Modernizing the student portal experience
Antelope Valley College had previously been using the Luminis platform from Ellucian and was dealing with a number of challenges, including load issues and lack of responsiveness during peak times. More importantly, Luminis relied on Flash technology, which no longer works on modern web browsers. This caused a significant and critical pain point for the college since much of the student population accessed the portal’s content on web and mobile platforms.
When AVC understood that Ellucian was planning to discontinue the Luminis platform, the College started its search for a modern alternative to replace its legacy student portal.
We needed a platform that allowed us to engage with students, Student Life wanted a tool for managing campus clubs and groups for quite some time.
– Daniel Conner, Enterprise Applications
AVC began by identifying its needs for a new platform, starting with a more responsive design. “We needed a platform that allowed us to engage with students,” Daniel explained. “Student life wanted a tool for managing campus clubs and groups for quite some time.”
AVC was also seeking a platform that allowed for the development of a secure intranet. “We have a lot of content on our public website that probably shouldn’t be public—that is really meant for classified staff or faculty members,” Daniel said. Finding a platform that would allow for the creation of an intranet behind authentication credentials was a key priority.
Additionally, the new platform needed to integrate with Banner, with straightforward provisioning of Banner users to the platform. The checklist for the platform should also include Integration for RESTful APIs and with “direct database connections as needed when our APIs didn’t have the ability to pull all of the data that we needed.”
Compatibility with Office365 and Gmail were also factors for considerations. “Right now, we are primarily a Gmail shop, however, we’re in the process of migrating employees to O365. So it was very important to have a platform that was compatible with multiple email platforms.”
Finally, Daniel adds, “Since most things are mobile these days, we’ve found that it would be important to pick a product that was both a mobile-responsive web platform and also came with a mobile app.”
AVC looked at a variety of different vendors, including Ex Libris, Unifyed, rSmart and the Ellucian Experience product.
The Right Solution
Checking all the boxes
”We really found that Path [formerly Campus] hit all of our checkboxes. They met all of our requirements from a feature set standpoint. They have past experience working with O365 and Gmail. They had worked with prior Banner clients before,” said Daniel.
AVC added that Path was able to build new features specifically for the college’s needs.
“Working with them has just been so fantastic because when there have been things that we wanted to have in the portal that they hadn’t done before, they were willing to work on it and code it up for us. They demonstrated to us that they could really bring our needs to fruition,” said Daniel.
We really liked the idea that we could build our own widgets, and that the platform was incredibly extensible.
– Daniel Conner, Enterprise Applications
Path utilizes product feedback management software called Canny that manages customer change requests or feature requests. New platform releases are largely based on feedback that they receive through Canny.
Daniel explains, “I want to make sure that everybody knows that there have been multiple occasions where we have been in a status meeting and we have requested a new feature, and Chase (Path’s CEO), has said, ‘You know what? We probably should have that feature in our platform.’ Then he has directed the developers to make it so. And that is definitely one of the big selling points, as far as I’m concerned. They are very customer-minded. They see a new implementation and a new client as a partnership. And I think that that has definitely made this a great experience for us.”
Provisioning from Banner to Path
Daniel explains how AVC handles the user provisioning from Banner to Path. “We’re doing a bulk SFTP upload of our provisioning file on a daily basis, and we do incremental uploads throughout the day. The file includes user account information, including user roles, and we were able to use the existing roles in Banner, but we have also created new roles for group populations (for example, First Year Experience, EOPS, STAR, CalWORKs, and Student Clubs).”
“For each of these student-facing groups,” he explains, “we have disabled students from being able to see other members of the group for obvious privacy reasons, and we’re able to populate groups based on any attribute that exists in Banner. For instance, if you want to create a group for an academic program for academic areas, you could create the group based on a major attribute that’s being sent up via the provisioning file.”
As another example, he cites that students have been wanting social media as-a-platform for managing student clubs and organizations for quite some time. “They manage their groups on Facebook currently, but this platform will give them the ability to manage groups on their own. And while we will be creating groups for their requests, they will be managing the group, and students will be able to opt-in on their own.”
Enabling custom features & functionality through widgets
Daniel highlights a number of the widgets that AVC has implemented for both students and faculty with Path.
This widget uses the Canvas API to populate student courses and notifications. Then all current courses and course notifications are displayed within the widget. It links directly to the course shell on Canvas, and all Canvas notifications sent out by a professor will be displayed within the widget.
Financial Aid Requirements
This allows for students to select an aid year from a dropdown list box. The requirements for the financial aid offering are shown and whether or not the requirements have been met or not by the student. The widget pulls data directly from a view in Banner. “We found that the Ethos API did not have an endpoint for polling and financial aid requirements data. In order for us to meet this need, we needed to set up a direct database connection, and then create a creative view for pulling that data in,” he said.
This displays a student’s grades by term, and pulls data directly through a view from Banner.
Students can be presented with their current balance and a link to the payments page. This widget pulls data from the student payments and student charges Ethos API endpoints.
There are also plans for a Matriculation widget, which will display matriculation data for students so they can know if they need to finish their matriculation steps before being able to register. There is also an employee matriculation widget that will allow advisors to look up a matriculation status for a given student.
his lists courses a faculty member is teaching. It links back to their Path shell, including the class meeting time and location, as well as to the Self-Service Banner for accessing the class list, wait list, grading information, and ability to email the class.
This displays the number of documents waiting for an approval for an employee with a link to Self-Service Banner. “Basically the employee will click on the link and they’ll be able to complete their approvals of finance documents.”
Allows advisors to search students via their student ID or name to view transcripts, test scores, and email the student.
Understanding stakeholder needs = implementation success
In terms of managing the project planning, AVC started with a general vision, which then became more specific and defined based on stakeholder feedback. “The scope was loosely defined at the beginning of the project, and then as we met with the stakeholders at AVC, it became more well-defined as we gathered more of an understanding of what our stakeholders really needed in the new portal,” said Daniel.
“I would recommend to anybody implementing a new portal meet with your stakeholders as early as you can in the process because they ultimately will drive your requirements.”
“My goal was to see this as a new implementation and not a migration. Since it had been so long since we had implemented a new portal, we really needed to meet directly with all of the stakeholders and not only get their sense about what features needed to be moved from Luminis into the Path app platform, we also needed to have a better understanding of what new features they would like to see. I really think that that approach has served us well.”