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SCU Mobile Web Project
Media Services Web Development
The goal of this project is to develop a Web application that will deliver content optimized for viewing in mobile devices, and establish a mobile Web presence for SCU. We will develop an application framework that is based on open standards, and allows for a variety of content presentations designed for specific mobile device types. The content included initially in this application will be drawn from readily available sources that are currently represented on the standard SCU Web site, and that hold general interest or utility for SCU audiences.
We decided to use a mobile Web application framework rather than develop a native application. The content we are including in the project would not be enhanced significantly with access to device-specific resources, and the development resources required for producing a variety of native applications are not available for a project of this scale. Additionally, the content in our project is well suited to the capabilities of relatively full-featured browsers in smart phones and touch phones.
There has been interest expressed in developing a mobile site for SCU following the publication of native mobile apps and mobile web applications for other universities, including Stanford, MIT, Princeton and others. Our initial set of content components reflects the makeup of these sites, including campus news and events, directory information, course catalog and schedule, and maps. The MIT mobile site in particular has been a useful guide; the developers have released the source code for their site, and an overview of their mobile project.
Our objective in this project is to provide a learning opportunity for developers and content providers at SCU, and establish a destination in the mobile Web space for SCU content. This initial effort can be extended significantly as the audience for mobile content grows and more mobile interfaces to SCU’s Web systems become available. The site now in development would eventually serve as a gateway to a much wider array of mobile Web sites for SCU, much in the way that the SCU home page guides both external audiences and SCU affiliated users to their destinations.
We are limiting the content available in the initial mobile site to sources that are available to us via Web services and RSS feeds. This content includes: SCU Home Page feature articles, OMC Media Relations press releases, the Campus Event Calendar, Alumni and Athletics events, Course Catalog and Schedule of Classes, Faculty and Staff Directory, and the Campus Map. The Map section is particularly rich in content, including parking information, Google Map integration for directions to campus and off-campus ACCESS card locations, area hotels, and local & regional attractions. Our goal is to develop a reasonably substantial set of resources in this initial project, and so we’re using content that’s available now. There’s clearly potential for much more useful content and functionality in future enhancements.
Web Application Framework
Web Server - The mobile site is currently hosted on the staging Web server. A production version of the mobile site would be addressed as “m.scu.edu” and “mobile.scu.edu”, both m and mobile have emerged as conventions in mobile site domain names. We are including links in the mobile site to similar pages in the standard SCU Web site, to allow users to more easily access the extended content available there.
RSS and Web Services – We have written several Web services on the staging server that allow us to access content from the main university Web site’s database server as XML. We’re also referring to several RSS feeds as additional XML content sources.
XML and XSLT – Given that mobile devices can vary quite dramatically in handling Web content, we decided to use XSLT to transform the XML content sources in formats best suited to particular devices.