Two phones showing campusM apps

BLOG – Collaborating using the campusM Platform

campusM provides developers with an  App Extension Kit (AEK) which allows them to develop their own app screens so that they are able to respond to changing institutional and user needs. Part of a SaaS based platform, it benefits from being multi-tenant meaning institutions can work collaboratively on projects.

At our user group in November one of our presentations was about how University of Sussex and University of Exeter used the AEK in this way to develop an email client to be used within campusM apps.  After the group, I caught up with David Guest (Sussex) and Max Goss (Exeter) to find out how they worked together and what benefits they have found from working this way.

What were the driving forces for you to develop an email facility within campusM?

David – Students had asked for the service. The most popular request we had was to allow access to university email within the app. They want to have their institutional email separate from their personal one, and setting it up natively on their device was tricky. They wanted to be able to see their emails by just tapping a button.


What approach did you take in developing the client?

David – We started modestly, we were just testing the water as we weren’t sure if it would be popular. So we started by providing access to unread mail which went live in September 2013. We saw an immediate uptake of the feature.  Until that point timetable was the most popular aspect of the app but this overtook it straight away. It also made the rest of the app more popular – using the app for email means that students need to keep coming back to it, so students used other features more. In 2014 we added full email but kept the app simple – students can now read, compose and reply to emails as well as download attachments if they are using iOS devices.


Max, how did you hear about what David had done?

Max – At Exeter we had exactly the same drivers as Sussex, as well as the same thought process – that students would prefer to use the native email client, but it was the development request that we saw most often. We saw that on the AEK code repository that Dave had posted some code for the work that he had done so we took that and styled it for ourselves. David and I tested functionality between institutions to perfect the application and with some help from campusM we were able to add a host of new features including the ability to download attachments using Android.  We went live with the feature in 2015. We saw a massive increase in app usage and in terms of popularity, email overtook timetable very quickly. The key to it’s popularity is that it is a simple tool and because it changes frequently the students have to keep coming back into the app to check it.  The app is a one stop shop for all of their university life and is quick and easy to find. 


How did you approach working collaboratively

David – It is exactly the sort of project that the campusM Platform is good for. With limited resource within the institution you can call on developers from other universities to build new solutions. You also benefit from having a fresh pair of eyes look at what you have put together.

Max – Although we managed most of the process ourselves the support we had from campusM was nothing short of great.  The AEK is so powerful and easy to use that you don’t need much support.


What benefits have you seen since deploying the client?

Max – We have had more hits this term than for the whole of last year, and seen an increase in engagement.  Email is the key to getting students to use the app frequently so they benefit.

David – the app is so important for communication – it’s taken seriously across the institution. It would be too time consuming to develop something like this in isolation but by working together we can.