A group of students in the University have developed a mobile application (App) called ‘FUNAAB Air’ that allows students get latest updates, organise their academic activities and stay connected with each other in FUNAAB. The students are: Uzoma Ibe, 500-level, Department of Water Resources Management and Agro-meteorology, College of Environmental Resources Management (COLERM), who is the Team Leader, Air View Devs and Google Ambassador; Mr. Abraham Ojeomokhai, 500-level, Department of Food Science and Technology (FST), College of Food Science and Human Ecology (COLFHEC), who contributed to the development of the Server Side Programming of the Application and Data Analytics, assisted by Mr. Abisayo Ademola, 100-level, Department of Agricultural and Bioresources Engineering, College of Engineering (COLENG).

The students, under the name, Air View Developers (AirViewDevs) developed the new App, which is capable of solving issues of lateness to classes through its automatic time-table feature and is also capable of assisting fresh students or returning students in the University to know how to navigate better around the campus with the inclusion of the Google Map Feature on the application. According to the Team Leader; Uzoma, the product is capable of solving programming issues that they are unable to get, since not all students have the luxury of time in checking for such updates on the University’s website. He added that ‘FUNAAB Air’ had made the University’s website very mobile and easily accessible. Uzoma, popularly known as Uzo, said that the team of developers had the aim of using the software development skills to solve problems, adding that they had a goal of contributing their own quota to academic activities of FUNAAB.

Giving details on how the name, ‘FUNAAB Air’ came about; Uzo said that ‘Air’ symbolises freedom, stating that it creates an avenue for different elements to collaborate without obstructions. According to him, “We wanted an avenue for students of FUNAAB to collaborate and access resources and information freely without hurdles or needless structures and we knew that it could only be possible if we adopted the concept of the ‘Air’, which God gives to us freely without any hindrance whatsoever.” On what brought about the software, Uzo stated that he had wanted to contribute towards making the daily campus activities of students, as simple as possible.

According to him, “I understood that life on campus could be tedious at times hence, my search for a medium to simplify things. As time went on, I understood the importance of creating a team to achieve this; a team of three similar-minded students were put in place and we made this goal a priority. It took us years of brainstorming to get something done and the result is ‘FUNAAB Air’. We worked and are still working towards providing a medium for our fellow students to ease their academic activities, facilitate communication among them, and also assist the University as a whole to make the lives of students better”.

He envisaged some of the problems the App could solve, adding that the team noticed that it should not just be an App, but a project that was capable of solving problems even beyond its boundaries. His words: “The truth is that a lot of computer science graduates are without the ability to write codes. Reasons not being that they were not taught or the lecturers did not do their jobs properly”. He noted that through his experience while teaching students in programming, as one of the Google Developer Leaders for FUNAAB, he noticed that students tend to learn faster and better when they were taught by their fellow students. He added that the team decided to extend ‘FUNAAB Air’, not only to include an App, which on its own could solve problems but also to make it a project, in which its membership was opened to any FUNAABite, especially the computer science students. He stated that the team wanted to use the Apps’ source code to teach students the in-depths of software development and server management, noting that they would be helping the University to produce better graduates that would be entrepreneurially-inclined.

On the capacity of the App in relation to the University’s over 13,000 students, Uzo, who is also a skilled Mobile App and Server Side Developer, stated that the team had combined both its financial and technical resources toward ensuring that the App had the capacity of hosting not more than 5,000 students. He added that the App and its services had the capacity to be upgraded, to serve as many students as possible, if sufficient resources were put into its continuous development. He described the benefits of the App to the students as immense, ranging from being able to carry out their academic activities seamlessly, which would make them better equipped and effective in navigating the University’s environment. According to him, “We believe if the students were better at their academics, then the academic staff would be better at training and developing active and successful students”.

