■ FUNAAB students unveil Mobile App for 5000 users
By Sam Otti
Three students of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), shook the campus recently with a new mobile application (App) called ‘FUNAAB Air.’ The application, which took them several years to develop, has the capacity of hosting 5,000 students, allowing the users to get updates of events of their interest, organise academic activities and stay connected on campus.
A final-year student, Department of Water Resources Management and Agro-meteorology, College of Environmental Resources Management (COLERM), Uzoma Ibe, led the team, which also includes the Google Ambassador, Mr. Abraham Ojeomokhai, a 500-level student, Department of Food Science and Technology (FST).
Ojeomokhai contributed to the development of the server side programming of the application and data analytics, while he was assisted by a first-year student of Agricultural and Bioresources Engineering, Mr. Abisayo Ademola.
The team, which took the name, Air View Developers, said the new App would solve issues of lateness to classes through its automatic timetable feature. The App is also capable of assisting fresh or returning students of the university to move around the campus through the Google Map feature.
According to Ibe, the App would solve programming issues for students that do have the time to check such updates on the university’s website. He added that ‘FUNAAB Air’ had made the university’s website very mobile and easily accessible. He said the project was capable of solving problems even beyond its boundaries.
On what brought about the software, Ibe stated that he had wanted to contribute towards making the daily campus activities of students, as simple as possible. “I understood that life on campus could be tedious at times hence, my search for a medium to simplify things. As time went on, I understood the importance of creating a team to achieve this; a team of three similar-minded students were put in place and we made this goal a priority. It took us years of brainstorming to get something done,” he explained.
He expressed concern that a lot of computer science graduates often lack the ability to write codes. He noted that through his experience while teaching fellow students computer programming, as one of the Google Developer Leaders for FUNAAB, he noticed that students tend to learn faster and better when they were taught by their colleagues than lecturers. He added that the team decided to extend ‘FUNAAB Air’, not only to include an App, which on its own could solve problems but also to make it a project, in which its membership was opened to any FUNAAB student, especially those studying Computer Science. He stated that the team wanted to use the Apps’ source code to teach students the in-depths of software development and server management, noting that they would be helping the university to produce better graduates that would be entrepreneurially inclined.
On the capacity of the App to serve the university’s over 13,000 students, Ibe, who is also a skilled Mobile App and Server Side Developer, explained that the team had combined its financial and technical resources toward ensuring that the App had the capacity of hosting not more than 5,000 students. However, he noted that the App and its services could be upgraded, to serve as many students as possible, if sufficient resources were put into its continuous development.
He described the benefits of the App to the students as immense, ranging from being able to carry out their academic activities seamlessly, which would make them better equipped and effective in navigating the university’s environment. “We believe if the students were better at their academics, then the academic staff would be better at training and developing active and successful students,” he said.
Ibe said the App was designed for FUNAAB students and could only be used by active students of the university. He said fears of cyber theft or hacking of the App would not arise because it was secure. He admitted that more security measures were needed to ward off possible attack. He disclosed that the team was working in collaboration with the Information and Communication Resource Centre (ICTREC) of the university, to provide the means of verifying students’ information before they would be able to create an account or use the App. He, however, noted that when students graduate or leave the university, due to one reason or the other, ICTREC would be able to verify, prevent access and delete such accounts, if they still existed.
Ibe said the App was built with the latest and standard software development practices to ensure the effectiveness in service delivery and given to FUNAAB at no cost. He noted that in the next five years, the ‘FUNAAB Air’ team would use software development skills to solve the problems being faced by academic institutions in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
“We are also going into Agri-technology by developing products that would solve challenges faced by farmers,” he revealed.
He praised their mentors, including the Head of ICTREC, Dr. Olutayo Ajayi, Mr. Abayomi Babatola and Mr. Seyi Babarinde for their encouragement and support.
Dr. Ajayi said the essence of ‘FUNAAB Air’ application was to make information available to FUNAAB students at their fingertips. “It is a mobile application that would benefit the students in the way of letting them know what is happening within the campus, through the use of their mobile phones, and aid the development of their communication technology skills, whereby they can have access to their lectures, tests and examination time-tables real-time, as well as provide teaching and learning platforms, to enhance teaching and learning
Dr. Ajayi noted that the App was an enhancement on the present medium of passing information to students, which involved going to read about information from the notice boards, short message service (sms) and written memos, stressing that with that system, they could only access information while on campus. He, however, pointed out that with the App, students would be able to access information anywhere, at any given point in time, through their mobile phones. Confirming that the App was set to take off, Dr. Ajayi said that it had passed the test phase, but was yet to go live in the University because permission was being awaited for the App to be used to gain access to students’ results. He disclosed further that necessary controls had been put in place to ensure that results were not tampered with, as access codes would be required to log into the platform and students would then be able to access their own results.
Speaking on the contributions of ICTREC to the success of the app, the ICT expert said the Team Leader, Uzoma, is a Google Ambassador that was nominated by the Centre, while he himself alongside his team members, have been enjoying the full support, encouragement and advice needed to make the project a success. Commenting on the fact that none of the Air View Devs team were from the Department of Computer Science; Dr. Ajayi said, “it is not always about your area of study but about interest. You may find it interesting to know that most of the professionals in Information Technology that are very sound in developing programmes are not necessarily from the Department of Computer Science. It is more or less something that boils down to interest and skill. That is why, as I speak to you now, all the Google Ambassadors that we have been having for the past three years have either been from Physics or Engineering Departments”.
Dr. Ajayi, who revealed that the App have no hidden charges, said it was part of the students’ initiative of contributing to give-back to their University, adding that aside the ease that it would provide in passing information and facilitating interaction among the students, it would put them at par with their colleagues in other private universities that usually deploy ICT in their studies.
Dr. Ajayi stated that preparations were already on the introduce Mobile Learning Solution to students by the next academic session. According to him, the initiative is designed to enable students receive lectures and make contributions on their mobile device without necessarily having to be on campus. To achieve this, he said the University was already in partnership with reputable organisations such as Lenovo and Microsoft. Lenovo was expected to take care of the software, while Microsoft would take care of the hardware. He explained further that the platform, which was recently approved by University Management, was not to discourage students’ physical attendance in classes, as they were still required to have at least 70 per cent attendance, before they would be eligible to write their examinations. Rather, the platform would be like a follow-up after classes for the students to play back what they might have been taught in class. Dr. Ajayi, however, disclosed that the platform would not be made compulsory for students because of the financial implication that could be involved.