Starting this month, Miami University’s Interactive Media Studies, or IMS, department will be testing out MESH, a student-and-alumni-created app.
The app’s main purpose is to facilitate student-to-student, faculty-to-student and faculty-to-faculty networks. It differs from Canvas in that it extends to non-academic activities, too.
Tsavo Knott, co-founder and junior IMS major, said the company entered into a formal agreement on Sept. 11 to launch MESH with the department. A meeting will be held before the end of the month to introduce IMS faculty to the application.
Instructors interested can opt-in to study, use and apply it as part of their curricular mission.
Glenn Platt, the founder of Interactive Media Studies at Miami, facilitated an independent study for Knott and supported the startup.
Platt was a fan of MESH, particularly because he was familiar with Slack, which he and his colleagues find efficient for internal, departmental communication.
“The cool thing about MESH is that it brings that Slack-like functionality, but in the context of the Canvas world,” said Platt.
Platt will implement MESH into his social media marketing course.
Knott and Mack Myers met through High Street Startups, formerly known as Miami Entrepreneurs. After months of collaboration, they created a “real-time communication platform for higher education” called MESH.
The MESH team is made up of five people: president and 2016 graduate Mack Myers, former IMS professor and 2012 Miami graduate Jacob Berding, Miami computer science professor Michael Stahr and Miami juniors Tsavo Knott and Brian Lambert.
During his time as an undergraduate, Myers said he made it his mission to talk to everyone he could about his app idea to gauge peer interest.
Registration at Miami registers students into the app’s database. All organizations, classes, dorms and departments were pre-programmed. All students had to do was download the app.
The ease of the app’s sociable charm was what one of MESH’s designers, junior Tsavo Knott, emphasized.
“It immediately creates a community that’s paralleled in the digital world,” said Knott.
Exchanging cell phone numbers and email addresses in new groups is unnecessary. Instead, the person’s name is all that’s required. Likewise, sharing of documents and any general information can be streamlined through MESH.
Lead developer Jacob Berding, a Miami alumnus and former IMS instructor, knew what it is like for learning to stop at the classroom door. He believed in teaching strategies that move as fast as the high-speed world and using even faster technologies.
“Education is steady, [with] no increase in the speed to communicate and collaborate. We’re trying to keep that momentum going,” said Berding.
The MESH team also took opportunities to learn and network by attending expo-like events with experts and aspiring entrepreneurs in their industry.
In October, the team will travel to Educause, an annual conference convening the “best thinking in higher education IT.” They will be pitching MESH to investors, chief information officers, and Educause board members, all who Myers referred to as “highly impactful people in this marketplace.”
As with any new company, some formal guidelines also had to be met. These involved applying for numerous certifications. Miami being a public university, the list of hindrances was lengthy.
MESH has been certified through the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, or iKeepSafe. Among this coalition’s certified products list are Proctorio and Quizlet.
This approval means MESH was officially approved as accessible to all persons, taking impaired users into account for every feature. It means MESH has security and FERPA certification, as well.
Berding’s teaching experience has not been his only asset. Being the first Interactive Media Studies major ever at the university, he was the backbone of what made the actual web application work.
He has coded every day for the past two months. Any optimization the team saw fit, Berding found a way. Lambert and Knott, although not the official developers, both hold computer science minors and know what to ask of their main coder.
The team will continue working, hoping to eventually reach outside Miami to other parts of Ohio and other states. They indicated continuing conversations with investors and other higher education institutions will be their keys toward expansion.