Partnering with rural telecoms provider Nex-Tech and its wireless joint venture, Nex-Tech Wireless, Fort Hays State University  has launched Blackboard Central, a mobile service that provides access to an initial set of six mobile apps that map out and establish direct communications channels to the university’s educational resources, as well as two specific to Nex-Tech and Nex-Tech Wireless.

With education moving online, it’s no surprise that educational institutions are now turning their attention to mobile platforms when looking for ways to attract, retain and provide more flexible and affordable educational options for existing and prospective students.

Besides providing on-site and distance education students with basic information, such as campus maps, contact lists, academic program descriptions, etc., much of the focus is now on building better engagement and interaction among students and faculty, in other words, building a community.

“Nex-Tech understands the importance of both instant and constant access in our technology-driven society,” commented Justin McClung, the telecompetitor’s Internet solutions manager. “These apps allow users to access content, such as the Nex-Tech Classifieds, which will be released in the near future — when and how they want. With over 12 million hits per month to our Classifieds, we know there is a huge demand for mobile apps such as those created for Blackboard Central.”

The mobile apps expand FHSU’s use of Blackboard products and services, which are currently used to provide online course management for its students.

The apps are mobile OS agnostic; they run on Android, BlackBerry and iOS, and they are available free at each mobile OS provider’s online app store under the name ‘FHSU Mobile’.

The currently available FHSU Blackboard Central mobile apps are: Maps, News, Emergency, Images, Videos, Directory, Courses and Athletics. The university expects to have additional apps online in the near future, including ones that provide access to its Forsyth Library stacks, FHSU student publications, the FHSU Foundation and the Office of Admissions.

A move to further leverage the mobile platform to provide online learning is also underway. Appropriately, the FHSU Dept. of Informatics is offering its first certificate program in smartphone application development this semester. Though initially offered on-campus, the university expects to move it online in the near future.

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