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University of Canberra builds .NET apps to turbo charge engagement and innovation

The temptation to build an app for everything should be resisted; no organisation has limitless reserves or skills.

But where there is a genuine opportunity to innovate and competitively differentiate, home-grown apps can prove a game changer.

It’s the approach we’ve taken at the University of Canberra – and it’s paying off in terms of improved student engagement, efficiency and even our position in the world research rankings.

Express Application is a .NET app, accessible from any device, that allows prospective students to apply to study, requiring as few steps as possible. If the student ticks the box on the application saying they don’t have work experience, the app excludes any work experience questions, taking the student directly to the next set of required answers.

It’s less frustrating for the student, and we can run analytics over the app to allow us to identify where students tend to stumble when completing their application. Armed with that insight we can examine if a question is too hard or ambiguous and go back and fix that.

It took four months to develop the app from whoa-to-go, and already it’s dramatically cut the time taken to complete an application, and has been used almost 9,000 times – which is significant for a University with 12,000 students.

The Interface student dashboard also sets us apart in the market. Developed using .NET and Microsoft Visual Data Studio, it has been designed to really encourage students to engage. The graphics are strong, with Interface also using Microsoft tools for the analytical examination of the student, enabling timely support, and helping lecturers improve the success of their class.

Integrated with our Learning Management System Interface has already been accessed more than 2 million times.

At the same time, the researchers were asking us to expose their data back to them. We built a researcher dashboard that shows all research outputs. If we tried to licence a system for this it wouldn’t be cost efficient, but we were able to take our development frameworks and build both a research and student dashboard app that are delivering great benefits.

From the Research Dashboards we’ve seen a significant increase in data quality that will support us with our Excellence in Research for Australia reporting, and in turn enhance our position in the world research rankings.

Interface meanwhile reaches out with tips and suggestions to boost performance – surveys show it’s already achieving an impact. On top of that there’s an executive level dashboard that lets our senior management drill down to an individual student level,  or explore different units and courses to find exemplars that can support improved teaching and learning across the university.

We demonstrated the Interface app at EduTECH this year and 16 universities immediately reached out to us for more information.

Engaging and supporting students and researchers is absolutely critical to the success of a university, and at the University of Canberra we’re convinced that smart technology and innovative apps are a critical component.