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From Google to LibCal

HAL 9000, the computer from the movie '2001: A Space Odyssey'
"It can only be
attributable to
human error."

When I started working in CAT+FD, way back in 2015, faculty who were interested in attending one of our workshops would send an email saying they were interested in attending that workshop. It was not a particular efficient system, as someone had to regularly check the CAT Box (our name for that email account) and update the list of attendees. As many people know, I'm a big fan of automation: any system that can be set up to work on its own, should be set up to work on its own. It saves time and cuts down on mistakes. So, I started playing with Google Forms and Google Sheets, and by the end of that first year, I'd built a system that let people register and that created an always up-to-date list of attendees for each of our upcoming workshops without the need for anyone in the CAT+FD office to do anything.

That system has worked (I think) pretty well for the past five years. There have been a few hiccups along the way, as there usually are with an automated system, but those were few and far between. Since its launch, we've had over 2,000 registrations recorded through the system. (No, we don't keep any records of those registrations.) When, in March 2019, we had to rapidly pivot to fully online workshops, changing the system required only a few small changes.

This summer when we learned that Xavier faculty and staff would be migrated from G-Suite to Microsoft 365, we knew that was the end of our hombrewed system. Even though we've been told that all of the documents in our Google Drives will be converted for us to the corresponding Microsoft application, the system itself is heavily dependent upon functions that only work in Google. Transferring the system to Microsoft would require starting mostly from scratch.

Fortunately, our friends and colleagues in the Library have given us space on their LibCal account, which includes its own events management system. Although it works in much the same way, it does look different in many ways. And it also offers a few new features that we think will be very useful. If you take a look at the CAT+FD home page, you won't notice much of a difference: we're still listing the next few events with links to more information. Likewise, our full events page, which lists all of our upcoming events, doesn't look all that much differece. And again, our weekly email won't look all that different either. However, when you click on the link for any event from those sources to get more information or to register for the event, things will start to look different.

A screen capture of the information page for an event listed in LibCal.
The pages for each of our events are where you will see the main difference with this system.

As you can see above, this screen is very different from what you might be used to, and this blog post is mostly just to prepare you for that change. In addition to the different visuals, please note that you can now print the information about an event, save an event to your calendar, or post about an event to social media (We'd love it if you did that! Be sure to tag us @xulacat if you do!). We've also been able to add categories to our workshops, which will help us keep things more organized and may help you identify workshops that interest you. For example, if you wanted to just see a list of our upcoming #LEX Advanced workshops, you can do that now.

Another change is how the registration process works and the format of our workshops, but I will save that for another blog post.

Published on Categories Faculty Development

About Jason S. Todd

Jason S. Todd is the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching & Faculty Development at Xavier University of Louisiana. He has also served as the Faculty Director of the Core Curriculum, Director of the Digital Humanities Program, QEP Director, and Writing Center Director. Todd completed his Ph.D. at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2006 and his undergraduate studies at Webster University in 1996. His short stories and articles have appeared in journals such as Southern Literary Journal, Southern California Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Fiction Weekly, and Xavier Review. He teaches courses on American literature, comics and graphic novels, and genre fiction. He is the instructor of the popular transdisciplinary course Dystopias, Real & Imagined. He also serves as contributing editor for the Xavier Review, Assessment Co-coordinator for the POD Network's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, and troop leader and merit badge counselor for Scouting BSA.

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