New “Study at OU” iOS app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch

I haven’t managed to find an official announcement of this yet, but it seems as if there’s a new addition to the Apple App Store in the form of a “Study at the OU” app: StudyAtOU.

Study at the OU app

So what does it do? Essentially, it seems to provide and app way in to the Open University course catalogue. Here’s the opening screen

Study at OU app

(Err – wot? No OU logo? Is it not an *official* app then?! Though the iTunes does carry branding… If it is an official app, how well does it sit with OU ice/brand police guidelines, I wonder…?;-)

The app provides a convenient way of navigating through the OU’s course catalogue, providing a brief overview of subject areas:

Study at OU app

Study at OU app

qualifications:

Study at OU app

Study at OU app

and research degrees:

Study at OU app

Study at OU app

Clicking through on individual course links also leads through to a description of the corresponding course.

Study at OU app

Looking through some of the descriptions, it seems as if there isn’t any information about forthcoming presentation dates, course fees, and other ‘administrative’ information (such as level information), nor does there appear to be a ‘click here to register’ option. (Hmm… I don’t think the OU course registration system accepts Paypal yet? If it did, I guess something like the PayPal Mobile Payments library would allow this to be integrated into the StudyAtOU app?)

If you want to share a link to a course with other people, there are several ways of doing this:

Study at OU app

Facebook and Twitter based sharing requires you share access to those services, of course. Here’s the prompt you get when you try to share a link using Facebook:

Study at OU app

and the corresponding prompt from Twitter:

Study at OU app

(By the by, seeing this app reminds me of my old, old WAP demo for navigating Relevant Knowledge short course descriptions… TSCP Experimental WAP Service;-)

Also in passing, I asked where the data that feeds the app come from. It seems to be an XML source that also feeds the data.open.ac.uk Linked Data store, rather than being fed from the Linked Data Store itself. Whilst the Linked Data store was presumably not available whilst the app was being developed, it would be nice to think that services such as the app might call on the datastore and actually start using the data contained within it.

One thing worth noting about the app is that it is not self-contained. The qualification, subject area and course descriptions are all pulled in live from the web, which means if you lose your network connection, you get this:

Study at OU app

In that sense, the StudyAtOU app is therefore a hybrid app, with a small amount of offline functionality, complemented by network sourced content. I guess there’s a trade-off between going on here between connectivity/bandwidth requirements and memory requirements/app size.

If the app was displaying course start dates/pricing, then I could see why there might be a good reason for the app to want to display ‘live’ data, but for course descriptions? (I guess you could argue that you always want the catalogue to only list current courses, but that could easily be managed with a time to live field associated with each course on the app, given the review dates for the expiry of courses are well known?)

Anyway, the app’s there, and usable, and available for download, and offers a great starting point…but will it be allowed to evolve, I wonder, in an agile fashion, now that it’s there…?

PS just because, I wondered where http://www.open.ac.uk/studyatou might point to. At the moment, it seems to resolve to http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/explained/how-do-i-apply.shtml:

Studyatou webpage...

The top-level “Study at OU” web presence, and the one you get to from the OU website’s Study at the OU top level navigation actually seems to have its home at http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/. Just sayin’…;-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

10 thoughts on “New “Study at OU” iOS app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch”

  1. Hello,
    App doesn’t use data.open.ac.uk as it wasn’t available at the time, but I’m certainly interested in developing it to use ld. For example it would be nice to pull thru pod/vodcasts related to a particular course.

    Live connection was a requirement because we need to show accurate information (there are changes to courses / descriptions each day). It was just easier to work with this requirement and get something out.

    No ‘buy’ option for a few reasons – 1 prices vary according to where you are (and this app is international. 2 NOt sure we can handle it as you say.

    We’ve got google analytics for iphone apps installed on this app too. The data we are getting about use is amazing tony. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    1. The m.ox.ac.uk was developed using the Molly open source mobile portal (JISC Funded ;).

      This Molly “a web-based application framework targeting all phones, ‘smart’ or otherwise” which has “built-in connectors for various interfaces and systems, including LDAP, Z39.50, Google Search Appliances, OpenStreetMap, and even real-time bus information.” http://mollyproject.org/

      Would be interesting to see if data.open.ac.uk would interface with this

      Martin

  2. actually we’ve just been discussing this. looking at building these things in html5 and then wrapping various thin app layers around if required.

  3. Hi. As a tutor I was pleased to find an app for my iPhone that held a lot of useful information about the OU and it’s modules.
    Unfortunately after the first use the app seems to jam up. The second time I use it I can open the first ‘page’ but attempts to open a sub-page results in the little turning icon and nothing else. (I am using iOS 4.2.1).
    I don’t know if this is because it needs an internet connection and I do go places where that is difficult to find.

    I can cure the problem by restarting my phone but I don’t want to have to restart my phone every time I want to use the app.

    Maybe you can advise me how to fix this, or maybe the app needs modification. Either way I would carry it if it worked for me.

    Rm

  4. Hi Robert,

    Sorry for the delay in replying to this. I’ve not come across this before and would like to get it resolved. If the issue is you not having web connection then you should get a message telling you this.

    Can you contact me on s.a.brown at open.ac.uk if you are still having the problem and we will see if we can get it resolved

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