Online Room Selection is a Virtual Success

Columbia Housing made a major shift this year, successfully transitioning Room Selection—historically an intensive, largely in-person process—to a fully automated, online process that enabled students to register, browse housing options and policies, and complete the Room Selection process without ever stepping away from their web browser.

May 20, 2020
Room Selection website shown on an iMac

When the project of moving Room Selection online was begun last calendar year, the goal was simply to streamline the process for both students and the Housing team, taking advantage of technology updates. Little did anyone know how timely this transition would be once the COVID-19 pandemic forced students to complete the Spring semester remotely. Because of the new process, the month-long Room Selection process was completed without any significant issues.

The success of the new Room Selection process can be attributed to three things:

  • The Housing team worked closely with student leaders in the Residence Hall Leadership Organization (RHLO) to create a simple and student-focused process. The RHLO team was instrumental in advising Housing on the new selection process, communicating news of the change to the student body, and facilitating information sessions.
  • The Housing and Facilities & Operations IT teams proactively prepared for the transition by upgrading last year to the latest version of StarRez, the system used to manage student housing data, which was necessary to support the online process.
  • The Housing and Communications team re-imagined the strategy for migrating the Housing website to the Columbia Sites platform, choosing to fast-track the migration of their Room Selection content first, creating a Room Selection microsite that served as a focused and central source of information and education to help students learn and adopt the new process.

Indicators of Success

  • Since its launch at the end of February, the Room Selection microsite has had over 30,000 unique users who have visited the site over 60,000 times.
    • Those users browsed over 255,000 pages of content collectively, and spent an average of 6 minutes per visit on the site.
    • Only 23% of users viewed only one page of content before leaving.
  • The Housing and Communications team created an instructional video to help students participate in the process remotely, and also worked with RHLO to produce three introductory videos explaining the process for students.
    • Together, these videos garnered over 6,000 views on social media.
  • 1,174 selection appointments were completed during Room Selection, which included room assignments for 3,333 students.
  • 0 issues were reported during the entire Room Selection process, from March 31 – April 30.

Interesting Insights

  • East Campus suite EC 2020E was the first suite selected and Broadway Hall 627 4B was the first single selected.
  • The average time elapsed between the appointment time, when individuals and groups were authorized to make their selection, until the time their selection was finalized was 181.82 minutes.
    • Seniors, since they usually were in the first groups to select, took an average of 309.84 minutes to select.
    • Sophomores selecting by themselves or who were part of an all-sophomore group took an average of 67.74 minutes to select, likely because they had fewer options to choose from due to higher lottery numbers.
    • Those choosing by themselves had a greater incidence of missing their appointment time and selecting a few hours or days later, compared to those selecting in groups.
    • 7 seniors, 5 mixed junior groups, 19 juniors, and 12 sophomores all selected their rooms within 1 minute of their appointment time.
    • The fastest selection time was 1 minute, the longest time taken was 33,719 minutes.

Congratulations to the Columbia Housing team and their partners in RHLO, IT, and Communications for the exceptional planning and execution of this new process. Thank you for helping keep Room Selection on schedule despite COVID-19.