Following consultation with student leaders, faculty, and staff, the name “buzzport.gatech.edu” will be assigned to a new web application on Monday, February 3, 2020. The deprecated BuzzPort portal will become permanently unavailable at that time. Preview the redesigned BuzzPort. (link)
According to “Georgia Tech’s BuzzPort Portal Usage Policy,” which was ratified in 2004, “BuzzPort is a gateway that facilitates easy access to a variety of web-based content,” and “it is designed to serve a diverse user population.” The Georgia Tech community discovered much value in the information and resources BuzzPort made available. Over the years, BuzzPort evolved to include new features, additional links, and different kinds of users. At its peak, BuzzPort was the single “go to” source for various services ranging from Financial Aid awards to student group message boards. Today, even though many services have been handed over to other technologies, many students, faculty, and staff still rely on BuzzPort.
What we Yellow Jackets know as “BuzzPort” is really Georgia Tech’s customized instance of the Luminis platform. At the end of 2015, the version of Luminis that runs BuzzPort entered its “de-support” phase, meaning that new functionality would not be developed and technical maintenance would be reduced to fixes for high priority, critical issues. Since that time, Georgia Tech has developed no new services within BuzzPort and has maintained its Luminis installation only to keep it running and make sure that hyperlinks remain up-to-date.
Maintaining a Luminis instance requires tremendous know-how across many technologies as well as a huge investment in technical resources. All in all, BuzzPort utilizes no fewer than 20 virtual machines. Preserving BuzzPort has become so costly and difficult that it is necessary to replace it.
In Fall 2018, leaders and technical staff from Enrollment Management (EM) (formerly, Enrollment Services) met with members of OIT’s Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) team to discuss projects and problems. The status of BuzzPort was identified as a primary concern. Throughout 2019, this group collaborated around the development of a new web application. From this process arose an app that performs the most important functions of the existing BuzzPort portal:
- directing users to specific views and self-service pages within the Oscar/Banner system,
- assigning roles to users based on data captured at time of log-in,
- showing timebound announcements to relevant audiences and hiding them from others, and
- presenting links to essential services and resources.
Meanwhile, the group determined that several services have become so unused and/or buggy in the existing BuzzPort portal that they can be excluded from the new one:
- student group organizations and messages,
- admissions processes now handled by SlateTM,
- student GPA planner/calculator, and
- employee links to TechWorks items and to compliance campaigns.
The group also determined that the new app need not show Oscar/Banner views in inline frames when it is sufficient to open them in browser tabs.
The new web application erases the technical debt incurred by the Luminis platform and will be maintainable for many years. It eschews any complicated, proprietary platform in favor of foundational web technologies, and it presents information and resources in a clean, simplified user interface. Most importantly, it satisfies three basic needs. First, users will surely notice an increase in speed. Leveraging institutional identity services wisely and reducing the granularity of user roles allows for a much faster log-in process. Page load times are likewise faster because the app makes use of client-side programming and content delivery networks (CDNs). Second, users will enjoy viewing the app on phones and tablets. Because a responsive design framework has been thoroughly incorporated, it is easily viewable and completely functional no matter the device or screen size. Third, persons who rely on screen readers and anyone for whom website accessibility is priority will discover a fully accessible user experience when navigating the new app. It meets the WCAG standards set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium. This compliance ensures that all people, regardless of disability status, have the same access to services.
In December 2019, the developer moved the app to a publicly available location (link) to allow for testing by the quality assurance team and to gather feedback from the Student Information System Governance Committee (SIS Gov). A brief BuzzPort survey (link) was opened. It consists of 3 multiple choice questions. All are encouraged to participate.
The DNS entries shall be edited on Monday, February 3, 2020. At that time, the name “buzzport.gatech.edu” will be assigned to the new web application, and the original, Luminis-powered portal will become permanently unavailable.
Users who encounter technical problems in the new BuzzPort app should fill in the “Report a Problem” form. (link) Students, faculty, and staff who have additional questions or comments are invited email the developer at firstname.lastname@example.org. (link)