How a university added a COVID self-checker to its mobile app

University of Central Florida wants app to be routine, along with masks, hand-washing and social distancing

Students, staff and faculty at the University Central Florida can assess themselves for COVID symptoms with a new self-checker built into the school’s UCF Mobile app.

Officials focused on the mobile app because most people now check their smartphones during their morning routines, says Ryan Seilhamer, the assistant director of mobile strategy and innovation.

“We’ve got to keep everything really really positive about changing culture,” Seilhamer says. “We talk about wearing a mask, social distancing and washing hands, and using the self-checker is now part of the message to keep us safe.”

Seilhamer doesn’t want students to be reluctant to use the app for fear of finding out they may have COVID and will be required to quarantine for two weeks.

More from UB: Use technology to monitor social distancing and mask-wearing compliance

When students begin using the app—voluntarily—the form will ask them if they have any symptoms, if they have traveled anywhere with high rates of transmission or been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID. Students who get a positive result, meaning they have answered “yes” to one of these questions, the app will direct them to the campus health center and a COVID test.

The first screen of the COVID self-checker on UCF's mobile app.
The first screen of the COVID self-checker on UCF’s mobile app.

Seilhamer acknowledges users who are asymptomatic may slip through the cracks, but even in those cases, the self-checker will raise awareness of the many symptoms of COVID.

“We want students to be truthful so they can get help, ” he says. “We don’t want it to be punitive things so they’re scared of the consequences.”

Faculty and staff are now required to log into the self-checker every time they head to campus.

If they pass the screening, they can go to work. If they have symptoms or may have been exposed, the app notifies their supervisor, who can then direct the employee to an on- or off-campus COVID test, Seilhamer says.

More from UB: College student travel can spark campus COVID outbreaks

To allay privacy concerns, the self-checker will not store data on symptoms reported by users.

All users will be asked to allow location-based push notifications that, for example, will alert students that certain buildings now have one-way entrances and exits. The app also will not store location information.

“Students are more likely to grant those permissions to universities they trust rather than Starbucks or Uber,” Seilhamer says.

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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