Students

NSCC to create mobile app for international students

The college says its 225 international students have different needs

NSCC wants an app for its international students   Ava Coulter

Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) intends to develop a mobile phone app for international students to improve their transition process and overall student experience.

“The point of the app is to really help support our students a little bit more by having information in an easily consumable fashion,” said Ashley Pinsent-Tobin, manager of international learning programs at NSCC International.

The college put out a  request for information for the app on Jan. 27. It explains that the college’s current population of 225 international students “have different needs and challenges from domestic NSCC students.”

“Think of what it was like for you starting university,” said Pinsent-Tobin. “All those new things you had to go through, add on leaving your home country, moving to a new place, figuring everything out, maybe English isn’t your first language.”

NSCC wants the app ready for the fall. It’s taking proposals from companies until Feb. 10. Details about how the app will function and what it might cost are unavailable until a provider is chosen, but a major goal will be to improve communication.

Why it’s important

“Some [international students] might be shy to ask questions or don’t like to speak or confront people,” said Mohammad al Masalma, an NSCC tourism management student from Syria, international student ambassador, and World University Service of Canada (WUSC) local committee member.

The app will include features such as checklists for what a student should do before coming to Canada and tips like how to find a place to live.

The college hopes that information will be easier to find on the app than it is on the website. The goal is to allow staff to respond faster to inquiries and reduce the number of questions they receive.

One advantage of an app is the use of notifications, said Peter Hradisky, an NSCC international student from Slovakia who will be international student ambassador next year. “That might help a lot to spread information faster, rather than just by email.”

He said many students don’t read their email. Last week, for example, he sent out an email instructing classmates to bring blankets to a seminar, but so few of them read the message that only three did as requested.

Al Masalma said that as international student ambassador, he has had to go around to every international student on his campus to talk to them one-on-one about important workshop and program opportunities.

“Chinese students, they don’t have Facebook. They have their own network and they don’t see the messages, or notifications, or links that I post on Facebook,” he said.

Al Masalma and Hradisky stressed that the app must be user friendly and have a multi-language interface.

Breaking new ground

Pinsent-Tobin said she’s not aware of any other institution that provides an app for its international students.

Dalhousie University has student Welcome Ambassadors who host Global-Connection Webinars. The pre-recorded videos range in topics from visa and permit information to being successful as a student.

Dalhousie’s 3,506 international students can also request one-on-one Skype information sessions with student ambassadors, or go to the International Centre webpage for guides on student life.