Many returning Wittenberg students may have noticed the absence of weekly “Witt’s Happening” emails this school year, perhaps instead hearing an enthusiastic rep from Student Involvement aficionados and new student orientation assistants alike about a smartphone app called “Guidebook.”
“Guidebook is an opportunity for students to learn more about campus events and activities,” Carol Nickoson, director of Student Involvement, said. “Students can use the app on their mobile devices or on the web. They can access a schedule of upcoming activities, view flyers and posters for student organization and department events, participate in campus-wide surveys and access department resources. Guidebook allows students to have a centralized calendar-viewing experience and the ability to post and view events and make quick revisions.”
The Apple app store lists further uses for Guidebook, like the ability to “easily browse maps, schedules and more for your event, venue or organization” and to “plan your event schedule and create to-do lists with alarms.”
When students download the app (which is available for both iPhone and Android devices) and create an account, they can search for “guides” and find the one labeled “Wittenberg Student Involvement.” If students open the left side tab within the guide, they have access to tools labeled “Student Involvement Calendar,” “My Calendar” and “Student Organizations Resources & Documents,” among others.
While Guidebook was initially used for New Student Days to provide a campus map, OA contact information and a handy link to a student evaluation of NSD to first years, the app’s streamlining of events and activities aims to fix an age-old problem at Wittenberg mass emails. In prior years, mass emails have caused many students to avoid checking their inboxes altogether.
“Small events that aren’t of interest to 90 percent of campus, like certain Greek functions and department colloquiums contributed to mass emails,” Leighton Kessner, ‘18 and a lead orientation assistant, said. “It became normal to ignore emails about these kinds of events. People didn’t know what was going on last year. People didn’t even know when athletic games were. The university has struggled in the past with reaching kids who aren’t ‘inside’ or just don’t live near the football field or even on campus. Now, it’s easy to see what’s going on any day.”
According to Jason Williams, an orientation assistant as well as a Guidebook believer, “There have always been problems with mass emails. Now that everything is on Guidebook, you can validate those other emails instead of just deleting them.”
Reaching upperclassmen, though, has proven one of the app’s shortcomings. While Guidebook was heavily pushed on first year students, upperclassmen failed to experience the same pressure to use the app as they moved back to campus.
As Kessner puts it, “The only problem with Guidebook is getting people to download it.”
“We have seen some traction, which is amazing,” Kessner said. “While Guidebook was initially geared towards new students, the purpose of it is to aid student involvement, so we see potential. The struggle is in getting upperclassmen on board. If they see the traction, we can go further with Guidebook to include Greek life, athletics, etc.”
As of Sept. 7, the Wittenberg guide has reached 1,025 downloads and has lent itself to 36,026 guide sessions, according to Nickoson.
As for the future of Guidebook, Kessner and Williams cite word of mouth, teaming up with the athletic department and changing Guidebook’s reputation as a “freshmen thing” as their main methods to promote the app.
“This is only step one,” Kessner said.