R&DE and UIT Team Up to Simplify Student Move-Ins and Save Staff Time
It goes without saying that tremendous effort and resources are required to ensure thousands of students receive housing assignments and access to their residential buildings at the start of every new school year.
This year, 280 students who would have otherwise experienced building access issues were able to have a seamless move-in experience. Additionally, the staff who would have had to troubleshoot those issues were relieved of this burden and could focus on other responsibilities.
This was all thanks to a new application programming interface (API) written by University IT’s Integration and Client Solutions (ICS) team, coupled with automation written by Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) developers leveraging the API.
The old way
In the past, R&DE housing staff would use their reservation system, StarRez, to make room assignments. Then, Lenel, Stanford’s access control system, would automatically pick up these records and grant card reader access to the doors of the assigned building, laundry facility, and computer rooms.
Built seven years ago, this integration was time consuming and prone to error. That's because all the validation had to be done by running reports in both Lenel and StarRez and comparing that data in Excel using pivots tables. Any bulk changes were then made using uploads to perform data fixes. In other words, all checking, confirmation, and fixing had to be done manually by staff.
API + automation tool enable quick and efficient validation
The RESTful API empowered R&DE’s development team to do this validation programmatically (and quickly) in order to identify building access issues prior to students’ arrival on campus. Using the API, R&DE developer Tim Jad created an automated tool that checked each housing assignment in StarRez and then verified it with the building access data in Lenel.
When a mismatch was detected between the two systems, an alert would be sent. In some cases, simply resubmitting the record to Lenel resolved the issue, but in other cases the mismatch needed to be further investigated before it could be resolved.
“This API and tool enabled us to detect access issues well in advance of student move-in, and do what was necessary to resolve the issues,” Tim remarked. “Additionally, the automation in the audit process allowed the majority of issues to be resolved automatically without any manual handling.”
Besides an improved student experience, operational efficiency for both R&DE and UIT is another major win.
“This translated to less time that R&DE staff had to spend on auditing and troubleshooting, and less time spent by UIT staff responding to the reported issue via email, HelpSU, or other methods,” Tim added.