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New app struggles to Connect with students

This semester, all Community Engaged Learning (CEL) designated courses will be completely replacing WeberSync with an app called Weber Connect during its soft rollout period for the remainder of the year.

As of Oct. 3, the Weber Connect app, available on Apple and Android devices, has an overall rating of 2.7 stars from seven reviews on Google Play with over 500 downloads and a single one-star rating on the Apple App Store.

Currently, there is no way to access Weber Connect’s services online without installing and navigating through the app specifically.

According to Jenny Frame, the community partner coordinator for the Center for Community Engaged Learning, WeberSync was around for about five years. When it came time to renew their contract it was decided by a council of stakeholders that Weber Connect was more appealing.

To Frame’s knowledge, the council mainly included key stakeholders and was unsure if any Weber State University faculty or student representative attended the meeting.

WSU communication adjunct professor Matthew Gerrish teaches Interpersonal & Small Group Communications, a communications course that helps students volunteer and engage in community activities in groups. Gerrish said his class had previously used WeberSync to log in their hours.

“I directed students to the WeberSync Community Partner service directory,” said Gerrish.

He noted that his students were not, however, required to find service opportunities from those partners alone.

“Second, I used it to track individual students’ service hours, as they were logged throughout the duration of the semester,” Gerrish said.

According to Frame, WeberSync was originally also a platform for clubs and organizations on campus to organize events. It was believed that most of the student population had neither heard of nor used WeberSync the hope is Weber Connect’s mobile friendliness and convenience will better engage students.

“This, we believe, is a tool that will help get students engaged,” said Frame. “Because WeberSync wasn’t a mobile platform, we found pretty much students only used WeberSync for logging their hours for their classes or student leadership.”

Frame believes that the scheduling of Weber Connect’s release was poorly timed and hopes that a better, more polished version of the app will be available to users at Weber State sometime in Spring 2019.

“We were really hoping that we would get this app much earlier in the summer to have a stronger rollout for the fall,” said Frame. “It is a soft rollout, we have only pushed it to our CEL designated courses because we had to in order to track community engagement.”

Currently WeberSync is still available to students, but since their contract was not renewed Frame believes this service could be pulled anytime in the near future. Requiring many professors and organizations to use Weber Connect despite it’s rough rollout period for the remainder of the year.

Students who engage with community organizations that are not CCEL’s Community Partners will have to self-record their hours through the Co-Curricular Record (CCR).

“Organizations could check those student’s hours if they reached out to us,” said Frame. “It’s a little bit harder because they don’t have administrative access because they’re not a vetted community partner. We’re not just going to give access to everyone.”

Originally in WeberSync, non-community partners would be able to personally verify a student’s logged hours on the website themselves. Frame said this mechanism isn’t yet built into Weber Connect but she believes it’s something that can hopefully be included in the future.

In years when Gerrish’s class had used WeberSync, his only issue was making sure students were added to his “portal,” enabling him to view their logged hours and grade them accordingly.

“A mild inconvenience if you will,” Gerrish said.

Gerrish said his class will be using Weber Connect for this semester, however, they have as of yet to utilize its services for the purposes of the course.

“In theory, it will provide the same features and information about community-based learning except now it will be available within the mobile app, which I’m told has a ton of other non-service related features that will appeal to students for their time at Weber State,” Gerrish said.

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