Everyone loves a good shortcut to save time and make things more efficient, and when it comes to a complex system like Banner, sometimes we need all the help we can get. That’s where APIs come in.
Application Programming Interfaces allow users to access a system from outside, and dictate how software components interact with each other. We already use them every day online without even realizing it. For example, when a website asks you to log in with your Facebook username and password, that site is calling the Facebook Login API, which sends your credentials to Facebook’s servers to verify that you are who you say you are. Not only can APIs save time and eliminate frustration, but by incorporating and leveraging them in a system, they streamline processes across multiple platforms and facilitate communication with different systems.
Banner comes equipped with many built-in APIs that are waiting to be called upon, and because the same people who make the software write the APIs, they can be quite powerful. Leveraging Banner APIs can enhance many aspects of your Argos experience, but one of their biggest advantages is that they can do a lot to improve overall process flow.
Say for example, you work in a registrar’s office and have an Argos DataBlock set up to create new records in the Banner Student module. Without an API, you’d go into your Argos form, enter the information, and hit save. But then, without realizing it, you will likely have only updated the main student table, without populating or error-checking a variety of other associated tables. Using an “Insert” API though, would ensure that all of the relevant tables and checks are filled in and completed on Banner’s backend.
Think of an API as precompiled code that makes sure all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed (or in this case, all your fields are filled and tables are populated). You eliminate the risk of human error that comes with having to input and modify information in more than one place. It also makes it easier to ensure that all institutional processes are being followed consistently. By using APIs for things like inserting a student or updating contact information, you can ensure Banner is being modified correctly, even when you’re doing it from an outside source like Argos.
Using Banner APIs in Argos, you’ll not only save yourself a headache or two in terms of data input and integrity, but when it comes time to update from Banner 8 to Banner 9, you’ll significantly cut your chances of needing to modify your DataBlock code. If you hardcoded the addition of new students in Banner 8, for example, when your institution moves to Banner 9 your DataBlock might no longer work because the new version requires more columns in its tables. However, the API code would be automatically updated, which would ensure that any DataBlocks using the API would make the transition smoothly.
Ready to get started? The Banner APIs that are available contain three sets of PL/SQL packages — primary, rules, and strings packages — and standard sets of procedures and functions, such as Query, Insert, Update and Delete. You’ll need to be familiar with Banner’s backend, PL/SQL, and calling procedures, plus you’ll need the necessary database permissions. And if you don’t have all those things but Banner APIs still sound like the answer to your problems, you can always ask your database administrator about incorporating APIs into your system.
Do you use Banner APIs in your Argos environment? We’d love to hear how it’s come in handy. Please share with us in the comments section below!