On the security of the application to deter those that are not students of FUNAAB from accessing it, Uzo said that the App was designed for FUNAAB students and could only be used by active students of the University, adding that it was secure but it could be made more secured. He declared that the team was working in collaboration with the Information and Communication Resource Centre (ICTREC) of the University, to provide the means of verifying students’ information before they would be able to create an account or use the App. He, however, noted that when students graduate or leave the University, due to one reason or the other, ICTREC would be able to verify, prevent access and delete such accounts, if they still existed.

He added that ‘FUNAAB Air’ was a gift from the team to the University, saying that “We built it with the latest and standard software development practices to ensure the App performed effectively and we were giving this at no cost to the University because we love FUNAAB”. On how to update the App to include members of staff, he disclosed that the App was just the beta-version and in its active development stage, which could be updated later to allow for staff participation, except for limited resources. Uzor further stated that in the next five years, the ‘FUNAAB Air’ team hoped to use software development skills to solve the problems being faced by academic institutions in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, adding that “We are also going into Agri-technology by developing products that would solve challenges being faced by farmers. He, however, paid glowing tributes to the team’s mentors such as the Head of ICTREC, Dr. Olutayo Ajayi; Mr. Abayomi Babatola and Mr. Seyi Babarinde; all from ICTREC.

Shedding light on the application, the Head of ICTREC, Dr. Olutayo Ajayi, disclosed that the essence of ‘FUNAAB Air’ application was to make information available to FUNAAB students at their fingertips. “It is a mobile application that would benefit the students in the way of letting them know what is happening within the campus, through the use of their mobile phones, and aid the development of their communication technology skills, whereby they can have access to their lectures, tests and examination time-tables real-time, as well as provide teaching and learning platforms, to enhance teaching and learning within the campus”, he said.

Dr. Ajayi noted that the App was an enhancement on the present medium of passing information to students, which involved going to read about information from the notice boards, short message service (sms) and written memos, stressing that with that system, they could only access information while on campus. He, however, pointed out that with the App, students would be able to access information anywhere, at any given point in time, through their mobile phones. Confirming that the App was set to take off, Dr. Ajayi said that it had passed the test phase, but was yet to go live in the University because permission was being awaited for the App to be used to gain access to students’ results. He disclosed further that necessary controls had been put in place to ensure that results were not tampered with, as access codes would be required to log into the platform and students would then be able to access their own results.

Speaking on the contributions of ICTREC to the success of the app, the ICT expert said the Team Leader, Uzoma, is a Google Ambassador that was nominated by the Centre, while he himself alongside his team members, have been enjoying the full support, encouragement and advice needed to make the project a success. Commenting on the fact that none of the Air View Devs team were from the Department of Computer Science; Dr. Ajayi said, “it is not always about your area of study but about interest. You may find it interesting to know that most of the professionals in Information Technology that are very sound in developing programmes are not necessarily from the Department of Computer Science. It is more or less something that boils down to interest and skill. That is why, as I speak to you now, all the Google Ambassadors that we have been having for the past three years have either been from Physics or Engineering Departments”.

Dr. Ajayi, who revealed that the App have no hidden charges, said it was part of the students’ initiative of contributing to give-back to their University, adding that aside the ease that it would provide in passing information and facilitating interaction among the students, it would put them at par with their colleagues in other private universities that usually deploy ICT in their studies.

Dr. Ajayi stated that preparations were already on the introduce Mobile Learning Solution to students by the next academic session. According to him, the initiative is designed to enable students receive lectures and make contributions on their mobile device without necessarily having to be on campus. To achieve this, he said the University was already in partnership with reputable organisations such as Lenovo and Microsoft. Lenovo was expected to take care of the software, while Microsoft would take care of the hardware. He explained further that the platform, which was recently approved by University Management, was not to discourage students’ physical attendance in classes, as they were still required to have at least 70 per cent attendance, before they would be eligible to write their examinations. Rather, the platform would be like a follow-up after classes for the students to play back what they might have been taught in class. Dr. Ajayi, however, disclosed that the platform would not be made compulsory for students because of the financial implication that could be involved.