Noodle App of the Month: Companion (September 2015)

With every click, swipe, and scroll of an education app, we are transforming how we learn.

Education technology is revolutionizing how we take in information — both inside and outside the classroom — through innovative online tools. The technology varies, from notetaking apps to communication tools, but it is transforming education itself.

To help you curate which education apps to try next, Noodle brings you the App of the Month series, in which we recommend the best and latest learning tools.

This month, we are pleased to feature Companion, an app that makes college campuses safer for everyone.

Companion

What is it?

Companion is an app that allows a user to be virtually accompanied by a trusted friend or family member — referred to as a “companion” — when walking home late at night. Before beginning a journey, students enter their starting points and destinations, and they then designate a companion who can “follow” their progress on the app’s map and receive a notification when they arrive home. Companions don’t even need to have the app installed on their phones.

The person who is walking can send an “I feel unsafe” notification to companions, or alert the police, with the touch of a button. The app is also capable of detecting unexpected events — such as a phone that is carried far from its destination, sudden shifts in the phone's positioning that may be caused by a person running or falling, or an abrupt disconnection between phone and headphones — and asks users to confirm that they are OK within 15 seconds. If there is no response, the phone begins emitting a loud sound to scare off criminals; displays a button that allows a user to call the police; and automatically notifies the predetermined “companion.”

Created by five students at the University of Michigan, the app keeps the unique needs of students on college campuses in mind. The developers are currently in discussion with universities to share the anonymous data the app collects about campus incidents; these partnerships would enable schools to address problems in their security. Business Insider reported that within one week of the launch of the second version of Companion, users had selected the “I feel unsafe” option more than 500 times on different college campuses.

Who would love it?

Companion is a great app for students who live on college campuses or have to walk through areas that feel unsafe. It is also a potentially powerful asset to college administrators and safety officials, since it can provide valuable information about vulnerable areas on their campuses. To the latter end, future iterations of the app will include the ability to specify the reasons an area feels unsafe.

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Screenshot from iTunes store showing Companion's alert-mode screen, which allows users to confirm they are OK or contact the police.

How is it making an impact?

Over the past couple of years, there has been much attention focused on the state of campus safety, specifically how it relates to campus sexual assault. Recently, the Association of American Universities published a campus climate survey on sexual assault and sexual misconduct. The study compiled data from 27 institutions of higher education and more than 150,000 students, revealing results that disturbed many members of college communities.

The percentage of students surveyed who reported “sexual conduct involving physical force or incapacitation” ranged from 13 to 30 percent, depending on the college. As for sexual harassment, defined as behaviors or remarks of a sexual nature that created an offensive or hostile environment, 47.7 percent of students at these institutions reported experiencing such a situation.

With the prevalence of campus sexual assault and harassment, it is imperative that administrators work to create a safer environment that enables students to focus on academics without feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. Companion is striving to make a positive difference in this regard. Not only is the app helping campus safety officers react more quickly and accurately in moments when a student is in peril, but it also promises to help prevent these situations from occurring again by compiling data on dangerous areas of campus that officials can proactively monitor. Ultimately, it holds the potential to ensure that college campuses are sites of intellectual engagement and learning, above all else.

Check out the Noodle App of the Month for August 2015, yHomework, a program that helps you solve even the most difficult math problems.

Noodle has no ties to or affiliations with Companion.