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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

UF administration develops app exclusively for online students

UF Pace Online graphic
UF Pace Online graphic

UF online undergraduate students can now interact on a new app.

The UF Online app launched last month acts as a mobile hub for UF events, student organizations and connections for online students. The 4,000 or so students can reach out to others with similar majors and interests, communicate with professors, join organizations and attend virtual events. 

Any business major, for example, looking to create study groups or ask questions for an upcoming exam can do so on the app, said Josh Steele, the UF online associate director for academic strategies. Online students in the Gainesville area can also message each other and meet in person, he said. 

“It can be really hard to find your peers when you’re all broken up geographically,” he said. “We needed a place in which there was an opportunity for students to interact and engage with each other.” 

UF Online administrators developed the app to create a digital, hands-on experience for online students, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Steele said.

The app allocates webinars, workshops, career fairs and speaking events.

“A lot of times this information can be broken out into different websites and sometimes it’s in different newsletters,” he said. “We’re just trying to really help synthesize it for our extremely busy, time-committed students.” 

One.UF, Canvas and the GatorCloud email is accessible through the app. It is not designed to replace messaging apps or the UF app, Steele said, but to help online students identify with others securely through UF authentication. 

Students must have a UF login and be a registered online student to access the app.

Within the UF Online community, 1,200 students are within the Pathway to Campus Enrollment program, or PaCE, where freshmen start their UF degree online and transition to in-person classes once they’ve completed 60 credits and all prerequisites within their major.  

Brandon Tran, a 19-year-old UF business administration PaCE sophomore, lived off-campus in Gainesville during his freshman year.

He joined student organizations like Warrington Goes Green, without assistance from a virtual app and said he prefers Facebook and GroupMe for making connections.

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“There's already many other platforms that have more students,” he said. “There's no reason to use the PaCE app.”

UF freshman Emma Vick, who has limited phone storage, disagrees. As an 18-year-old wildlife, ecology and conservation PaCE student, she prefers to keep all of her apps in one basket.

She uses the app religiously to check her Canvas, GatorCloud email and One.UF page, she said. Since downloading the app, she received an announcement on an upcoming graduate and professional virtual fair. 

As a pre-veterinary student, she looks forward to receiving more notifications that are tailored to her interest, she said. 

“I am the kind of person who likes to keep to myself,” Vick said. “But it allows me to know what's going on in the atmosphere of University of Florida.”

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