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UCLA Housing app pilots feature allowing students to track meal swipe balance

(Thomas Tran/Daily Bruin)

By Anna Whittle

Jan. 17, 2019 1:42 a.m.

Students can now check on their phones how many meal swipes they have left.

UCLA Housing piloted a feature on the UCLA Housing phone application Jan. 7 that lets dorm residents track their meal swipe balance, after surveying students and hosting a series of focus groups last quarter.

UCLA Housing developed the app with Modo Labs in 2018 after it conducted research that showed Hill residents get most of their information through mobile apps, said Barbara Wilson, director of UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services’ Rooms Division.

Once UCLA Housing determined that it should develop an app for students, it surveyed students about what they wanted included in the app.

“Meal plan balance came up as one of the top priorities for students on a housing app,” Wilson said.

The meal swipe balance feature is just a pilot program for now, but Wilson said UCLA Housing hopes it will become a permanent fixture once it can ensure the app will work as intended for a large scale of users. The app currently posts hourly, rather than live, updates because the BruinCard transaction software does not allow for instant updates, Wilson said.

UCLA Housing has also sought input from resident assistants, front desk and Access Control student workers and dining hall employees.

Emily Chen, a resident assistant and third-year sociology student, said she thought the interface of the app was clean overall and was mostly straightforward. Chen said she thinks the meal balance feature is helpful because students do not have to physically go to their residence hall’s front desk to check their swipe balance.

“I think the app could do a better job integrating the outside MyUCLA website since the login screen with the multifactor authentication makes the transition a bit clunky,” Chen said.

Neida Sandoval-Lopez, a front desk student worker and second-year sociology student, said she thinks the app sounds convenient and useful, although she has not downloaded the app and used the new feature herself.

“I know a bunch of students constantly worry about whether or not they can eat for the meal period, day, or rest of the week,” Sandoval-Lopez said. “They have to walk either all the way to a front desk or ask at a dining hall, which can sometimes be a burden because you could be in the middle of doing homework. But now, you can just check on your phone.”

Wilson said UCLA Housing aims to publicize the meal-swipe-balance feature through word of mouth and posters displayed on the Hill. Fewer than 2,000 users have downloaded the app since the feature was released.

She added UCLA Housing will start to bring back focus groups and send out surveys for feedback during the first week of February.

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