Education Technology

api web services: data sharing in the service of your campus


  • Nerces Kazandjian, Mentor/Product Owner, CSUN


  • Genesis & first steps
  • Current META_LAB API Web Servies Suites
  • Usage examples across campus
  • Q&A

Genesis & first steps

API: clearly defined methods of communicating among verious components

Abstracts underlying implementation, only exposing reqd objest or actions

Web services: communication via wWW between multiple electronic devices; provides an OO web-based interface to a db server

API/Web APIs: programmatic interface consisting of one or more publicly exposed endpoints; typically expressed in JSON or XML; commonly done through an HTTP server

How it all Started

  • 1st apps had direct access to databases. Do we need that level and freedom of access? What happens when the db structure changes? How do we give access outside of applications?
  • The appropriate time to move to an API web service: data is currently in used by multiple apps; data is id’ed as being potentially seful in future apps; data is requested by external dev teams

Tech Specifics

  • Lumen: Laravel pared down for micro-services and APIs; esily adaptable to Laravel applications
  • JSON: JS Object Notation; open standard that is human readable
  • RESTful: representation state transfer; standard HTTP methods (eg. GET, POST)

Advantages & Challenges

  • Advantages: simplify access to institutional data; promote the usage of data among campus devs; streamline web dev process
  • Challenges: getting access from authoritative source initially; 2-way access to read and write data; backward compatibility and support

Current Offerings

  • Affinity: teaching expertise
  • Citations: published works
  • Curriculum: course & class info
  • Degrees: Degree and institutional background
  • Directory: contact and listing information
  • Jewel: JSON data structure with HTML
  • Media: profile photo and name pronunciation
  • Roster: Membership of departments, committees, classes, etc.
  • Waldo: Room location information

Usage Examples Across Campus

  • AS Metro Pass: reduced-fare transit pass for students who meet unit requirement; available to students through registration/payment process; micro-app provides availability at AS Ticketing Office; Roster web service – number of enrolled units on student-by-student basis.
  • Catalog: online catalog with faculty, program, and course listings; curriculum web service class listings on course-by-course basis; degrees web service faculty degree information; directory web service faculty listing by department, faculty listing A-Z
  • Electronic Thesis & Dissertation: replaces thesis paperwork previously used by students and faculty; deposits theses to the library’s searchable repo; curriculum web service (graduate programs); roster web service (graduate program memberships, students and faculty)
  • Faculty profiles: automatically-generated profile page for CSUN faculty; affinity web service (faculty award badges, teaching & research interests); citations web service (faculty publication info); curriculum web service (faculty teaching schedule); degrees web service (faculty degree info); waldo web service (room location on campus map)
  • Late Add-Drop allows students to add/drop classes after respective deadlines; uses
  • Shared note taker: enables students to request note taking services
  • Academic curriculum: departments and programs using API web services: Computer Information Technology (senior design projects); computer science (faculty projects, senior design projects); Information Systems (faculty projects).
Education Technology

CSU/Unisys dev-ops automation roadmap


  • Milten Garia (MG), Manager of Integration and Web Services, CSU Office of the Chancellor
  • Anand Deshpande (AD), Cloud Architect, Unisys, CSU/Unisys Dev-Ops Automation Roadmap
  • Rajeev Singh (RS), Executive Transformation Architect, Unisys, CSU/Unisys Dev-Ops Automation Roadmap


  • CMS History
  • Business Drivers, Challenges and Target Areas
  • Vision & Strategy
  • Automation Roadmap & Journey
  • Automation Tools & Proven Results
  • Business Case: Data as a Service

CMS History

MG: discussed pre-history of storage, pottery for storage of grain and other foodstuffs, and invention of the pottery wheel. “Machines are a way to outwit nature.” “We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re inventing the pot.”

Started in 1998, Mission to provide efficient, effective and high quality service to the campuses, students, faculty and staff of the 23 campus CSU System and the Office of the Chancellor. All 23 campuses are on HR.

