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Changing Majors? There's an App for That

MCCC gives students powerful access to college resources from mobile phones, tablets

Montgomery County Community College students have their world right in the palm of their hands.

Now that seemingly everybody has a smartphone or a tablet computer (or both), MCCC has begun to offer its students two free mobile applications for access to information as general as campus maps and as personal as their grades.

MOX, Datatel’s Mobile Access application, is a powerful app that provides information, including general college data, details on current campus events, notifications of priority registration and past-due library books, administrator contact information, important campus office and department phone numbers, and class schedules, locations and faculty members.

According to a college press release, MCCC is the only community college in Pennsylvania to offer this information app to students and the community.

MOX is used by students and members of the community to navigate the college’s Blue Bell and Pottstown campuses, the release stated. Users can access a campus directory and GPS-enabled maps of the campuses; students and employees can also access calendars, class schedules and other information from the college’s portal after they log in with their MC3 username and password, said Celeste Schwartz, vice president for information technology at the school.

MOX is the second app the college offers. Students also have had access to the free Blackboard Mobile Learn app since June, which allows access to assignments, announcements, grades, podcasts and discussion boards.

“The Blackboard app is primarily used by students who are currently enrolled in credit classes, Schwartz explained. “The mobile app enables students to view assignments, grades, discussions and announcements on their smartphones. They can also respond to discussions and assignments to the extent that they are comfortable doing so on a phone. Faculty members use the app to keep up with student questions and discussion posts for their classes.”

It seems that technology has finally conquered the recurrent nightmare of knowing there’s a test but not knowing where or when the class meets.

"As a student who is constantly on the go, I rely on my cellphone as a primary source of communication — especially when taking multiple courses,” said Joshua Schwartz, a student representative on the college’s Information Technology All-College Committee. “The Blackboard Mobile Learn app has made it possible to check in on discussion boards, find out when assignments are due, and even check my grades for a class. The new mobile app has definitely kept me in the loop while I'm on the go."

 “The great thing about these apps is that they complement information and tools that are already available,” Schwartz said in an e-mail interview. “Students who don’t have smartphones are still able to access Blackboard through our Portal and can find all of the information from MOX on our website and Portal. These technologies don’t replace existing tools, so there is no resistance, per se, because students and faculty can choose or not choose to use them.  We’ve received positive feedback from students so far.”

At the moment, MCCC has no plans to help students with financial needs acquire the devices they need to access the apps and information. The apps are “not a requirement, but another tool that students can choose to utilize,” Schwartz said.

Both MOX and Blackboard Mobile were developed by third-party vendors — Blackboard and Datatel, respectively — so the role of the college’s information technology department is to provide technical and back end support as needed, she said; the apps don’t tie up valuable staff time with requisite troubleshooting and maintenance.

To download the free MOX app, visit the appropriate app store for your device and search for “MOX.” Once the application is downloaded and opened, select “Montgomery County Community College” from the list of colleges and universities.  MOX is available for the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Blackberry and Google Android. The Blackboard Mobile Learn app is available for the Blackberry, Google Android., and Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad,

MCCC’s use of technology to help students achieve success has earned the school an A+ in the Center for Digital Education’s Digital Community College’s survey for 2008, 2009 and 2010. “Recognized institutions are national leaders in utilizing technology to provide exceptional services to students, educators and administrators,” according to the center’s website.

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