The Poly Post Launches Mobile App

March 11, 2021

There's an app for that: The Poly Post Launches App to Stay Connected. 

Even before the pandemic hit, The Poly Post was looking for ways to improve its connection within our campus community. The idea of a phone application was in discussion with The Poly Post student staff and faculty advisor Jason Turcotte. 

"This kind of disconnect has been brewing long before the pandemic even began, but the pandemic just accelerated the process and amplified the effects," said Jovian Lin, Web Editor of The Poly Post. 

While the student staff knew a remote setting was inevitable, it was vital for them to sustain their journalistic duty of keeping the CPP community informed, especially with the everchanging and socially distant environment. Developing a mobile application and doing so quickly became top of mind for The Poly Post. 

The Poly Post student staff took on the project from crowdfunding, development, design, and launching the app on both Apple and Android devices. The fundraising started in the fall of 2020 with a crowdfunding campaign in partnership with the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation to raise $8,500 to support the application development cost. 

And true to our polytechnic identity, this entire project was a learn-by-doing approach from beginning through to the application's launch.  

"The Poly Post app was an entirely student-driven project, from the fundraising to the customizing of features, to web integration, to the mock-up of logo and splash screen designs. The app embodies CPP's polytechnic experience and the multimedia and problem-solving skills of Communication students," said Dr. Jason Turcotte, Communication professor, and The Poly Post Advisor. 

And the students came through every step of the way, starting with the crowdfunding campaign. 

"It was my first time on a crowdfunding project. I had to figure everything out from scratch, but it was a fun learning experience. It was exciting to be able to raise over $7,000 for the project. It was even more satisfying to see alumni, faculty, staff, and students join together and help us on the project," said Amber Li, Lead Ambassador for the Mobile App Crowdfunding Campaign and The Poly Post Sports Editor.

Once the crowdfunding campaign was over, it was time to shift to creating the app—ideas circulated in their brainstorm sessions of what the application would feature. Although The Poly Post has an online presence, the application would streamline all their multimedia efforts and allow easier access to information. While the student staff of editors and writers were adapting to a remote learning and reporting environment, they now needed to take on the unknown world of application development. 

"The process was almost like being a guinea pig! I was one of the few Android users on the team, so I was able to download an APK [Android Package Kit] prior to launching and give feedback to the team on how the app was behaving," said Nicolas Hernandez, The Poly Post Copy Editor. "Along with designing some assets for the app, this process was definitely a new experience for me as I had never been part of an app development team before, but it turned out to be really rewarding."

The Poly Post Editor, Daniela Avila, echoed the experience. "I had to learn how to code HTML and custom CSS, which speaking for myself, is not something I thought I would ever have to do as a journalist! It took hours of frustrating research and YouTube tutorials, but when it all came together, it made all the hard work that much more rewarding." 

There was so much that lead up to going live with the app. Experimenting with features, usability, and function and determining what was viable under their time constraints came with plenty of trials. However, it was important for the students that the app fulfilled its purpose of reaching our campus community and beyond. 

"The main purpose of the app is to connect with students who may not have heard of The Poly Post before, just because different median reaches different groups of people. The app would help us tap into an entirely different market and connect with more of the CPP community, especially students in the future," said Jovian Lin, The Poly Post Web Editor.

And in the spring of 2021, the students met their goal and launched The Poly Post app for free on Apple Store and Google Play. 

"Despite the challenges of operating remotely this year, these students​, led by editor-in-chief Daniela Avila​, forged ahead and dedicated significant time over winter break to ensure the app launched at the start of spring to help students stay informed and connected with our campus as they grapple with remote learning. I couldn't be any prouder of our students," said Turcotte. 

Even though the app has launched, the group is still optimistic about the app's opportunities, including interactive features and overall expansion of The Poly Post's reach. "I think it has helped the Poly Post move forward so much already! I think our biggest issue in the past was our accessibility. Students simply weren't going out of their way to pick up our print editions as much as we wanted them to, said Avila. 

Avial also noted that the app has opened up a new space for our campus community and beyond to have access to the stories being shared by The Poly Post students. "Sometimes, so much of our work would go unnoticed. Now, all our work is accessible with the click of a button."

"The Poly Post app was made possible because of our diligent students, the mentorship of the faculty advisor, Dr. Jason Turcotte, as well as the generous support of our faculty, staff, alumni, and friends. With the new app, the Poly Post will be able to deliver news in a way that is easily accessible and better serve our community," said Department of Communication Chair Nell Horowitz. 

For the students running The Poly Post, their passion and dedication to the journalism craft are palpable – even through our screens. Aside from developing the app, students manage a podcast section, multimedia projects, a newsletter (sent out once a week to all students on Tuesdays), a magazine, and of course, the website. These efforts are put in place to ensure The Poly Post not only keeps up with demand but builds a foundation for the next group of journalists. 

Recently, The Poly Post won several awards at the Associated Collegiate Press's national student journalism contest, Clips & Clicks. The competition had over 300 submissions from colleges and universities across the country. The contest honors the best examples of student journalism for the fall of 2020. The Poly Post placed 7th overall and placed in the Best Broadcast Feature Story, Best Informational Graphic Design, and honorable mentions for Best Opinion Writing and Best Sports Story Writing.  

As we continue to be in a remote setting, leave it up to The Poly Post to help you stay connected! Download The Poly Post app on Apple or Android device.