Mercyhurst selected for Spectrum U testing

Daniel Leonard, Staff writer

A new option for streaming live TV arises as Mercyhurst joins a select number of campuses to beta-test Spectrum U free for a year before it commits to the service in 2019.

The move was announced on Feb. 5 through a press release. The Mercyhurst Student Government (MSG) outlined its partnership with the Mercyhurst Information Technology (IT) staff and its plans for the coming years.

“The original motivation behind partnering with the IT staff to launch Spectrum U was to be on the level of students,” said Jonah Jackson, MSG President. “MSG jumped at the opportunity to debut the app because it was something that would directly benefit students.”

The Spectrum U application allows any student, faculty and staff member to stream 50 live TV channels on their mobile device, tablet or computer when connected to the university’s WiFi network, with no existing cable account necessary.

Some of the channels offered are A&E, Lifetime, MTV, SyFy, a variety of channels with children’s shows and many more options.

“When Spectrum called and offered us a spot in this program, we thought it would be a great service to add for our students. More and more people are streaming television programming to mobile devices rather than sitting in front of a traditional television,” said Jeanette Britt, the university’s vice president for Technology and CIO.

“Spectrum U allows our students to be able to watch programming on multiple devices from any location on campus. Spectrum knows that this is the viewing experience that students want and have developed this app to give students that functionality.”

Users also have the choice to save favorite channels and filter the program guide to their specific interests.

The app is available in both the Apple App Store and Android Google Play store, but it will not work on jailbroken devices.

Spectrum U is currently in beta testing and only available to universities.

Before a product is released to the public, there are several levels of testing that it must go through.

The first level is alpha testing.

During this process, which normally lasts a couple weeks, the company will run tests on the product to check quality.

In this stage, the product is about 60 to 80 percent complete and is expected to have a lot of bugs that need to be fixed.

During the beta testing, the product is evaluated for customer satisfaction.

The test periods for this process are normally longer and occur when the product is 90 percent complete.

After beta testing, the product is launched into field testing and then finally opened to the general public.

Jackson emphasized the importance of student feedback.

“During this trial period, I would ask students to really think about how the app could be better,” said Jackson. “Are there any missing features? Do you notice any recurring glitches? MSG will be administering a survey to collect student feedback about Spectrum U. I would hope students would take it so that the app can be made even better.”

In their post, MSG says that Mercyhurst IT will be increasing its bandwidth from its current 1.5 GB to 3 GB to accommodate the increase in traffic, while also planning to increase it in 2019 to 4 GB and in 2020 to 5 GB.

Adding a new feature to the internet also means adding to the cost of the service.

“We do not have a specific cost yet, but we do have an estimate from Spectrum and the pricing will be affordable,” Britt said.

Although other universities have launched the app before Mercyhurst, it is still relatively new and should be expected to have a few minor bugs.

The important thing is to be diligent during this beta testing period and report all issues as soon as possible to ensure they are addressed before the next version of the app.

Two of the universities that have previously used the app, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Saint Louis University, have listed step-by-step instructions for using the app on their campus and clearly state a number of issues relevant before 2015 and in 2017.

Both universities have cited the same two known issues with the app, both occurring on Android phones.

Users have experienced trouble with the app freezing while launching, as well as being unable to change the volume while streaming videos.
Fortunately, listed with each of the issues is a way to correct it.

A few of the recent Spectrum U app updates addressed the issues mentioned on each campuses website and more, which just goes to show that they do take feedback into consideration.

“I think it is a cool concept, but I don’t watch a lot of television. But when I do, I just watch Netflix,” said Austin Shinhearl, a senior Hospitality Management major and MSG senator.
Shinhearl does bring up a good point, though — that many students who live on campus are used to using Netflix, Hulu or another online streaming service.

At the very least, the new option on campus will enable students without a TV to be able to watch live cable on their laptops or other device, Shinhearl said.