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In a previous blog post, I outlined how a professor of Systems Analysis & Design at Boston College is using Mendix to eliminate the technical debt in his classroom and ensure that all of his students are working on one easy platform to facilitate their classroom learnings.

Starting this school year, Professor George Wyner began using the Mendix platform as their prototyping tool. The low-code platform enables students to build and deploy working applications for their semester-long project, in which students work in small teams to develop a set of requirements and a prototype for an information system which addresses business needs of an actual client. Visual modeling using the Mendix microflows feature (which is based on standard BPMN – business process modeling notation) enables the students to visually diagram the business processes.

At the close of the semester, I had the opportunity to attend the students’ final presentations and app demos. Each group had the opportunity to choose their own clients, understand the challenge the client is facing, work through their requirements, and build an application to solve their business needs. Here are some great examples of working applications that the students at Boston College built on Mendix in the span of one semester.

Boston College Study Abroad Course Approval Process

The first group of students built a Boston College Course Approval Process for students looking to study abroad. Their client was Student Services, an organization on campus dedicated to the aid of students, and the main focal point on campus for all student record keeping and accounts.  The business problem they discovered is that the process for getting your courses approved to study abroad is hard and full of paper forms and tedious steps. Students need to travel to a certain building on campus to pick up the correct forms, and then turn them in at another building, traveling an estimated total distance of 2.6 miles. The process is inefficient and time-consuming.

The students saw an opportunity to build a new digital course approval process for the four different stakeholders involved in the process (student, department chair, Office of International Programs (OIP) and Student Services). The goal was to provide each user role with a frictionless process within one application and to provide real-time feedback and progress tracking for all course approvals.

The application enables the student to make a request for approval by filling in their information and uploading the syllabus and transcripts. The department chair can go into the app and accept or deny a request based on information that the student uploads and can see the history of all requests made. The Office of International Programs can approve or deny whether the student gets credit within the app. Student Services can then file the requests for archive purposes.

This digital process gets the correct stakeholders involved in an easy and less time-consuming way while reducing the responsibility of Student Services in this process so they can focus on their other tasks for the student body. Digitizing the process also saves paper and storage space on campus.

This application was built by a team of four students in just one semester. Moving forward, the students are interested in adding these additional items to their MVP based on conversations they have had with the client:

  • Implement the notification system for all stakeholders with email and popups
  • Create a pilot program with selected departments

Spin Class Information Management System

The second group of students built a Spin Class Information Management System for the BC Plex campus recreation center on campus. The current system of signing up for a spin class is to call the equipment desk to reserve a spot. They record all of the reservations by pen and paper. This process is inefficient with the possibility of double booking a spot in the class. The Plex worker has to pause the other work they are doing to take the call and tell you the times that are available, and it is difficult to react to cancelations and notify people that a spot has opened.

The students saw an opportunity to create a centralized online system where all data can be accessed by three different stakeholders: trainers, members and Plex management.

Students will now be able to sign up for a class by going to the new calendar view and clicking the available class, filling out the online registration and receiving a confirmation after registering. If all spots in the class are taken it brings the student to a waitlist form. Once signing up for the waitlist, the student receives a pop-up notification as a confirmation that they signed up for the waitlist. If another student cancels, the waitlisted student will get an email when a spot opens.

The new application will increase the productivity of Plex workers, can provide a waitlist system for trainers to increase bike utilization, and will make the user experience frictionless for members

The demo of the application consisted of logging in as an administrator, then switching roles and signing up as a trainee, signing up for the waitlist, and canceling a reservation. After canceling a reservation, the member receives an email confirmation, which was displayed during the demo.

This application was built by a team of four students in just one semester. Through the collaboration between the students and their client, and the iterative, agile development process offered through the Mendix platform, the students were able to see opportunities for unique improvements and add-ons after building the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). The team hopes to add the following features and functionalities to the app:

  • Add all BC Plex classes to the app
  • Utilize the Spotify API so trainees can see the playlists beforehand
  • Bring the app to a mobile platform for even more convenient sign-up
  • Collect data on which times and class types are most popular in order to add more of these classes/timeslots

Downeast Cider Event Scheduling App

The third group of students built an event scheduling application for Downeast Cider, a Boston-based craft hard cider company. The client was facing the challenge of using Gmail and Google Calendar for scheduling their events and texting as their messaging tool. This was not only inefficient but consisted of only one-on-one communication channels which increased the likelihood of miscommunication. The events program had originally been coordinated by just one person, but now there is a full team of ambassadors that need to scale the process.

The students saw an opportunity to create a more formalized process and scheduling system for brand ambassadors that included total transparency. They identified two users of the application, the managers and the ambassadors. This brought up the need for security and permissions, so the managers have the ability to edit and delete events, and ambassadors have the ability to view all events and register. The team also identified the need for a built-in calendar that displays upcoming events and the necessary information pertaining to those events. One more opportunity for the app was a list of ambassadors planning to attend each event shown in one centralized location.

During the demo, the students showed how the two different application users, managers and ambassadors, could use the app. They walked through how a manager can create, edit, or delete upcoming events directly from the app with features like a drop-down menu showing date and time. Ambassadors, on the other hand, can view all upcoming events and register for the events they plan to attend. Both managers and ambassadors can view who has registered for which events.

This application was built by a team of four students in just one semester. Through the collaboration between the students and their client, and the iterative, agile development process offered through the Mendix platform, the students were able to see opportunities for unique improvements and add-ons after building the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). The team hopes to add the following features and functionalities to the app:

  • A maximum/minimum requirement of ambassadors per event
  • Built-in chat for better communications
  • Participation tracking system
  • Post-event evaluations
  • Use of a map API to show where the event will be held

Key Learnings

Many of the students spoke about the benefits of close collaboration with their business client in the form of multiple meetings to fully understand the business problem and gather feedback. They were able to learn Mendix quickly and build a functioning and value driving application within one semester and work with their clients to iterate and change the project based on changing requirements. Each student has graduated the class with enough knowledge of Mendix, low-code development and the agile process to continue to build valuable applications.