Queen’s Engineering launches dedicated faculty app

Posted on August 31, 2020


Has a global pandemic called into question how you’ll stay connected to your school’s famed sense of community?

There’s an app for that.

At least, there’s one for Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. EngConnect, the FEAS app, is live and boasts dozens of tools and resources to help faculty, staff and students stay in touch and thrive during an unprecedented semester.

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“The timing was fortunate,” says Stephen Hunt, Senior Director, IT and Facilities at FEAS. “We actually began investigating the tool as a way to respond to criticism that we were over-reliant on email well before the pandemic hit – but as that situation evolved, it became increasingly clear that we were developing a technologically appropriate solution to a social problem.”

EngConnect App Screenshot

The problem – common now on campuses worldwide – is how to connect students, staff and faculty that are physically distant. “EngConnect is built around the idea of user connectivity,” Hunt explains. “From the home screen through to a variety of chat and community discussion options, it’s created on the premise that users need information delivered to them in a convenient and timely way – but also seek ways to share ideas and solicit advice on the same platforms.”

The app, built by education app developer Ready Education, features a number of tools designed to ease the lives of students and other users.

“From the home screen, you can see content tailored to your needs,” Hunt says. “For our first-year students, for instance, we make it easy for them to find and connect with Orientation activities on the EngSoc orientation site. All students, however, will have information and access to our health and wellness workshops.” The home screen also allows users to customize their own content. “The app will hook into our education platform, OnQ, and deliver class schedules and reminders to users right on their home screen, in a feature that will be coming online later this week,” Hunt says. “We’ve worked with students to see what content is most appropriate and useful for them, and make sure it’s the content closest to their fingertips every time they open the app.”

Beyond the home screen, however, some of the app’s key features begin to reveal themselves. “Conversation and exchanges are part of the toolset,” Hunt says. “EngConnect comes bundled with a number of community functions, like a buy and sell forum, a ride share tool, and other ways to communicate directly with other students. Students can also chat directly with other students using a campus lookup tool.

While EngConnect is tailored to ease the re-entry into a challenging semester, even the strongest students in Queen’s Engineering may find themselves seeking support. “Supporting our students is an institutional priority,” says Stacy Shane, Manager of Student Services. “We’ve worked with Stephen and the IT team to ensure EngConnect fulfils its name by connecting students to advisors and other supports quickly and easily.” The app includes guides to help students know who to contact for a variety of support needs, and makes it easy to reach out for counseling or advice.

Perhaps not surprising for one of Canada’s most renowned engineering schools, EngConnect is not the only app helping students this fall. The Queen’s Engineering Society is using Bounce, an online events platform, to provide an unforgettable orientation experience to its students through the Bounce app. “We’ve been working all summer on finding ways to make the legendary Queen’s Engineering frosh week an immersive digital experience,” says Ally Rohlicek, the Engineering Society’s 2020 Orientation Chair. “Having orientation in your pocket will bring some of the excitement and immediacy of what we do to our first-year students. Bounce lets us host live events including video conferencing, breakout rooms and peer-to-peer chats, and we’re leveraging the full power of that app to create a great virtual orientation for the Class of 2025.”

EngConnect is just one of a number of digital initiatives that the Faculty has introduced this summer to support new and returning students; others include SOAR Online, a digital version of Queen’s summer orientation program, QEng Prep, a novel math, physics and chemistry program to help high school students bridge seamlessly to engineering studies, a standalone “welcome back” site that gathers all the Faculty’s Fall term resources in one place for ease of use, and also on the horizon are a set of digital health and wellness workshops, Eng Well, that will run throughout the semester.

All of it is, of course, accessible through the EngConnect app. “We’ve worked hard for months to bring this project to fruition,” says Hunt. “While we started the project pre-pandemic, I couldn’t be more pleased that the timing allowed us to create the perfect tool for a challenging semester.”