Business Drivers, Challenges and Target Areas

  • Align institutional and IT priorities, i.e. GI2025.
  • Lagging technology
  • Increased Services at lower cost
  • Campus autonomy, empowerment: we want campuses to have the flexibility to manage their own environment.
  • Data security and access: we’re constantly under attack, and we have Oracle patches not just quarterly, but all the time now.
  • Digital integration: being able to integrate new applications into your environment without interruption. We need to be able to streamline this process.
  • Data-driven culture: we’re at 500K students now, we have mountains of student and administrative data, so this is a priority for us.
  • Speed of service to campuses: upgrades are constant, we’re trying to manage this better.
  • Realize operational efficiencies

Target Areas for Automation

  • Agile delivery of instances: being able to provide better responsiveness.
  • Handle Peek Load during registration: cooperation for calendaring of resources.
  • Optimize HR
  • Campus self-service of daily requests: campuses can deliver faster in many cases.
  • Automating mundane & administrative tasks

Vision & Strategy

RS: This doesn’t need to be a complicated discussion, there is no one right answer to what we need. Our operating principle: keep things simple; we need to be focused on the outcomes. We want to build a self-service portal where we can ask for whatever tools we need, being cloud- and tool-agnostic. Options are important.

  • Cloud Ops
  • Approvers
  • Cost Management
  • DevOps Tools

Strategy for ROI: Productivity feeds > Speed of delivery feeds > Quality improvements

  • Priorities: nobody is “busy,” it’s just a matter of priorities
  • Targets: simple and well-defined
  • Communication: keep momentum and provide tangible results
  • Actions: win fast and fail even faster

Automation Roadmap & Journey

AD: I’ll discuss the following topics and hopefully keep you entertained 🙂

  • CMS Hybrid Cloud Deployment
  • CMS Peoplesoft as a Service
  • CMS Data as a Service
  • CMS Auto Burst Capacity in AWS
  • Fully automated CMS Private Cloud

Journey to dev-ops is easy early on, but as you build it up it gets more complicated. Ad-hoc/Scattered/Shell Scripts > Devising dev-ops strategy for automation & config management > PoCs w/multiple CM Tool i.e. ansible, puppet > Setting base dev-ops infrastructure ( application deployment tools > educating & training staff > transforming & writing code for automation > evolving as true dev-ops organization.

We chose Ansible as our dev-ops tool. We wanted to setup our infrastructure as code, automating using Ansible, Jenkins, GitLab, Right Scale, Dome9, ServiceNow, VMware, AWS, Delphix for DB virtualization, etc. This stack removes layers of human approval for many commonly-requested things.

Ansible benefits: simple maintenance with strategic setup. Power tools: automation toolbox, workflow, agentless approach. Simple: no scripting, low learning curve, human readable automation, create prototypes quickly. Applied across multiple IT Operation Areas: storage, infrastructure, applications and databases to create a larger scale of improved operational efficiencies and reduced infrastructure costs. Use cases include: cloud, infrastructure, database, and applications.

Automation Tools & Proven Results

  • PS PIA build 3-4 hours > 1 minute
  • Automated web server validation: 1 hours & 2 FTEs > less than 3 minutes/automated
  • LInux/WebLogic/Oracle Patching: Manual 12 hours > automatic 1 hour or less
  • Automated maintenance window 6 hours 15 FTEs> more work in 6 hours
  • More examples were shared, I can’t type that fast 😉

Business Case: Data as a Service

Shared an Ansible infrastructure workflow that includes many of the elements available.

RS: we’re providing these services to Brendan’s team, and he’ll talk more about this later in the conference with respect to system data, i.e. BI initially.

Q: you’re talking about making this a priority, how do you get a “lift” without impacting operations? RS: as we move along the project we want to 1) see how do the implementations while automating them and 2) find out where we really spend our time. We want to enable campuses to do most of the day-to-day stuff on their own. That’s an incentive for us to allow folk to work on the exciting things we currently don’t have the time to work on.

Q: is the Ansible tool built for managing AWS or Azure? AD: it allows you use different modules to manage those services. For most things like EC2, it has modules that allow you to do most common tasks.

