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MyUoY app re-launch: the controversial app is back

After coming under fire for tracking location and attendance, the app is making a comeback without those features.

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Image Credit: David Dixon

THE MyUoY app has now launched and is available for download on iPhone and Android. Concerns were raised previously by Nouse about the effects of the University’s plans for attendance monitoring on the app, but these plans have since been shelved following an outcry from students. The first version of the app was piloted to test the attendance monitoring technology and largely developed by a third party. It contained a number of security concerns discovered by students and as a result has been redeveloped by an in-house team at the University. The question is, what makes the newest app different from the previous?

Natasha Coia, Department Representative for Computer Science, attended a technical talk addressing security concerns and told Nouse that “it’s clear that the team now working on MyUoY have taken the mistakes of the past into consideration and are taking students concerns seriously”. Given the many problems of the pilot last year, many students may still be loath to trial the app, but the development team has committed to making an app “designed by students, for stu - dents”.

A number of accessibility concerns have been raised throughout development of the app and Rowan Casey, one of YUSU’s Disabled Students’ Officers, commented that “we will be continuing to contact the team about improving accessibility on the app. Recently we have contacted the team about the lack of image descriptions and the alt text function which looks to be broken”. Some students have raised concerns that a lack of fully functioning accessibility tools shows them to be an afterthought of the development. Accessibility advocates will be pleased to hear, however, that Victoria Cornford, also a Disabled Students’ Officer at YUSU, was very positive about the efforts of the team and remarked “it was incredible. They remembered disabled people exist, and didn’t ask us to do their work for them in researching what we need”. Looking at the app in its current form provides the user with access to their academic timetable and a list of upcoming events run by both the University and YUSU. YUSU officers and societies will in future be able to submit events to be published in the app and this has already begun with recent events at the Disabled Students’ Network’s “Accessival” advertised through the app.

Some students are confused by the lack of messaging from the University about the app’s launch. Although the app has been released, it has yet to be officially advertised to students as available for download. Nouse reached out to the development team who explained that “listening to the feedback from students, they highlighted that communications in the first week of term are very high and with the added situation of Covid, we took the decision not to pile app promotion on top”. The app has been trialled amongst some new students on campus with a high uptake amongst the initial group and plans to advertise the app more widely in the coming weeks. The pilot has shaken trust in the institution’s motives for many, and it will likely be the engagement of new students that defines the success of MyUoY in the coming months.

Matt Johnstone, YUSU’s academic officer reassured students about the new app, stating to Nouse that: “the redevelopment of the app has involved students since its fresh new beginning. The only location-based sections of the app so far are weather and a map. The map will link in with the University room finder, and will only be used to help students find the room they need to head to.”

We contacted the University directly who also reassured students, saying that “The current app project has no attendance monitoring.” The representative went on to add that: “accessibility has been very close to our hearts throughout this project and is something we are constantly working to improve. The lack of image descriptions are occurring when users add their events into the app. This was flagged in one of our training sessions and our developers are working to make this a mandatory field when logging an event. Every piece of accessibility learning we have gained in the project is being added to our standard tests going forward so that accessibility is a core requirement.”

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