The most awkward and maddening moments of my days tend to happen around mealtimes. Don’t get me wrong: the food is good, and so is the company. But standing in the front of the line as the GET app fails to load is always a frustrating experience. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a minor hassle to my Dining Hall, PDen, and Library Cafe experiences, but that doesn’t make it negligible. The longer wait times and awkward intermissions that this bad app inserts into our days are a nuisance. As Furman looks toward the post-pandemic future, one of the lowest-hanging pieces of fruit in terms of improving the overall student experience would be to invest in a better and more comprehensive campus app.
To my limited imagination, a new-and-improved app for students would do a few things — both for the dining experience and beyond.
First, it would allow students to quickly and easily — i.e., without excess buffering — scan into the Dining Hall or pay for food in the PDen. But this scanning-in feature doesn’t have to be limited to dining. CLPs could require students to scan in and out to verify that they stayed for the whole event. Additionally, laundry machines could be activated using the scan-in feature, eliminating the need for students to use multiple apps. Students already store tickets to athletic events on their phones, whether as screenshots or in Apple Wallet. The user experience for dining, CLPs, and laundry machines should be just as smooth.
Second, the app would allow pre-orders and maybe even takeout. Over the course of the pandemic, many of us have become increasingly accustomed to convenient order-ahead services through the apps of popular restaurants like Chick-fil-A and Starbucks. Last year, the GET app included an order-ahead feature for Moe’s only. That type of service should be restored and expanded to include Chick-fil-A as well. And if the new To-Go Bros takeout service is a success, it should be integrated into this same app.
Third, the app could be gradually expanded to supplement or even take over some of the functions of the student ID card. This past summer, I lived in a house with ten other people — and in lieu of physical keys, we used an app called August to lock and unlock the doors, allowing easy access for everybody while ensuring the security of the house. I’m not saying we need to retrofit all dorm and apartment doors right now, though the sudden and unfortunate advent of self-locking doors in North Village last year demonstrates that it can be done quickly. But over time, we could begin to configure our campus to the use of a better and more comprehensive app.
App technology can provide powerful and creative solutions to the practical issues we all face as students. The student-led Furman Now app introduced last fall was a good step in the right direction. Now, I hope that kind of student leadership can partner with administration and faculty to get something bigger and more permanent done.