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FHSU joins Nex-Tech and Nex-Tech Wireless to create customized smartphone applications
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As of the first of July, anyone with access to cellular, Wi-Fi or Internet service could download free smartphone applications -- called “apps” -- that allow them to engage with Fort Hays State University, Nex-Tech and Nex-Tech Wireless from anywhere in the world.
Representatives from FHSU, Nex-Tech and Nex-Tech Wireless conducted a joint news conference today on the FHSU campus to announce the official launch of Blackboard Central, a service that allows initial access to a variety of locally created apps, including eight specific to FHSU and two specific to Nex-Tech and Nex-Tech Wireless. Additional local apps will be available from Blackboard in the near future. Blackboard Inc. is an education vendor that FHSU uses to provide a system for online course management.
The Hays Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors conducted a ribbon-cutting ceremony during the news conference to commemorate yet another partnership between FHSU and the local business community.
“Fort Hays State University is the first school to join with business partners Nex-Tech and Nex-Tech Wireless to provide a Blackboard service,” Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said during the news conference. “Application software is designed to help the user perform specific tasks. By downloading an icon to your mobile device, you can access information or activity with the touch of a finger. The apps that FHSU, Nex-Tech and Nex-Tech Wireless are launching provide key functions to keep people engaged with the university, Nex-Tech, Nex-Tech Wireless and the community.” 
“Nex-Tech understands the importance of both instant and constant access in our technology-driven society,” commented Justin McClung, Nex-Tech Internet solutions manager. “These apps allow users the freedom to access content, such as the Nex-Tech Classifieds, when and how they want. With over 12 million hits per month to our Classifieds, we know there is a huge demand for mobile apps such as those created for Blackboard Central.”
“The education world, along with the wireless industry, continues to evolve. Today’s students and faculty are extremely mobile. They demand devices and solutions that will allow them to remain mobile, but also connected and productive,” stated Johnie Johnson, Nex-Tech Wireless president & CEO. “This partnership with FHSU is a natural fit for us and we look forward to providing industry-leading solutions to assist in keeping people connected.”
Dennis King, director of the Virtual College and Learning Technologies at FHSU, demonstrated during the news conference how the apps could be accessed and used. “Anyone owning an Android or Apple devices such as an iPhone, an iPod Touch or an iPad, can go to their application store and search for the new applications, under the name ‘FHSU Mobile,’ and download the apps free of charge.”
King said the apps put information into a user-friendly display on the mobile devices and give the user one-touch access to that information. The eight FHSU apps currently available from Blackboard Central are Maps, News, Emergency, Images, Videos, Directory, Courses and Athletics. He said that in the near future apps would be added to provide access to Forsyth Library, FHSU student publications, the FHSU Foundation and the FHSU Office of Admissions.
The new apps partnership includes components that will directly enhance the academic environment at FHSU. King said the FHSU Department of Informatics was offering an academic certificate in smartphone application development beginning this semester. The certificate will initially be offered on campus and then moved to the online environment.
“What provides such great potential for an enhanced educational experience is that we’re aligning this technology with academic programs and creating a Mobile Vision Team, with representation from the campus and from Nex-Tech and Nex-Tech Wireless, to steer us in this process,” King said.
Future application development will include the Energy Network of Education and Training, commonly known as EnergyNET Kansas, which is also a business partner in the apps project. FHSU is the lead institution for EnergyNET, which was created by the Kansas Department of Commerce and the Kansas Board of Regents. The goal of EnergyNET is to enhance the ability of the Kansas public higher education system in meeting the training needs of the energy industry, and the EnergyNET apps will help by giving students easy access to information.