Q: are you using in the cloud confirmation and terraform in conjunction with Ansible? AD: we’re using Ansible pretty much exclusively right now.

Q: what’s the itinerary looking like for pushing this out, i.e. training, tools, etc.? RS: we’re going to post “how we did it” articles, a service catalog, a set of guidelines for security, etc.

Q: do you use a 3rd party to audit/verify your service is running properly? AD: no, Ansible does this for us.

Accessibility Education Technology

Leveraging blackboard A11y and campus “allies” to support a culture of inclusion


  • Shelli Wynants, Director, Online Education and Training, CSUF
  • Willie Peng, AVP, Academic Technology Support Services, CSUF

WP: Started this conversation in early Spring 2018, when we signed the MOU, began testing and deployment, developed a rollout plan, etc. In Summer 2018, we rolled out to about 40 faculty during our Summer “B” session. In 2018 Fall, we added CourseMatch, DSS registered courses, added selective volunteers. In 2019 Spring we enabled for all courses, embarked on a big marketing and training program (we’re getting a lot of great feedback from our faculty about this product). In the near future, we’re enabling for our Moodle Community Instance and doing more marketing and training.

How has your campus implemented A11y?

Q: Are you tracking how many people are responding to your MarCom emails? WP: No, but we’re planning to switch to a new email program so that we can do that. SW: all emails do come to me, but I only fielded one negative comment from faculty.

Q: DRC connection: did they give you a list of classes? SW: Yes! So it was turned on for all of those classes.

COMMENT: at SM, we rolled it out quickly. It was not received as well as we had hoped. Lots of faculty were doing remediation of materials that we didn’t know about. We’re going to involve marketing going forward.

Leveraging Campus Allies

SW: Our Academic Technology Center is our #1 stop. Instructional designers help out with most common kinds of things, like remediation of Word documents. We also have GrackleDocs for Google Docs, Forms and Slides. We turned on VoiceThread auto captioning for presentations and discussions and that’s worked out well for us (this is complimentary to services we receive from Automatic Sync Technologies). IT completely revamped our accessible technology website.

Q: how did you go about training? SW: we created a 3-part certificate, totally online training. #1 Accessibility Awareness, #2 universal design for learning, #3 creating accessible documents and presentations. Training is individual, not cohort. We’ve had a lot of non-faculty taking this training as well.

SW: We have grant money for OER: Student Success Series for Faculty Summer 2019. I give $100 to each person who completes the certificate…I had 35!

Our goal for staff is to take 5 courses in professional development. We have lots of material on A11y, Universal Design for Learning, and more. We start with equity, student success and then dive into accessibility.

What resources does your campus use to leverage A11y as part of a larger campus discussion about inclusion? Which campus “allies” are involved on your campus for promoting a culture of inclusion?

Q from CSUMB: you’re a “pull” type of organization…it’s all opt-in. Is anyone else doing a broader “we’re going to remediate things en-masses, set a baseline and get the work done?” SW: I think we’d have a faculty revolt if we attempted that!

Q: Would focusing on new faculty be a good idea? WP: yes. We’re also using CourseMatch and remediating as appropriate (the provost is behind us on this). SW: we’ve found that the certificate goes a long way toward providing motivation. A door sign or micro-credential might be useful in this way, too.

Q: are you planning on turning on the scoring part? SW: no, not yet. However, we thought we might turn it on for our early adopters/volunteers. It would be good if we had another campus’ experience to learn from. Some campuses have resolutions around maintaining accessibility for all coursework. SW: I think our policies are generally like this, but enforcement is a question. WP: we have 2 different Moodle instances, one is for coursework, the other is for “community.”

Next Steps

  • Student Awareness: campaign to promote accessing instructional materials using alternate format
  • Support: student, faculty, staff
  • Escalation: bugs, features
  • Additional tools to support accessibility: provide tools to address accessibility at document creation

Student awareness: advisors, res life, new students, U100 classes, email address for a11y, blocks of text explaining what a11y is (messaging like “you can listen in the gym, on the train,” etc. for ePub).

