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Germanna gets own mobile app

Germanna Community College students now have a new, improved tool for doing everything from checking grades to reporting emergencies.

And it will be right in the palm of their hand.

The community college is rolling out its customized version of a mobile app this week that the Virginia Community College System developed last year for its all member institutions.

“More and more students have mobile devices,” said Barbara Taylor, GCC’s director of marketing and public information. “Even if they don’t have a laptop or PC at home, they do have a smartphone. It’s becoming an important tool and way for them to connect, not just for scholastics but for safety and to be socially aware.”

Germanna Mobile, as the mobile application is called, is available to students, faculty and the public for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

“The beautiful part is that anybody can go ahead and download the Germanna app,” said Taylor. “A student can use it to get into their records, but other community members can use it to keep up with college events.”

Germanna Mobile’s “springboard” or homepage, includes icons for course schedules, a calendar featuring Germanna events, and maps that tell users how to get to and around the community college’s campuses. There’s even one that lets them search the college’s library catalog and chat with a librarian.

A tap on the emergency icon opens up two menu options: one to call GCC’s emergency number and the other to reach 911.

There’s also a Blackboard Learn icon that students can tap to so such things as check grades, post to discussion forums, view important class announcements and read and download assignments. And there are icons for Germanna’s Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as a News icon so users can find the latest news and announcements from the community college.

“If the parking lot is being worked on, we can send out an alert,” Taylor said. “If we’d had that app during the earthquake, we’d have been better able to alert students and guide them to safety.”

The Virginia Community College System did the initial work on mobile applications for all its member institutions using Blackboard’s Mobile application since all of them use the Blackboard platform, which was designed by an education technology company.

This approach created a standard look for students, who sometimes take classes at more than one of the institutions, said Taylor, who was on the VCCS steering committee for the project.

“It was a smart thing economically, too,” she said. “It allowed us, as a collective system, to pool funds and build a better app together than we could do individually.”

Once that application was created and tested statewide, each community college got to customize it. Germanna organized focus groups on its campus to make sure it met students’ needs, and its web and IT staff worked with Blackboard to make changes. Afterward, students on financial aid were asked to take part in a soft launch to make sure everything worked correctly, Taylor said.

She said students will find a number of uses for Germanna Mobile. While they’re standing in line during registration or waiting for an appointment with their advisor, for example, they can go online and see which classes are available and make payments.

“It’s going to be very interesting to watch this whole mobile app grow with feedback from students,” Taylor said.

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407