As the College approaches the last year of its three-year contract with OohLaLa, the company operating the app for students known as Havertivity, it has decided to implement a new app: Loop. Loop was developed by Ian Andolsek ’17 and Nathan Sokolic ’19, who say that their app will remedy some of the problems they saw with apps like Havertivity, and provide additional features to make communication among students and administrators easier. Loop will be available to students with Androids and iPhones starting in late October or early November, with a desktop version in the works.
“Loop is a campus life platform that truly creates a visible landscape of engagement opportunities on a student’s campus,” said Sokolic.
Andolsek and Sokolic said that Loop will be a one-stop-shop for students, on-campus organizations, and administrators looking to share and receive information about what’s happening on campus. Students will be able to join “interest groups,” such as student-run clubs, where they can meet other students virtually, crowd source ideas, and get information about the group’s events; post on “themed discussion boards” intended for people with similar interests; and access other information, such as the Dining Center menu and Blue Bus schedule.
Andolsek and Sokolic said that they also have plans to expand the app, and will add features in spring 2018 that allow students to start “challenges,” or projects, to address issues on campus; send out polls to get student input; and make “asks and offers” using “tags” that will direct their requests to students who have been identified as having shared interests.
Starting in the fall, administrators will be able to post on “permanent campus boards” and oversee “challenges,” and will have access to other features, such as the “Admin Dashboard,” which will give them information about how the platform is being used.
“We’re building it for Haverford students, as Haverford students,” said Andolsek. “We’re going to be responsive. We also put a lot of work into figuring out what people want to be seen in the application for their school.”
Loop will be free to the College, and will replace Havertivity when it arrives in the fall. In the two-month window before Loop is implemented, the College will continuing using Havertivity so that students can access information about events, said Michael Elias, Assistant Dean of the College and Director of Student Engagement and Leadership. He said that there will be a banner on Havertivity announcing when it is time for students to make the switch to Loop, and added that OohLaLa has been “supportive” as the College moves to the new platform, and “understand[s] wanting to support students.”
Since its implementation on campus, the administration has promoted Havertivity as a hub of on-campus information. As reported by the Clerk, in recent months, Havertivity has also become a source of political discussion, raised questions about censorship, and has even spurred a spin-off Facebook group for memes. Haverford paid OohLaLa $4,250 for Havertivity each semester this past year, according to the Students’ Council (SC) budgets sent out to the community.
Though Loop will have some similar features to Havertivity, those involved with the new app said that they have taken into account the issues that came up last semester, and believe that their design will help prevent similar situations in the future. Sokolic said that the app will soon have a “pretty robust matching algorithm,” so students will “be notified based on their interests” – according to the tags they create – when this feature is in effect in this spring. Andolsek said that, until then, students will be able to “have discussions in tailor-made spaces, using differentiated discussion boards.”
Elias added that Loop is “designed around the idea of the individual,” rather than only “pushing out information.” It’s an “intentional way of building community on campus,” he said.
The idea for the app came about last fall, in part from Sokolic’s experience working with other start-ups in the area, and his involvement in the Haverford Innovation Platform (HIP), a group that he and Andolsek created to support social entrepreneurship on campus. Sokolic and Andolsek said that, while building HIP, they realized that students needed a more central place where they could pool resources. They said that they believe Loop will help fill that role.
“We hope the impact of Loop will be for students to be able to create more relationships with other students and build more relationships within the framework of the institution,” said Sokolic.
Sokolic said that, like other people building start-ups, he has inevitably faced some challenges while working on Loop, but is excited about the app’s potential to help students and administrators at Haverford.
In addition to letting students know about different opportunities on campus, said Sokolic, “[there’s] a lot of really good programming done by administrators that’s overlooked and maybe what’s missing is the personal connection that Loop will be able to offer.”
Andolsek and Sokolic said that Loop may be implemented at other colleges in the near future.
Looking ahead: Loop as a potential model for the Haverford Innovations Platform
According to Sokolic, Loop could serve as a model for the College’s Innovations Program, giving both students and administrators a first-hand look at how a student-run project develops, and how the College can help them through the process.
“The Innovations Program [is] involved because [Loop is] a social impact venture [and] the school is building program around this,” said Sokolic. “There’s overlap between our work and what the program hopes to support.”
Shayna Nickel, Haverford’s Innovations Program Manager, echoed that sentiment.
“When I first came on in January, there were two groups I became aware of that had put a great deal of time, thought and work into projects they wanted to pursue – Loop & New Dae Farms [a sustainable cricket farming project],” Nickel wrote via email. “To me, Loop & New Dae Farms represent the beginning of the creative initiatives I hope will continue to flow with HIP creating a foundation for that work.”
Nickel also wrote that the College has a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Loop, which “[lays] out expectations [and] define[s] product features along with a timeline that include[s] important milestone dates.” According to Nickel, the students behind Loop – as well as New Dae Farms – were given $300 “to help support their efforts over the summer,” and have agreed to give a presentation about their project and host workshops or discussions “as a way to share back their learning to the community.”
Andolsek and Sokolic will give their workshop at a soon-to-be-determined date and will cover a range of material based on students’ interests.
“We’re really excited to connect with the Haverford community through workshops so that the development of Loop can be used as an opportunity for further individual and institutional learning,” said Andolsek.