind the scenes to ensure future changes to the app go over smoothly. Changes already in the works come from student feedback and share a common theme — students do not like to wait.

“We want to make laundry availability visible for the students, especially now that there are first- and second-year students on campus. That’s become an inconvenience for the students so we want to try to help with that,” Hancock said. “We’re looking at library room reservations, probably for Thompson and 18th Avenue Library first.”

These are not the only locations students are experiencing wait times and lines they would rather avoid, for students hitting the gym or looking for a meal have also asked for updates on capacity.

“One of the most common requests we get — from USG and feedback in the app — people want to know how busy dining locations are and they want to know how busy the RPAC or the ARC is,” Hancock said.

Hancock said providing availability for gyms and dining areas is still a ways down the line as they figure out the best way to measure capacity and include it in the app. The plan is to work with Student Life’s current model — where employees provide a manual headcount — to make the feature feasible.

Hancock said that while all students use their BuckIDs to access these areas, he is concerned about trying to leverage that information to provide capacity data.

“I am always nervous about privacy stuff, especially with students,” he said. “I feel like we have a responsibility to be super cautious about that, so I am always going to err on the side of not including the feature until we are sure we can get it in a way that is not invasive.”

Those who want to pass along feedback to the app development team can provide comments in the app. Hancock said feedback drives a lot of the development and updates.

“Any time anybody submits feedback through the app, you will get a response if you have your information on there,” Hancock said. “We respond to every single one of them. That’s the absolute best way to get something on our radar.”