Mobile IDs are not what students need

Scribe Editors 

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     Student IDs have long been a staple of college life, providing access to campus dining and residence halls, recreational spaces and local discounts.  

     This semester, UCCS implemented the Mobile Lion OneCard system to replace physical IDs, a shift laden with issues of accessibility, practicality and usability. While mobile IDs are a promising concept, the current system was implemented prematurely and is not what students need right now. 

     We understand how this change would be tempting for UCCS given the rising popularity of mobile credentialing like Apple Pay and Google Pay. Given access to these technical advancements and a door system on campus that was in need of an upgrade, UCCS took the opportunity to ditch the plastic.  

     With pressure to develop contact-less responses to the pandemic, we made the switch just like that. Starting in Fall 2021, freshman and students new to the physical campus were directed to use their mobile phones to acquire their very first UCCS student ID.  

     However, anytime a quick decision is made and something new is suddenly introduced, there is the opportunity of making a mistake.  

     To set up the mobile ID, students must download the UCCS Mobile App and log in with their UCCS credentials. On this app, they launch, download and log into a second app — the Transact eAccounts App — to set up the mobile ID. Students must upload a photo, get approval and add their ID card to Apple Pay or Google Pay. 

     There is already a problem here: Android devices without near field communication capability cannot download the Transact eAccounts App, so some Android users must get a physical card. 

     The app includes other student account functions (meal plan, flex dollars, Clyde’s Cash); however, the app’s interface is not intuitive, especially when using the barcode. The issues are even worse on Android phones. (Sorry, Android-users!)  

     The barcode is a feature on the app separate from the mobile credentialing that students use to enter dorms and dining halls; the barcode is used in the library and at events. According to Katie Parker, OIT project manager, the barcodes will be phased out on campus, but this will require replacing multiple technology systems. 

     The app is still in beta — meaning it isn’t completely developed — so there is room for improvement, but this begs the question: Why not hold off until the official release of the app to start requesting that students use it?  

     Students who were on campus prior to the pandemic may still have their physical IDs, which are still active and can be used at the usual access points. However, once a student activates their Mobile Lion OneCard, their physical card will be deactivated. 

     RAs have already had to rescue resident students stranded outside their dorms due to forgotten or dead phones. Let’s not forget, although the proliferation of learning makes it seem that students are more tech-savvy than ever, not every student owns a smartphone. 

     If a student wants a physical ID, there must go through more red tape due to the push for the mobile ID. To get a physical card, students must email the information desk supervisors to get permission on a case-by-case basis. Based on the experience of a Scribe employee, the information desk employees will not give out physical IDs without supervisor permission.  

     To this, we upperclassmen wave our physical cards in the air in protest. 

     The Mobile Lion OneCard is a good idea, in theory. Moving away from physical cards to mobile ones seems to align with the times. But without an incentive and with too many snags to be worked out, was this the right time?  

     Not when students are trying to transition back to in-person classes and work. Not when students are still adjusting to mask mandates and social distancing. The Mobile Lion OneCard was one switch students did not need on top of all the other changes already happening on campus. Really, it could have waited.  

The Mobile Lion OneCard features many problems, especially for Andriod-users. Photo by Taylor Burnfield.