OGDEN -- Just a few years back, a new student unfamiliar with Weber State University could get lost on campus and be forced to rely on tiny maps and the kindness of strangers.
But with the advent of phones and tablet computers with wireless Internet access, as well as WSU's development of a mobile website and school-related applications, students with a smartphone, iPhone, Android or tablet can walk around with a guide to the university universe tucked snug in their pocket.
Weber State's mobile website, http://m.weber.edu, provides links to student and faculty email accounts, detailed campus maps, Wildcat athletics information, campus news and events, departmental information and social media sites.
And students who download WSU mobile apps (find information at www.weber.edu/mobileapps) can track any ChiTester quiz or test, can hear Weber FM on 88.1, find required textbooks listed by course, locate open spots at computer labs at all campuses, learn about applications and scholarships and more.
"Going forward, we are thinking mobile first in all of our new development," said WSU Web services manager Peter Waite.
"The first question we ask is, 'Does it make sense for mobile?' If so, we start there first. If it doesn't, then we look to the desktop or other platforms."
WSU's mobile efforts have become a campuswide initiative.
"This effort is based on the need to communicate with students in the way that makes sense for them," said Bret Ellis, WSU vice president for information technology.
"Mobile technology will create engaging learning opportunities, allow new and innovative interactions with faculty, keep students informed about their education and provide community members access to the campus."
Ellis said one of the Weber State apps most popular with students links to bookstore information.
"They can find out in advance the textbooks they will be required to buy, and they can check on their tablet to see the availability and cost of the book, can read the reviews and can put it in their shopping basket. That saves them from going to the bookstore to see if the book is available."
Ellis said university-related apps will increase in the future as needs are identified. He also sees a strong future on campus for some mobile apps created by outside entities.
"The applications are really going social," Ellis said. "There are really fun applications just released that are a replacement for online dating."
Ellis said users tell the app what kind of people they are seeking, including gender, age range and interests.
"When you get in their proximity, your cellphone buzzes to tell you this person close to you likes the same things you've told us you'd like to connect to."
Interests can also be study-related, Ellis said.
"If you're in our library and you want to find someone else studying advanced chemistry, the system will alert you when you are in proximity."