OSAP ‘app’ a load of . . .

Government is trying to stay hip with a crowd it doesn’t understand

The Ontario government has released a mobile application for their student aid program — or so they say. In reality, the app is not much of an app at all. And I’m not just talking about its sparse functionality.

Put simply, the “app” is a mobile version of the OSAP website. When students visit on their smartphones, they will be redirected to a mobile-friendly login page. Once inside students are able to check up on the status of their current year’s application, and nothing else.

If students really want to pretend it’s an app, they can bookmark the site and save it as an icon on their phone. Sounds … not helpful at all.

All this initiative seems to do is show just how out of touch the government actually is with students. According to Annette Phillips, director of communications for the ministry of training, colleges and universities, the initiative is currently in a “pilot stage” and they plan to make improvements based on students’ feedback.

“The mobile app is an additional step the ministry has taken to try and reach students where they are and make the process a bit easier,” Phillips said in an email to Canadian University Press.

Huh? You haven’t made anything easier for students at all. In fact, all this does is let students check on the status of their loan wherever and whenever they want. The problem is this isn’t a burning question a student needs answered while they’re walking to class nor is it something they need to check in on over and over again. These are two features that make mobile applications really useful to people.

It seems to me that getting student input prior to wasting money and time on a piece of technology that I’m betting no Ontario student will use would have been a better idea. I have to wonder just who the government consulted on this project and why something as simple as repayment options and maybe a way to connect to a student’s bank wasn’t included in the original plan.

Basic day-to-day functionality is key to making an app like this useful. Look at banking apps, for example. You can check your balance, transfer funds between accounts and pay bills all on the go. Even these basic ideas would have made this announcement something exciting, or at least something interesting.

As it stands, any developer worth their salt could have spent an afternoon turning out a better, more useful product than what the government put out this week. Why spend the time releasing several small improvements over the next few months when you could have done it right the first time?

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