Support: WP we have a faculty support center AND a student support center; walk-in centers have been helpful.

Escalation: channel to submit bugs and feature requests.

Additional tools to support accessibility: WP we’re trying to be more pro-active and catch thing early (doing things in post-production is a lot more challenging). We’re trying to create a community among all constituencies to create learning materials about making documents accessibly.

What are you doing on your campuses?

Q: Filetypes…what are people telling folks about saving and uploading particular types of files? SW: we direct faculty to our module 3. CSU MB: faculty that create their materials from pre-existing materials? Yeah, that can be kind of tough. SW: we tend to help out with Word documents the most, and we have an in-house “guru” on PDF accessibility.

Q: what are you doing on your campuses? Filetypes…what are people telling folks about saving and uploading particular types of files. SW: we direct faculty to our module 3. CSU MB: faculty that create their materials from pre-existing materials? Yeah, that can be kind of tough. SW: we tend to help out with Word documents the most, and we have an in-house “guru” on PDF accessibility.

Student Affairs Technology Uncategorized

NASPA Needs a Technology Core Data Service, and Why This Matters to You

Who You Gonna Call?

Who do you call when you have a burning question about technology? Chances are good you have a picture of “that one techie” in your mind right now. You know their name, and you probably have their extension memorized. Beyond that, your knowledge of who does what with technology on your campus likely gets hazy. If you’re part of a system of universities, you may rely on “birds of a feather” colleagues at other campuses you meet with on a regular basis. No doubt you have colleagues who use the same software as you to administer departmental programming, can quote verse about the hoops you have to jump through to get the data you need, how your staff deals with social media, and so on. If you’re lucky, you get to go to conferences and have an informal network of professionals to lean on. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an unbiased resource you could rely on to provide benchmarking information about technology-related topics germane to higher education? Something like this actually exists…sort of.

What’s a Core Data Service (CDS), Anyway?

The idea for a multi-organizational technology assessment in higher education is not new or original, nor did it materialize out of thin air. Since 2002, EDUCAUSE – the world’s largest community of IT leaders and professionals in higher education – has conducted an annual assessment of hundreds of campuses. The activities around this assessment culminate in a product they call the Core Data Service, or CDS. What’s in it? Benchmarking data on staffing, financials and a variety of technology services. It’s a fantastic reference for higher education technology professionals, especially leaders who need to know where they stand with respect to their peers. The problem with the EDUCAUSE CDS is that it does not collect data or provide insights that are particularly useful to student affairs professionals.

Why NASPA Needs Its Own Version of a CDS

Members of the Technology Knowledge Community (TKC) recognized the importance of technology to the profession many years ago. They believed it was such an important part of our work, they were able to successfully add it as a NASPA Professional Competency Area in 2010: Unlike EDUCAUSE, NASPA has no benchmarking tool focused on technology that we are aware of. We believe that a NASPA CDS would be a valuable resource for any NASPA member who needs to make decisions about the use of technology in their programs. A Core Data Service is a natural extension of the assessment culture that has been built in our profession; we think it should be a core product of the organization.

You might be asking yourself “why don’t we just ask EDUCAUSE to adapt their instrument so it can collect this data for us?” First, the overlap between NASPA members who participate in EDUCAUSE and vice-versa is rather small…the connection between organizations is probably not where it needs to be to make this happen (yet). Second, the vast majority of the technology we use in student services – particularly software-based – is not universally important to everyone in our organizations. Third, technology staffing models vary drastically from campus to campus. Hopefully, EDUCAUSE will continue to evolve and the data needs for student affairs will be more fully included. Until that time, however, adapting the concept for our needs at this time makes a lot of sense.

Enterprise Versus Niche Software

You may have heard the term “enterprise” invoked in hushed tones during campus meetings with IT and wondered what it meant. The way the word is used implies great importance. Generally speaking, “enterprise” refers to a product or service that everyone (or nearly everyone) in an organization depends on to do their job. When enterprise services go down, everyone panics. In the higher education software world, enterprise usually means the SIS (Student Information System), HR/Finance, portals, and email/calendaring tools. Enterprise software is expensive and complex, and requires a significant investment in professional IT resources. For many campuses, the responsibility for managing these systems lies with a Centralized IT department. As a general rule, enterprise software feeds, stores, and works on data that is considered to be the “source of truth” for an organization. They’re critical systems by definition.

