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Communications professor designs mobile conference app

ISSUED: 14 November 2014
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The 7th International Congress of Behavioral Optometry, held in Birmingham, United Kingdom, September 11-14, was a little more fun and interactive for those in attendance thanks to a mobile application called ICBO Social created for the conference by a Shepherd University communications professor.

Matt Kushin, assistant professor of mass communications, received a Professional Development Stipend Grant for $3,500 from the Shepherd University Foundation and the Office of Academic Affairs to create the app for the Optometric Extension Program Foundation, an international organization dedicated to the advancement of the discipline of optometry. Paul Harris, board president of the Optometric Extension Foundation, approached Kushin about beefing up social media and interaction during the conference.

“They knew this was an important way to bring the conference to the next level and help establish it as a must-attend conference in the field,” Kushin said. “We determined that an interactive mobile app was the best way to do that.”

Kushin used the DoubleDutch platform to design the app, which allowed those attending the conference to interact with each other, exhibitors, and speakers. Kushin also designed a number of games within the app that gave attendees the chance to earn points and win prizes.

He also attended the conference and manned an ICBO Social booth in the exhibit hall where he executed the entire digital campaign and provided technical support for app users. He said he received a lot of positive feedback for his efforts.

“I was known to everyone there as ‘the app guy’ and it was truly heartwarming and successful beyond my expectations,” Kushin said. “The app was the buzz of the conference, and I was thanked by so many people from the partner organizations that put on the event, to the exhibitors using the app to connect with attendees, and to the attendees who loved the ability to interact with each other and with speakers.”

Kushin said ICBO Social was much more interactive than the average conference app.

“Individuals had the opportunity to post pictures and comments so they could have live conversations inside the app during a speaker event,” Kushin said. “They could talk about things that the speaker was saying and share knowledge.”

Having the opportunity to build the app also allowed Kushin to bring this real-world experience into his classroom this semester.

“Teaching students how to create engaging communities, how to provide valuable content to their audiences, and to have conversations between an organization and that audience is exactly in line with what we are trying to do with ICBO Social,” he said. “They’ll be able to see exactly the sort of things that I’m teaching them, and how I put those techniques into practice in a real-world case that helped a nonprofit for a good cause.”

Students taking Kushin’s strategic campaigns class this semester are getting the opportunity to gain some real-life experience of their own. The class partnered with Discover Downtown Charles Town and its social media arm, Charles Town Now, to publicize what the town offers residents and visitors.

“As part of that our students are having a wonderful opportunity to develop their communication strategy, think about ways that they can use social media differently, and help the local businesses thrive,” Kushin said.

Whether they’re gaining practical experience vicariously through his work or on their own by helping a local nonprofit organization, Kushin said students in his classes are gaining skills that will benefit them when they begin looking for jobs.

“There’s opportunity for almost any type of organization to create content, to build relationships, and to have direct conversations with a target audience,” Kushin said. “So you’ll see every type of business out there using social media in some way to interact and to engage with their audiences. Everything from car companies, to universities, to large businesses, to nonprofits are using social media.”

Listen to Dr. Matt Kushin’s interview HERE.

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