Developing new tools for the student portal

Screenshot of portal's open classrooms widgetSince its release last year, the Student Portal has grown by leaps and bounds. An integral part of this growth has resulted from the feedback and contributions of UWaterloo students. With this past week's update, the portal is introducing a new, student-developed tool - the Open Classrooms widget.

JK LiuJK Liu, a Computer Science student, first developed this app as a personal exercise in creating a tool with immediate real-world applications. The result was Classrooms, a web app that listed which classrooms on campus were available for students to use as open study space.

I saw classrooms that would be empty at times and they seemed useful to work in especially for group work, but you would never really be sure when the room would be available until, or when it became available. 

In March, JK was encouraged by a co-worker to participate in the first portal hackathon hosted by the Student Success Office (SSO) and Information Systems & Technology (IST). At the hackathon, students were encouraged to identify problems they normally face in retrieving information from various university sources. Then, using the built-in student development framework, they worked with the portal team to create their own widget. JK's co-worker had seen the original version of his Classrooms app and thought that he would be interested in integrating the concept with the portal to reach a wider student audience.

The Open Classrooms widget pulls in data from the Registrar's Office's  classroom booking system, delivering close to real-time room availability that is accurate and from an official university source. Students can search by building on campus and see which rooms are available for the day or the rest of the week. 

Having worked with the student portal, JK thinks that it is a great tool for students to use and sees areas for improvement to be a one-stop shop for information.

I think it's an excellent resource for a consolidated view of public information, such as important dates at the university, and personal information such as WatCard balance and calendar. That being said, I still think there's improvements that could be made. 

If you have an idea for a widget for portal and are interested in gaining access to the student development framework in a future term, contact the student portal team

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