Web calendar boosts student communication

A group of 43 Clemson University freshmen are using a new web-based calendar program this fall that integrates with students’ mobile devices and sends alerts when campus events change time or venue.

DormNoise, an online calendar created by University of Pennsylvania junior Jay Rodrigues, is the official student calendar system for Clemson, Bay State College in Boston, and Bryant & Stratton College, which has campuses in four states. At Clemson, officials are providing the service to first-year students focusing on majors such as nursing, health sciences, and education.

Kristin Goodenow, an academic advisor at Clemson, said DormNoise’s real-time calendar updates let campus officials schedule events for the freshmen group easily. Students can then respond if they plan to attend.

"It’s given us a really good idea of who is coming, so we … can plan a whole lot better," said Goodenow, who added that the RSVP total helps event organizers know how much seating and food to provide for students.

The calendar system is superior to campus-based calendars, officials said, because DormNoise integrates personal, group, and college-wide calendars–giving students three levels of scheduling for their busy class schedules and social lives.

Students can sync all their DormNoise calendar events using Windows Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, and Google Calendar using a Blackberry, iPhone, or GPhone. Rodrigues said DormNoise is developing a tool that would send text messages to traditional cell phones that don’t have the capabilities of a smart phone.

Alerting students via DormNoise, she said, has proven far more effective than traditional methods. Campus planners and resident assistants in Clemson dormitories used to spread the word about upcoming student events by peppering bulletin boards, dining halls, and other gathering places, Goodenow said.

"Those are pretty easy to ignore as a student," she said. "For us, [DormNoise] was pretty much a perfect solution."

DormNoise hosts the calendar application, meaning campus technology decision makers don’t have to use any server space. Rodrigues said a baseline fee for DormNoise is $2 per student every school year, adding that he is willing to negotiate a payment plan for colleges that want the calendar application for their students but can’t afford the program amid budget cuts.

On each DormNoise event page, students can see the time, date, event description, and who is invited and who will attend. The program includes a social-networking twist, as students can maintain contact lists filled with students who can be invited to personal and group events. Students also can add their course schedules and homework due dates to their personal DormNoise calendar. 

Electronic notifications are commonplace, but students’ university eMail in-boxes can be filled up daily with invites and updates from every college department and student group on campus, Rodrigues said.

"You get a million eMails a day, but you never really know what’s going on," said Rodrigues, 20, a finance and accounting major. "A lot of time, it’s totally and completely disorganized."

DormNoise started as a social network for college students when sites like Facebook–which started as an online forum for college students–were suddenly populated by older professionals and middle-aged parents, Rodrigues said. He soon realized that "[students] didn’t need another place to post pictures online," but they praised DormNoise’s three-tiered calendar program, so developers enhanced the feature and launched a beta version last year.

"It allows you to consolidate all aspects of your college life," Rodrigues said. "We want to change the way students arrange their schedule."

Jennie Erdle, director of student activities at Bay State College, said the institution’s previous online calendar system didn’t feature nearly as many options as DormNoise, and many students had a tough time finding the calendar application on the school’s web site.

"This is providing a great outlet that we just have not had in the past," said Erdle, who added that the calendar system is helpful for commuting students who have to rearrange their schedule to attend on-campus events. "This is promoting more student involvement … so for us, it’s priceless."



Bay State College

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