Looking for a way to stay connected to what is happening on campus? Now, there’s an app for that. The Poly Post launched their mobile app during the Spring 2021 semester.
Even before the pandemic, The Poly Post staff was looking for ways to better keep its readers informed and had been discussing the idea of creating a mobile app with faculty advisor and Communication Professor Jason Turcotte.
“This kind of disconnect has been brewing long before the pandemic even began, but the pandemic just accelerated the process and amplified the effects,” said Jovian Lin, web editor of The Poly Post.
While the student staff knew a remote setting was inevitable, it was vital for them to sustain their journalistic duty of keeping the CPP community informed, especially in an everchanging and socially-distant environment. Developing a mobile application and doing so quickly became top of mind for The Poly Post.
The staff took on all aspects of the project, including crowdfunding, for the app, which is on both Apple and Android devices. In the fall of 2020, they kicked off a crowdfunding campaign in partnership with the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation to raise $8,500 to support the cost of developing the app.
And true to the university’s polytechnic identity, the entire project was a learn-by-doing experience from planning to launch.
“The Poly Post app was an entirely student-driven project, from the fundraising to the customizing of features, to web integration, to the mock-up of logo and splash screen designs. The app embodies CPP’s polytechnic experience and the multimedia and problem-solving skills of communication students,” said Turcotte.
The students found themselves taking on tasks they had never done before, including fundraising.
“It was my first time on a crowdfunding project. I had to figure everything out from scratch, but it was a fun learning experience. It was exciting to be able to raise over $7,000 for the project. It was even more satisfying to see alumni, faculty, staff, and students join together and help us on the project,” said Amber Li, lead ambassador for the Mobile App Crowdfunding Campaign and The Poly Post sports editor.
Once the crowdfunding campaign was over, it was time to shift to creating the app—ideas circulated in their brainstorm sessions of what the application would feature. Although The Poly Post has an online presence, the application would streamline all their multimedia efforts and allow easier access to information. While the student staff of editors and writers were adapting to a remote learning and reporting environment, they now needed to take on the unknown world of application development.
“The process was almost like being a guinea pig! I was one of the few Android users on the team, so I was able to download an APK [Android Package Kit] prior to launching and give feedback to the team on how the app was behaving,” said Nicolas Hernandez, The Poly Post copy editor. “Along with designing some assets for the app, this process was definitely a new experience for me as I had never been part of an app development team before, but it turned out to be really rewarding.”
The Poly Post Editor, Daniela Avila, echoed the other staff members.
“I had to learn how to code HTML and custom CSS, which speaking for myself, is not something I thought I would ever have to do as a journalist! It took hours of frustrating research and YouTube tutorials, but when it all came together, it made all the hard work that much more rewarding,” she said.
There was so much that led up to going live with the app. Experimenting with features, usability, and function and determining what was viable under their time constraints came with plenty of trials, the students said. However, it was important for the newspaper staff that the app fulfilled its purpose of reaching the campus community and beyond.
“The main purpose of the app is to connect with students who may not have heard of The Poly Post before, just because different mediums reach different groups of people. The app would help us tap into an entirely different market and connect with more of the CPP community, especially students, in the future,” said Jovian Lin, The Poly Post web editor.
The students set a goal to have the app available by spring of 2021 and met that target.
“Despite the challenges of operating remotely this year, these students, led by editor-in-chief Daniela Avila, forged ahead and dedicated significant time over winter break to ensure the app launched at the start of spring to help students stay informed and connected with our campus as they grapple with remote learning. I couldn’t be any prouder of our students,” said Turcotte.
Even though the app has launched, the group is still optimistic about the app’s opportunities, including interactive features and overall expansion of The Poly Post’s reach.
“I think it has helped The Poly Post move forward so much already! I think our biggest issue in the past was our accessibility. Students simply weren’t going out of their way to pick up our print editions as much as we wanted them to, said Avila.
Avila also noted that the app has opened up a new space for our campus community and beyond to have access to the stories being shared by The Poly Post students.
“Sometimes, so much of our work would go unnoticed,” she said. “Now, all our work is accessible with the click of a button.”
Nell Horowitz, chair of the Department of Communication, lauded all of those responsible to creating and launching the app.
“The Poly Post app was made possible because of our diligent students, the mentorship of the faculty advisor, Dr. Jason Turcotte, as well as the generous support of our faculty, staff, alumni, and friends,” Horowitz said. “With the new app, The Poly Post will be able to deliver news in a way that is easily accessible and better serves our community.”
The students running the Poly Post are fueled by their passion and dedication to the craft of journalism. Aside from developing the app, students manage a podcast section, multimedia projects, a newsletter (sent out once a week to all students on Tuesdays), a magazine, and, the website. These efforts are put in place to ensure The Poly Post not only keeps up with demand but builds a foundation for the next group of journalists, according to the students involved.
Their work has not gone unnoticed.
Recently, The Poly Post won several awards at the Associated Collegiate Press’s national student journalism contest, Clips & Clicks. The competition had over 300 submissions from colleges and universities across the country. The contest honors the best examples of student journalism for the fall of 2020. The Poly Post finished 7th overall and placed in the Best Broadcast Feature Story and Best Informational Graphic Design categories. The staff also received honorable mentions for Best Opinion Writing and Best Sports Story Writing.
Download the free The Poly Post app via the Apple Store or Google Play.