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Smartphone usage by students has increased rapidly over the last number of years, and research points to an expectation for increased utilisation of mobile applications in college educational environments. First year students have particular needs when they transition to higher education (or 'third level'), as they can experience a number of personal, social and cultural difficulties. Orientation is a critical stage for these students and the earlier students have access to important orientation information, the less stressful the initial stages of college are. At Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), the authors designed a bespoke mobile application tailored to the particular orientation and information needs of first-year students undertaking programmes in DIT’s School of Hospitality Management & Tourism. The aim of the mobile app was to engage and orientate the students to their programme before they arrived on campus, and provide key information such as college floor maps and campus locations, contact details, tutorials, reference material and social media links. This mobile app – entitled “DIT GetSmart!” - was released on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store in August 2015 for free download by all incoming first year students joining the school's undergraduate programmes. Mobile applications of this nature would generally require substantial financial investment and technological expertise. However, the authors utilised an online Hybrid App Development Platform that provides low cost development requiring little or no programming know-how to create and deploy quality mobile applications on Android and Apple smartphones and tablets in just a matter of weeks. The field testing of the app was evaluated through app usage and analytics.
Bermingham, N., Prendergast, M., Boland, T., O'Rawe, M. & Ryan, B. (2016) 'Developing Mobile Apps for Improving the Orientation Experience of First-Year Third-Level Students', 8th Annual International conference on Education and New Learning Technologies, Barcelona.