Doesn’t every operational area in student affairs also depend on software? And isn’t that software just as important to what we do? In terms of complexity and usage, some of our systems rival enterprise software. Do you lead a Career Services department? There are software systems for you. How about Student Housing? You have multiple software options to choose from for managing residential life. Health Services? Check. Judicial Affairs/Student Conduct? Check. Clubs & Organizations? Disability Resources? Assessment? Check, check, check. Our software is important to us, but it isn’t universally important to everyone on campus. That’s what makes student services software niche software.

The bottom line here is that you probably want to know which software packages your peers use most often. It’s a reasonable question you’ve probably asked more than once.

Student Services Technology Support Varies Widely

Despite the fact that technology is enshrined as a NASPA professional competency, there’s little consistency around how we fund and staff it. Support models used by campuses to deliver student services technology vary widely (and wildly). Some campuses have a highly centralized IT division that coordinates services for every functional area on campus. Other campuses have multiple, decentralized technology units. Student affairs divisions may have a large or small technology department – or none at all – depending on the services needed. It’s fair to say that there are as many technology delivery models as there are members in the TKC!

We Have an Instrument That Just Might Work

In 2017, David Sweeney of the Texas A&M University system published the results of a system-wide student affairs software survey. This assessment provided TAMU’s Senior Student Affairs Officers with information about “…the distribution of ‘student affairs’ typical software packages and platforms…” and “…contract data with the aim of finding opportunities to share software across multiple units if indicated and desired.”* David’s survey spurred interest among several of us in the TKC in developing a similar but more expansive survey, with the intention of incorporating other pertinent details. After much discussion, we decided to measure the following:

  1. Institution (size, basic demographics)
  2. Student Affairs organization (services offered)
  3. Student Affairs IT (staffing level, type of support)
  4. Applications and Services

As a group, we felt that all four of these components would be useful for SSAOs (Senior Student Affairs Officers). We also felt that they would present a host of emergent benefits, such as improved collaboration between universities, leveraging our combined voices when communicating with vendors, providing hard data for NASPA’s assessment team, and so on. To that end, we developed a Qualtrics survey, currently hosted by the University of Pittsburgh. The survey is accessed by a link on the SAIT Pros web site at SAIT Pros is a free “non-denominational” association for people who do technology work in student affairs. You don’t have to be an IT geek to join, membership is free, and we host a Slack team where people can share what they know about products, services and processes, all without having to worry about vendors listening in. In our first year of running this assessment, we had 27 participating campuses, which indicates to us that our idea has merit. We asked for TKC sponsorship for a session to talk about this project at the national conference in Los Angeles, which the TKC granted. Thank you, TKC!

Our hope is that the TKC and the broader NASPA community also see value in a “NASPA Technology CDS.” Next steps include reaching out to the Assessment, Evaluation and Research Knowledge Community (AERKC) to identify potential improvements for version 2 of the survey and possible areas of collaboration with the TKC.

Paul Schantz is Director of Web & Technology Services for the Division of Student Affairs at California State University, Northridge. He currently serves as the EdTech representative to the TKC (NASPA), is the Chair of the Student Affairs IT Community Group (EDUCAUSE), and a co-founder of SA IT Pros.

A version of this post was originally published on the NASPA Technology Knowledge Community blog. This project was discussed during a technology session at the 2019 NASPA national conference in Los Angeles.


Student Affairs Technology

Telling the Student Affairs Story: Answering Big Questions with Big Data

  • Adam Cebulski, Assistant Vice President and Chief of Staff, Southern Methodist University
  • Sara Ousby, Director, Student Affairs Assessment, University of North Texas


  • To discuss trends in big data and the implications for higher ed
  • ID strategies for building data warehouses & analyzing data sets
  • Share successes and challenges
  • Story telling
  • Strategies

Landscape of Big Data

3Vs: variety (lots of kinds of data); volume (more info than we know what to do with); velocity (collecting data at a higher rate than ever before).

