Blackboard, university partner with app

Julia Perkins

Students may soon no longer have to worry about misplacing their QCards.

QCARdtickerMegan Maher

Blackboard is working with the university to pilot an app which would perform nearly the same functions as the QCard. The app allows students to buy meals from the café or vending machines, tapping into residence halls and doing laundry.

“One of the things we noticed is the ubiquity of cell phones,” Manager of Card Services Deric Waite said. “Every student tends to have their phone with them all the time and the ability to put the same functionality that students get with their card onto their phone allows them in most cases to carry one or the other.”

The app has two modes: automatic and manual. When the app is on automatic, it works just like a QCard, even if the phone is off or the app is closed, Waite said.

“Just like your card, anytime it’s presented to a reader it’s going to work,” Waite said. “You could be in mid-conversation on a call, touch it to the vending machine…It’s the one we kind of recommend for students. It allows the easiest access.”

When the app is on manual, students have to open the app and make a transaction within 60 seconds.

“The upside to that is you have to have the code to access the phone in order to use the chip, but it is actually an additional area of security that you wouldn’t have if you leave your QCard leaving around,” Waite said.

Some students feel the app will be more convenient.

“I wouldn’t have to be worried about losing my QCard anymore and paying the extra $30 [to replace it],” freshman Mike Walsh said.

The app is beneficial from a security standpoint, according to Waite, because the university can remove the credentials from people’s phones if they leave the university.

“You wouldn’t be able to tap it anywhere, you wouldn’t be able to show it as an ID,” Waite said. “Whereas this [QCard] if I walked away with it I’d still have it and until someone actually tried to swipe it they wouldn’t see that it was deactivated and it would give people access to certain places that maybe we would want to be able to control.”

Since this is a pilot test, there are some limitations, according to Dan Gretz, senior director-product marketing at Blackboard.

Students will have to use their QCards to enter doors, such as residence halls, where students swipe their cards instead of tapping, according to Waite. In the future the university could change these doors to make them tap-accessible, according to Waite.

The app cannot be accessed on the app store yet, according to Gretz. Students can go to the QCard office today to activate the program, which is only available to students with AT&T service on the Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy S4 or the three HTC one models, according to Gretz.

“Eventually it’ll be a little bit more seamless,” Gretz said. “Our intention is that when this becomes generally available…it is something that a student could go to the app store, download it, actually provision their credential to their phone without ever having to visit the QCard office.”

About 25 students are already using the solution, Gretz said.

The app is not yet available on the iPhone because Apple products do not have the Near Field Communication chip which allows the app to work, according to Waite.

“Unfortunately Apple is very controlled on what’s in their phones, so there’s no real way for [students with iPhones to use the app],” Waite said.

Waite expects Apple will include the Near Field Communication Chip in the next generation of the iPhone.

“I feel like it would just be easier having this on your phone,” freshman Tommy Alwang said. “You don’t lose your phone as easily…Everything is more accessible in one place.”

This semester Blackboard is looking for about 100 students to pilot the app, according to Gretz. Blackboard will give the students $25 in QCash and enter students in a drawing to win an IPad.

Students who participate will be involved in informal focus groups, so Blackboard can find out how to improve the app, Gretz said.

Tulane University in New Orleans is also piloting the app this semester, according to Gretz.

“Eventually we’ll roll this out more broadly, not only at Quinnipiac, but at other universities as well,” Gretz said.

Waite said it is exciting for Quinnipiac to be a part of the pilot test.

“These cutting edge things are really exciting and it’s really nice to be ahead of the ball game a little bit,” he said. “Going where the future is going as it’s going there, rather than trying to play catch up.”