Eastern Michigan University finding new ways to engage students in virtual environment through phone app

Student wearing a mast using a cell phone

Engage EMU app on cell phone screenYPSILANTI – The campus is quieter and most classes are online, but Eastern Michigan University is working hard to find new ways to engage students in the virtual environment.

Among those efforts, the University is encouraging student engagement with a platform to promote programs virtually through the  Engage EMU app.

The app can be downloaded for Android and iPhone. The overall Engage EMU app has been used to help facilitate academic success for the past three years on campus, with more than 7,500 downloads, said Christine Deacons, Director, Academic Support Programs at EMU.

Students able to easily sign up for events

The app’s newly added activity function works like this: Every week there will be a “This week at EMU” tile within the app that lists synchronous (real-time) events going on that week and allows students to sign up for them. Students will also be able to view asynchronous (recorded) programs and challenges via the various tiles within the app.

Examples of synchronous events include trivia nights, weekly Yoga + Wellness sessions, and group fitness classes such as Butts & Guts, 20/20/20 and Strength and Stretch.

The asynchronous menu includes “Sweet Defeat- Anxiety and Sugar Challenge,” a set of daily challenges, each aimed at reducing sugar intake. At the end of the Canvas page that contains the challenge, there is information on how sugar intake relates to anxiety and mental health. 

And here’s a fun twist: Students will be able to earn points for engaging with the various programs, events and services. They can then redeem these points within the app through the Eagle Rewards marketplace.

All participation will be tracked through the app, enabling staff to better tailor programming to student needs, and find growth opportunities,” said Nick Pomante, Student Wellness Coordinator at EMU. “Using a point system not only incentivizes participation but allows the University to place emphasis on programs that address prevalent needs within our student population,” Pomante said.

Similarly, event organizers can complete a google form in order to create a page for their respective program, event or task within the app. 

“By listing all Student Affairs programs in a comprehensive format such as this form, we gain a birds-eye view of our programmatic efforts and will better fulfill the needs of students during this unprecedented time,” Pomante said.

App helps students succeed

Deacons said that use of the Engage EMU app has helped students succeed in a variety of ways over the last three years. Recent data analysis of 3,500 students with 54 predictor variables revealed that just downloading the app was the fourth strongest predictor of continued enrollment and GPA, behind only a student’s high school GPA, SAT scores and study table attendance.

The new app’s virtual activity feature grew as a result of discussions this past summer by a campus-wide advisory panel to better guide practices with the app, Deacons said.

The group included Pomante, program coordinator Caroline Horste from Campus Life, and Success Coach James Tobias from the Holman Success Center, who worked collaboratively to develop the content designed to engage students during this unprecedented time on campus.

“I'm really excited, as this is something I had been hoping for since the app's inception – to finally have a campus-wide effort to support students through the app,” Deacons said. “The app really provides us the opportunity to connect with our students who are digital natives in a format they are familiar and comfortable with.”

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves nearly 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

September 30, 2020

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom