App extends a helping hand to students

Ryan Persaud hopes future students need look no further than their phones to tap into the type of resilience necessary to survive and thrive in university.

Persaud, BESc ‘16, had a rough final year on his way to a degree. Following surgery and recovery, he was forced to take an extra semester because of three classes he had remaining.

During that time, he had an idea.

Enter Zealy (https://getzealy.com/), an app developed by Persaud and University of Guelph alumnus Trevor Paterson with the goal of helping students develop the strategies needed to succeed in university through five focused goals – be active, be healthy, be mindful, be studious and be social.

“Achieving your goals is almost impossible without an action plan. Zealy gives students the action plan they need for five goals they need to focus on in university,” he said. “In the app, students will find lists with tasks made by their peers, faculty, clubs, groups and alumni to help them reach their goals in university.

“By breaking down these goals into smaller tasks, students will view them as more attainable. Our system continuously adapts based on user activity and assessments to gain a better understanding of the student’s needs and provides them with content that’s right for them.”

The app will also showcase stories by students related to each of the goals to show how peers got through similar situations. It also recommends school resources.

Remembering the help he received at Western, and wanting to give some of that back to future students, Persaud brought the idea to Clare Tattersall, Manager of Undergraduate Services at Western Engineering, who leads the faculty’s new Engineering Resilience Program.

She helped guide the app into a more focused space.

“The content on Zealy will be school specific; these lists created can get very specific,” Persaud explained. “For example, a student can meet with a guidance counsellor and join a list created by the counsellor to help them with a specific needs. We will have lists that appeal to all types of students. Our system continuously adapts based on user activity and assessments to gain a better understanding of the student’s needs and provide them with content that’s right for them.”

In addition to creating content, faculty counsellors will also be able to monitor Zealy, helping the institution as a whole understand its students and allocate resources where necessary.

Currently in focus testing, Persaud hopes to have the app available in early 2018.