Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Exploring Automation Tools: If This Then That & Zapier!

Hello and welcome to the (freshly rebooted) Lewis & Clark Educational Technology blog! Each month, we’ll be posting about emerging technologies and how you can use them in both your teaching and everyday life. So be sure to keep checking back, or subscribe!

This month, we’ll be highlighting web application automation services. As the name implies, these services allow you to automate tasks between different supported applications, taking tedious manual tasks out of your hands. Just set it and forget it. With The Internet of Things growing faster by the minute, so are the number of automation services supporting it. However, the big names in the industry for the past few years have been If This Then That (IFTTT) and Zapier.

So which service should you use? That depends on what your goals are. Typically, IFTTT focuses on consumer services, like news websites, connected home appliances, social media, and fitness wearables. Zapier currently has over twice the amount of connected applications, but focuses more on services for businesses and office productivity. There is some overlap between the two, but feel free to check out our application matrix for questions on specific applications.

Both IFTTT and Zapier feature examples of popular automations on their websites. These are a great place to start, and can help inspire you to think of other aspects of your life or work you’d like to automate. For today’s test case, my goal was to automate sign-ups for a videoconferencing software IT is currently piloting called Zoom.

Since we are piloting this software, we only have one license and one login. Prior to creating this automation, if an instructor wanted to schedule a videoconference, they had to email the details, and our staff would then go in and manually schedule the meeting through Zoom’s website. Essentially, the task was being done twice, and I wanted to make it more efficient. 

First, I signed up for a Zapier account, which took just seconds. Currently, they are offering a 14 day free trial that allows unlimited use of their applications. After the 14 days is up, your account will default to the free plan, which limits you to 5 concurrent types of “zaps” (automations) that can work up to a total of 100 times a month. This is more than enough for my current needs, but if for any reason it’s not for you, feel free to check out Zapier’s paid plans, which start at $20 a month.

For a quick rundown on how I made my Zap, click here.

1 comment:

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