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Save Time and Improve Consistency by Embedding Your Academic Catalog Data on Other Websites

Ensure that department-level websites are in sync with the catalog.

By Smita Mammen and Martin Nelson, DIGARC

You work hard every year to ensure the information in your academic catalog is the best it can be, and it just makes sense that other institutional stakeholders should be able to pull that content into other places on your website, or even into other campus systems.

There’s a powerful feature built into DIGARC’s Acalog academic catalog software called the Acalog API — application program interface, for long — and it’s used to extract data from Acalog and present it elsewhere online. That ensures the most up-to-date course and/or program information is automatically updated on a school’s departmental websites, for example.

The Power of the Catalog Connect API

Using the API means you won’t have to remember to update department pages whenever changes are made in courses or descriptions housed in Acalog.

It’s a great way for any website to present information quickly to their targeted audience. There’s no need for the user to go back to the school homepage or elsewhere to find the link to the main course catalog.

Eastern Illinois University (EIU) uses the API to dynamically display course information on department websites. To see the API in action, visit the EIU Department of Biology website.

The course information you see there is not hard-coded into the page — it’s dynamically generated from Acalog’s relational database in the computing cloud. Information will automatically be pulled from the most current catalog, even if it’s changed in Acalog. Pretty neat, huh?

Best Practices

If you’re not taking advantage of theAPI yet, you may want to bookmark this page for future reference, or share it with a qualified member of your IT department. To enable it, contact DIGARC per the documentation in the Acalog Publisher.

Developers hoping to use the API should be experienced parsing x-includes in document-based XML. The primary reason the API is document-based is because of Acalog’s unique ability to the creation of custom course fields on the fly, which means there is no way to lock down data definitions.

Four things for you or your IT staff to consider when implementing and using the API:

  1. Cache the results so that calls to the API aren’t needed every time a user visits a website displaying information from the API. This limits calls to the API and speeds up the load time for the website.
  2. Use the “Modified by Date” option to only pull data modified since the last time the call to the API was made.
  3. Make use of Boolean logic when using the search method to search for specific items.
    • Example: Math AND Chemistry OR Biology
    • You may also use parentheses to indicate order-of-operations when using Boolean operators.
    • Example: Math AND (prefix:MAT or prefix:PHYS)
  4. Use column filters to filter results using item attributes. These can be used in addition to, or instead of, keywords and phrases when searching for courses. Example of Available Courses Column Filters:
    • Prefix ( prefix:ANTH )
    • Code ( code:101 )
    • Parent ( parent:”Department of Humanities” )
    • Type ( type:Science )
    • Custom Fields ( prerequisites:”BIO 120″)

The DIGARC team will help you take advantage of this powerful tool that’s already in your hands if you’re using Acalog. If you or someone on your team is ready (and comfortable with XML), feel free to get in touch with us at 866-328-9012 x202 or customercare@digarc.com.

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