A screen shot of the new photo class list link on the MyUW “Teaching” Tab. Click image to enlarge
Id Card Service Beta Launched
We launched a new service last week. The Id Card Service exposes data associated with the Husky Id Card, the card that students, faculty, and staff alike use for identification.
Even more exciting, the Student Team launched a web application to consume the service. The application grabs a piece of the data exposed by the service (the id card photo) and mashes it up with data from another source (the student class list from uwsdb). The result is something that instructors have been clamoring for for years – Photo Class Lists. Now instructors can log on to MyUW, click a link in the My Class Resources portlet, and see their class list – with photos!
The Biology department is one of several that have been photographing students each quarter in order to produce their own photo class lists. Biology Professor Mary Pat Wenderoth tells us that the photos make a big difference in her ability to connect with students. When the instructor learns the students’ names, the atmosphere in a big lecture is much more conducive to learning, she says. And having the photo available obviously makes the task of learning names much easier.
About the Service
This is the first service to be built with the web services framework that we extracted from all the great work that went into building the Student Web Service (SWS). The framework is a work in progress but it has already paid off. The IdCard Service was built in a tiny fraction of the time that it took to build SWS and that is partly a result of the fact that most of the hard stuff was already done by the framework. Of course, it is also due to the fact that the id card data is a lot simpler than the student data, but still…
We only started working on the service in mid-February, squeezing it in between other projects. Getting it (and a consuming app) launched in time for Spring quarter is pretty sweet. Things don’t usually move that fast around here 🙂 It makes me excited about our prospects for moving quickly on building out a whole series of RESTful data services in the future.
We also broke a little new ground with this service. The photos don’t change very often so we had a chance to experiment with caching. We set up a caching layer that allows us to check authorizations and log access but avoid the rest of the processing. We learned how to serve binary data from a Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) service and wrote code to produce and save thumbnails of various sizes too.
Our main issue is to identify data stewards who can authorize applications to use the id card data. The registrar’s office authorized access to student photos for the purpose of photo class lists but that still leaves questions around what other uses will be allowed and who will authorize use of faculty and staff photos.
We will also be working with developers to gather requirements for exposing more of the id card data in the service, for exposing photos of various sizes, and to determine what sort of performance will be necessary to serve many clients.
Hopefully soon we can look forward to UW developers mashing up this data with other information to solve all sorts of current business problems.
Onward and upward!