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OneSchool: Is It the Next Facebook?

Last fall, Onward State reviewed OneSchool, a student-created app whose purpose is to integrate various aspects into one place. Despite a heavily publicized release, the app disappointed Onward States’s panel. Last week, OneSchool announced that it had raised $750,000 and was releasing an updated version of its app, which it did on Tuesday. I have spent the past week testing the new version, seeing how beneficial this app would be for Penn State students. I was fortunate enough to download it before the update, and can safely say that the app made major improvement. However, these upgrades fail to convince me that OneSchool is worth the memory on your smartphone. I reviewed the nine features that OneSchool bundles, and I am dissatisfied with the experience that I had.

(OneSchool is available for three mobile systems: iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. I reviewed the Android version.)

Bus Tracker
In my opinion, “Bus Tracker” is the best feature of OneSchool. There are few discrepancies between the app and the buses’ position in real life. However, it is no different than the PSU mobile bus tracker or CATA app, and I cannot recommend OneSchool for this one characteristic alone.

Map
The next feature that OneSchool offers is “Map”. You just select the building that you are searching for and the app will show you its location on campus. However, I found that PSU mobile’s map can provide students with more assistance. OneSchool shows you a map of the State College area with a pin to locate your building, and then you need click your way to find out where exactly it is. PSU mobile will take you right to the building, and offers you a picture of it.

Courses
“Courses” combines the services of ANGEL and the Schedule of Courses. However, if I needed to choose between ANGEL and OneSchool, I would select ANGEL any day of the week, even between 3:00-5:00am. Courses only provides information for the current semester, so, unlike the Schedule of Courses, students cannot plan their schedules for next semester. (A representative from OneSchool tells me that this feature will be released “soon.”) Once you click on a course, OneSchool is supposed to allow you to find the professor’s email, and where and when the course is being held. However, the email button is broken. OneSchool also lets you to post messages and photos onto the class’s wall. However, as long as not every student has a smartphone with this app, this feature will be ineffective for communicating among students and professors. In addition, I fail to consider why someone would need to share a photograph with the rest of his or her class.

Wall
Remember, in your senior year of high school when you got your acceptance letter to Penn State, and you joined the “Penn State Class of 201X” group on Facebook? This is what “Wall” is. Now, go to your year’s group and tell me what you find. (It’s okay. I’ll still be here. )

By now, your class’s Facebook group is full of housing offers, textbook exchanges, and spambots. This what OneSchool’s “Wall” is becoming, except there are people saying “Hi” and one student posted a cat picture. The Class of 2013 wall on Facebook is enough for me to handle, and I don’t need another inane thread to sift through.

Directory
“Directory” seeks to be the mobile version of Penn State’s directory. The first person whom I searched for was Bill O’Brien. What did I find? Nothing. “Okay, he’s new,” I thought. “Must not be in the system yet.” So I decided to try some people from Onward State to see what I could find. Eli Glazier? Nothing. Ryan Beckler? Nada. My name? “No details found.” My student email? Still nothing. I eventually tried the generic John Smith, and guess what I found? Absolutely nothing.

Groups
“Groups” takes information from the clubs.psu.edu and brings it into mobile form. Admittedly, it’s easier to scroll through various clubs here than it is on the official website. By clicking a group, you can find the club mission statement, website (provided it ends in psu.edu) and president. You are able to access the president’s email address, unlike your professors’ in “Courses.” While this is fine, my question is how useful would this be to students. If a student is new to this university, they wouldn’t be familiar with OneSchool and would try Penn State’s website. Also, communication within organizations is heavily entrenched in email, Facebook and Twitter, and it would be difficult to move everyone to a different system.

News
“News” offers links to stories on Onward State and Penn State Live. If it only offers two options, why not go to those websites themselves, eliminating the middle man?

Food
When you go to “Food,” you type in the name of a restaurant you’re interested in, and OneSchool shows you a map of where it’s located around town or on campus. That’s it. No online ordering. No menus. No telephone numbers. Not even the address of where it is located. OneSchool also does not categorize venues, such as Pizza, Wings, Chinese, etc. If I wanted to do that, I would go to StateCollege.com’s dining section, which is compatible for smartphones and provides all the aforementioned features.

Sports
If this is called “Sports,” why is the only sport listed football? When you click on a football game, you are once again presented with a wall that, I assume, would act like my Twitter feed during a game. Once again, if no one is commenting on it, or merely posting banter, then this feature isn’t worth the download. I do give this app props for being an optimist. It is still “waiting results” for the Wisconsin game. The app also offers a listing of all the high school recruits committed to Penn State. However, seeing how “Sports” hasn’t been updated since November, I question the status next to their names.

OneSchool wants to become a one-stop app that will unite all aspects of Penn State life. While it bundles the concepts of multiple mobile sites and apps, it fails to carry over their effectiveness. A student would be wise to use the previously stated features in different venues than by using OneSchool. Until OneSchool corrects the issues that I brought up, I cannot recommend it for public use. It’s a sad day when I can write that a student is better off using ANGEL.

About the Author

Doug Dooling, Jr.

I am a staff writer for Onward State. I graduated as a Nittany Lion with Honors in 2013. Now, I am back in Happy Valley to earn a degree at the Penn State Law. Outside of politics and government, my interests include college football, soccer, Irish history, and astronomy.

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