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Move-in Day went mobile with new phone app

August 27, 2018

Pillow? Check.

Laundry hamper? Check.

Move-in app? Check.

Move-in Day went digital this fall as NIU Housing and Residential Services became one of the first housing programs nationally to fully implement an online mobile check-in app. The app allowed students to quickly check-in using their phones.

More than 95 percent of students overall checked in using the app, with 97 percent of new students–both freshmen and transfer students–and 91 percent of returning students taking advantage of it. In a post-check-in survey, more than 98 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the check-in process.

“Not only is it creating great efficiency in terms of what they used to do on paper, it’s meeting students where they live–in a digital environment,” said Dan Pedersen, senior director of Housing and Residential Services. “It’s a fairly sophisticated and cutting-edge app for our students.”

Diana Kazimierski of Des Plaines, a junior studying chemistry, checked in from home the morning before she moved in.

When she arrived at Gilbert Hall, “They handed me my key, and I was ready to go,” she said. “It’s convenient, simple, and everything else was pretty easy, especially with Team NIU helping.”

Housing and Residential Services worked with the Disability Resource Center to ensure those without the ability to use an online application would have the resources they need to check-in.

Curt Grimes, application developer in Housing and Residential Services, first developed the app last year to test it out with about 30 percent of students. Because of the app’s success, Housing and Residential Services amped up the marketing this year.

Once on campus, students simply showed their check-in receipts on their phones, skipped the check-in line and picked up their room keys.

“I imagine some people checked in while they were waiting in their cars to unload,” said Grimes, who designed the app similar to those offered for early flight check-ins.

“The app itself is really a modification of our existing room sign-up system,” he said. “It kind of just evolved naturally.”

Jenna Merritt of Spring Grove, a junior studying nursing, checked in while getting a ride to campus.

“It’s a lot more convenient, a lot faster,” she said.

The new technology not only saves students’ time, it cuts back on the amount staff manpower and equipment needed, with fewer check-in computer systems having to be set up inside residence halls.

It also saves paper, with sustainability coming out a winner. Staff no longer need to print out at least five different forms, such as the student handbook and residence hall contract, for students to sign.

They sign them through the app.

“One of our goals for years has been to streamline the check-in process, to make it as seamless as possible and take away some of the stress that goes along with new beginnings,” said Tim Trottier, assistant director of Housing and Residential Services. “In a perfect world, we would have curbside check-in. People could get out of their cars and go right to their rooms and get settled.”