Acalog Widget API — Contest Highlights Innovative Uses for Cool New Tool
Once enabled, the Acalog Widget API allows clients to showcase catalog information in new ways and places.
There are lots of reasons why we love our clients, and one of them is that when it comes to using our products creatively, they get it. I mean, they really get it.
A few weeks ago, we announced a contest to showcase how our customers use our new Acalog Widget API on their college or university websites. The results were impressive.
Before I tell you about the winners, a brief explanation of our Widget API is in order. As you probably know, a widget is a user-configurable mini-application for presenting data. API stands for Application Programming Interface, but don’t let that scare you. An API is simply a tool that allows software to communicate with other software.
In short, the Widget API is a way to present information from your Acalog e-catalog in another location of your choosing. Examples include displays of course information on department pages of your school’s website, or on the home page, as our contest winner has done.
Acalog also includes a more robust API that must be configured by a programmer behind the scenes. Think of the Acalog API as a pro tool, and the Acalog Widget API as the consumer do-it-yourself version.
Winning Use Cases
First, a sincere thank-you to everyone who entered our Widget API contest. We hope you enjoyed the experience as much as we enjoyed taking a close-up look at your work. You continue to inspire us.
Entries were judged by several members of our development staff. And now, the winners:
Grand Prize: Lancaster Bible College
Entrant: Daniel McClary, Associate Registrar
Prize: Apple iPad Air 2, DIGARC Swag Pack
Entrant’s Use Case Description: Using the Widget API between our website and the Acalog catalog, we are now displaying the main courses for each major per year, with the data being fed from the catalog using the widget. You can see an example of this at this link, down the page (under “Sample Course Outline”). It has been a very good solution and presents very well! Thank you for having that option available to us.
Judges’ Comments: This is a great utilization of the Widget API to produce an up-to-date page that requires no manual changes. The data format is also nicely customized to the client’s needs and desired display requirements, which results in a cohesive look and feel identical to their original hard-coded solution.
Runner-up: College of Charleston
Entrant: Franklin Czwazka, Catalog Manager
Prize: DIGARC Swag Pack
Entrant’s Use Case Description: An API is necessary to ensure that links to the catalog are always accurate. It will also eliminate the necessity of individuals annually relinking to the catalog.
The Widget API was chosen because it is more technologically-friendly solution that requires minimal technical support. In addition, the scope of the work involved allows us to circumvent our Project Management Office and proceed with the implementation and subsequent campus-wide rollout. Finally, it allows for our current, largely decentralized content management practice to continue.
The College of Charleston has a section of the catalog titled “Academics,” which is maintained by the Division of Marketing and Communications. Within the “Academics” page are two subpages: “Majors and Minors” and “Graduate Programs and Certificates.” These lead to individual pages geared toward each academic program offered at the College of Charleston. For the purpose of this case study we will focus on the Computing in the Arts. The Computing in the Arts page maintained by Marketing and Communications has four links leading directly to the catalog under a heading titled “Catalog and Course Information,” which leads directly to the major listings within the catalog.
Without an API, the aforementioned links would need to be manually updated when the 2017–18 Undergraduate Catalog is published.
With the use of the Widget API the links on the Computing in the Arts page now utilize codes for links generated using the Widget API. Catalog Type was utilized because there are only two options: 1) Undergraduate Catalog and 2) Graduate Catalog. These will never change and by using them we have helped minimize the chance of generating new code.
Judges’ Comments: The College of Charleston uses the Widget API to cleanly pull in the data from the catalog. This not only looks nice and is custom-tailored to their site, it also provides a smooth transition to their Gateway. An included case study shows comprehensive understanding and provided valued feedback for future improvements to the Widget.
Runner-up: SUNY Cortland University
Entrant: Michelle Cryan, Web and Digital Marketing Manager
Prize: DIGARC Swag Pack
Entrant’s Use Case Description: Our main college site contained hundreds of links to archived catalog content. Using the Acalog Widget API we were able to replace those hypertext links with content that pulls directly from the current catalog into our CMS. We tried manually exporting catalog content and importing it into our CMS, but the process was time-consuming. With the new Acalog Widget API, we can “Set it and forget it.” We are also able to link to archived catalog content and it allows us to pulls courses directly into our CMS.
Judges’ Comments: SUNY Cortland implemented a nice usage of the Widget API to display up-to-date courses dynamically. The course list is also styled and formatted clearly for easy accessibility for end-users.
— Skip Ernst, Acalog Product Manager