Presence, a St. Petersburg company with software for colleges and universities, has created a new feature designed to help schools safely reopen their campuses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The additional software aids in contact tracing, or identifying persons who may have come into contact with an infected person. Many colleges and universities are required to have contact tracing in place before they can reopen.
The software also notifies students about potential exposure and provides next steps for the students to follow.
The new feature, which is part of existing Presence technology for student engagement and learning, offers several advantages to college and university leaders, said Reuben Pressman, Presence founder and CEO.
“They want to protect their communities, first and foremost, but they also need to maintain students’ confidentiality in accordance with FERPA [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act]. And they have to be prepared to be able to alert local health officials of positive cases at a moment’s notice,” Pressman said. “We’ve built this feature to help colleges and universities balance all of that quickly and easily.”
Presence already has a mobile check-in feature on its software. It allows students to indicate that they are attending on-campus events outside of the classroom, such as orientation, homecoming, student club meetings or residence hall activities.
If a student develops symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, the new feature that Presence has developed allow administrators to find out which events that student has attended and who else was at the event. Administrators can provide data to public health officials and also send electronic notifications to at-risk students.
Students who get an alert about potential exposure will not be told the name of the person who tested positive, to protect that individual’s privacy.
Since the pandemic began, Presence developed several new tools for the institutions of higher learning that are its customers.
The company rolled out software to help institutions deliver millions of dollars of CARES Act funding to students in need, created virtual on-demand content catalogs and powered online student orientations, among other initiatives.
But administrators know student experiences are more powerful – and lead to better academic success – when they take place in person instead of online, according to a news release from Presence.
“We built this feature knowing that all campus events have the potential to become superspreaders,” Pressman said. “But with our quick and easy alert systems — along with other smart, proactive health practices that institutions put in place — students and staff should feel more comfortable getting back to the in-person activities they so greatly miss.”
Presence, established in 2014 and originally named Check I’m Here, is a student engagement and learning software platform used by hundreds of higher education institutions.