Imagine if there was a way to turn textbooks into coffee. Or put the hundreds of dollars spent on printing in the library towards sandwiches in the cafeteria. We’re not Hogwarts students here (presumably), but soon we could come pretty close to that kind of transfiguration.
Keith Johnson, Tobiloba Omoniyi, Cole Collinson, and Parveen Kaur have teamed up to create an app that essentially allows VIU students to do this magic trick without needing fancy wands.
The rewards app would act as a universal point system for the use of various goods and services at the university. The idea stemmed from an assignment in the group’s IT Project Management Essentials class, where students were asked to come up with a project idea and then spend the semester working on it.
Johnson, who is actually a psychology major with a keen interest in computer science, agreed to meet with me to explain the premise of the idea.
“The university offers many important paid services such as textbooks and food, so I thought, why not have a benefit for using these services?”
That’s when he pitched the idea for his Project Management class and got paired up with fellow Information Technology students Omoniyi, Collinson, and Kaur. Their professor, David Croft, as well as Student Residence manager Ian Johnsrude, both backed the idea right away.
He explains that through various purchases on campus, students would be able to accumulate points on their app, which could then be redeemed for food or coffee at the cafeteria, printing at the library, or perhaps even future bookstore purchases.
The app, currently called Extra Credit, would act as a replacement for the paper cards the cafeteria uses for its present-day loyalty service. Shifting to a digital platform would mean more in terms of convenience, and also for expandability. Not to mention, much less paper waste.
Johnson is also hoping the point system will provide an incentive for students who do well in their classes to make the most of their university experience.
“Integration of this program within the university could potentially see an allocation of point-receiving based on academic achievement,” he says. “For example, if a student is performing well and makes the Dean’s List, they would be rewarded for it with up to 100 points on their account.”
Johnson shows an example of what the home screen would look like on the app, both for Android and iPhone. It looks similar to the wallet or Starbucks loyalty app, but with a blue screen that shows the number of stamps collected, and how many more are required until they can be redeemed. It appears extremely user-friendly and easy to navigate.
“The hope is to have the app function similar to that of the wallet app on your phone by having a barcode that is specific to you. When scanned, it adds the points for your item to your account,” he explains. “This will likely be co-identified with your student number.”
Whether companies like Starbucks or Subway would be involved is still unclear. He says that since they are corporations separate from the university, they might have issues integrating into the rewards app.
“However, it might add some friendly competition. Since Starbucks came into the school, not as many students are buying their coffee at the cafeteria anymore,” he says.
There have been some other challenges that Johnson, Omoniyi, Collinson, and Kaur have had to face.
“So far it’s been tough. The class is only once a week, and on Mondays, meaning we haven’t had as much time as we would have liked to coordinate with one another. However, on the positive side, the project has become much clearer and with that, our group direction,” Johnson said.
“It feels like we know what we are doing now, and having our ideas take shape, pressing forward we hope the application to have six User Interface pages, including a customizable profile and a purchase/redemption tracker, to name a few.”
The students’ Project Management professor, David Croft, says “I’m positive about Keith’s group project and think it is great they are working on something that could have an applied and useful application at VIU. It really helps students learn about developing web and mobile applications when there is a real-world application.”
The idea is still in its preliminary stages, and there are still a number of steps they have to take before the app would be brought to VIU. Database wise, the four must look further into integrating the applications into the university’s systems. They’ll also have to work with the school to ensure student privacy and data protection are properly monitored and looked after.
If all goes well, Johnson hopes to have the basics of the app working by the end of the spring semester, and hopefully, have it up and running by September.