There are tons of software packages that “do” big data, but buying software is not going to answer your problem! Big data translates into decision making through different processes, and that’s what we’re going to talk about.


Stories are far better at conveying what your data says than just the data itself. NASPA’s analytics study from 2017 identifies the following entry points for big data for predictive analytics: pre-enrollment > academics > motivation & self-efficacy > use of support services > student engagement

Stories are just data with soul. Stories cross the barriers of time, past, present and future, and allow us to experience the similarities between ourselves and through others, real and imagined.

Create a data story

Data + Narrative + Visuals

Case Study: SMU

We have no centralized data system, and we’re a Peoplesoft campus. We centralized OIT and brought on a new CIO from University of Illinois. We have a large Greek population and we experienced 315% increase in AOD offenses in one academic year. We introduced a number of programs and interventions to address this challenge.

  • Why the large increase?
  • Who is most at risk
  • How and when to intervene?
  • Campus partners: IR, OIT
  • Data identification

We’re a Maxient campus, so we did a lot of ETL (extract, transform and load) processes to make this work from a technical perspective., Maxient offers no APIs.

We built a BEAM model: Business Event Analysis & Modeling

  • Customer focused
  • Flexible design
  • Report neutral
  • Prevents rework
  • Saves time

Goal was to build a data warehouse to assist with our analysis and reporting. We started in 2017 and plan to launch in the next week with a dashboard as part of phase one. We needed to hire a data architect and data visualizer: these were university hires that “live” in OIT. At $125K each, these are not cheap resources (but they are an excellent investment).

A BEAM table consists of events and then we think about related events, i.e. sports game, finals, etc. that could be related. At the top we consider a range of other items associated with the charge/sanction, i.e. weather, did we win the game, what class level is the student, etc. We even pull in data about the students, such as if their parents are wealthy donors. This allows us to create a “star schema” which creates a comprehensive picture of the issue. Some of the criteria allow us to set a ranking for each of the events, which in turn allows us to prioritize items. One of the data points is which offices are responsible for addressing the issues. We started with 100, but grew to 279 unique variables that could be associated with a particular conduct case.

These variables allow us to build dashboards that rationalize the data for our staff (intervention or otherwise). The vast majority of people in the system were actually recruits. It’s mostly 1st and 2nd years that get caught up in our system. We were able to change policy immediately based on the insights our system provides.

Case Study: University of North Texas

We are 38,000 students in the DFW metroplex. We are minority majority, public tier one institution. 1st year residential requirement. Majority live in Denton County.

Our Questions

  • What are the differences in retention for students who are engaged on campus?
  • What are the differences in GPA for students who are engaged on campus?
  • Campus partners: Data analytics & IR, IT shared serices
  • Data Collection

We are going to pull card swipe data into our system soon! We’re going through the data dictionary of card swipes now, primarily using Excel and lots of pivot tables. We’re looking right now at correlation information with respect to retention.

We’ve had a lot of growth in card swipe usage. We have 220,000 card swipes into our student recreation center, and we plan to pull in the Career Center’s info next. There does appear to be a difference in retention of card swipers over non card swipers (81.18% vs. 64.02%).

Telling our story and making decisons

  • Focus on completion
  • 1st year students are those leaving at the greatest rates
  • Most impact on FTIC
  • Higher impact on men

Q: Are you planning an ROI analysis?

AC: We quantified every action with a dollar value. Our interventions have already saved over a million dollars so far. We swipe for EVERYTHING (we use CampusLabs).

Q: What does your data cleaning process look like?

AC: it’s awful! And, it’s ongoing. We’ve had to create many transformation tables, and we had a lot of silo’ed data that needed work.

SA: your data dictionary will go a long way in solving this challenge.

Q: are card swipes weighted equally?

SA: yes (for now). But we’re looking at this. Card swiping is now universal across the campus.

AC: we tie our NSSE and use ID Link to tie our data together.