The availability of PCs in study spaces is listed on a standalone website. The website is a basic page that provides text based information about how many PCs are free in a given room. New students might struggle to find where a room is as the page simply lists the building name and room number. In addition, the page is not optimised for mobile devices which is how the majority of students access online information.
Our innovation project aimed to modernise the PC availability site, making it mobile friendly, integrating it with maps and route planners, and offering some personalisation. We wanted to make a PC availability service that embraced the latest innovations on the web and complimented the way students browse the web in 2019.
We had intended to work on this project one week a month, for around a four month period. However, prior to development we realised this might not be an efficient way to work. In our experience, when switching between projects, time must be dedicated to refamiliarsing yourself with the current state of the project. To avoid this, we instead worked on the project continuously without having large breaks in between.
During the planning phase, we created a number of user stories in the format:
As a <user type> I can <do a task> so that <I get a benefit>
As a team, we estimated how long each task would take using a game known as "planning poker". We would all bid how many hours we believed it would take to complete a task. If there was a discrepancy amongst team members, we would discuss the task further to find out why we disagreed, and attempt to reach an agreement on our estimate.
Once all tasks had been estimated, we ranked them in order of priority using a simple Lean Prioritisation Matrix:
If a task was easy to complete and had a high value for an end user, we would prioritise this over one that was difficult to achieve and provided little value. All tasks were tracked using a KanBan board in the project management tool, Asana.
We then arranged our tasks into two week sprints. At the end of each sprint, we would gather as a team and review the body of work we had completed during this period. We also produced a sprint review, with a register of issues and lessons learned which we reviewed at following sprints.
Working in two week sprints with periodic reviews allowed us to manage the project in small chunks. It also provided us with a framework to self reflect and improve as the project went forwards. We aim to use this methodology in all of our future projects.
The project can be considered successful despite a number of stumbling blocks. Our main objectives were to:
- Learn about PWAs
- Create a modern PC availability service
We created a PWA which can direct students to a study location, provides map pinpoints and route planning, supports favourite locations through bookmarks, and uses graphs to quickly show PC availability. However, this site is not fully deployed at the time of project closure. The API that is used by the service to get PC statuses doesn't have a production ready version. Because of this, the site is currently using static data to display room availability, which does not reflect the current status of a study location.
The application can be viewed at https://freepcs.is.ed.ac.uk/
The project had a budget of £8750. We completed the build within that budget as forecast.
We will work with representatives from Applications Management and MyEd to get access to a production-ready instance of the underlying API used by the Free PCs service, so that we can integrate this site with MyEd and make it available to students for use.