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Creighton helps develop COVID-19 self-screening mobile app for colleges and universities

A cutting-edge self-screening app developed by a coalition of researchers from Creighton University and the State University of New York at Stony Brook will play a key role when Creighton students return to campus Aug. 17.

In cooperation with Ivy.ai, an educational technology company specializing in artificial intelligence chatbots serving colleges and universities, Creighton and SUNY Stony Brook developed #CampusClear, an app that starts with a single question and offers a range of recommendations based upon that question and follow-up questions.

The initial question is simple enough: “How do you feel today?”

Ryan CameronThe app will be an important component in Creighton’s overall campus safety efforts as students return for the fall semester, says Ryan Cameron, EdD, assistant vice president of digital experience within Creighton’s Division of Information Technology.

“Creighton is going to have multiple mechanisms in place to help manage the safest possible return to campus,” Cameron says. “As appropriate, we will conduct temperature screenings, a very extensive analysis of high traffic areas, and how well they are cleaned, so across the board we’re going to be very attentive in how we handle making the return as stress-free as possible.”

#CampusClear, he says, is designed as a first line of defense for students, faculty and staff.

“Before COVID-19, if you weren’t feeling 100% you might still have come into the office, toughed it out and pressed forward,” Cameron says. “Well, with the stakes as high as they are right now, we can’t afford not to be cognizant of these things.

Responses that indicate possible COVID-19 symptoms or exposure prompt the user to NOT enter campus and to call Creighton University’s Student Health Education and Compliance, the CHI Health Student Care Clinic or their own primary care physician for further evaluation and direction.

Cameron says the app grew out of a meeting with Creighton Provost Tom Murray, PhD, who understood the potential benefits of self-screening technology and wondered if Creighton could develop its own program.

Cameron gathered with the Radlab, a University research and development team he created four years ago that focuses on innovative technologies, and called Ivy.ai, which already partners with Creighton. There he heard some good news.

“The team at Ivy.ai said, ‘Yes, absolutely we could do this, and, by the way, we just got off the phone with SUNY Stony Brook, who asked a very similar question.’ So, I said, ‘OK, well then let’s start talking about what we can do to all work together and mobilize around this idea.’”

Cameron said the decision was made early that the app would be free.

“We are very fortunate that Ivy.ai and all contributors were willing to make #CampusClear a free resource for any college or university to use,” he says.

A subsequent outreach to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) resulted in some 75% of AJCU institutions climbing on board with the project, providing expertise on subject matter and features. As of June 10, more than 200 colleges and universities have signed up for the app prior to the official release, with interest climbing daily.

“We ended up with a great solution that we are getting to ready to launch, so there will be an app available in the Apple App Store and the Android App Store called #CampusClear, which will be a free resource for any college or university to use.”

The decision to make the app free was spurred by two concerns, Cameron says. First, Creighton, SUNY Stony Brook and Ivy.ai have a common desire to return higher education to normalcy as soon as possible.

“The sooner we get back to normal, the sooner we improve a lot of things,” he says. “It improves the lives of our students and their ability to focus on their career goals, and it also helps the University in terms of just being able to operate more efficiently.”

But secondly, he says, paraphrasing the words of Mark McNasby, CEO at Ivy.ai:

“We didn’t want to look back on COVID-19 and say, ‘We could have done something but we didn’t.’ So the fact that this opportunity was in front of us, that we could do something about it here and now, was really inspirational for everybody.”

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