Architecting an Ambitious Student Experience in Drupal 8: Cornell’s Opportunity Marketplace Case Study


  • Aaron Bauman

Cornell’s internal web development and CRM teams had a great idea:  find ways to leverage their Drupal and Salesforce expertise to connect systems and streamline processes across the university.  They wanted to begin with a Student Opportunity Marketplace that helped students navigate a complex array of study abroad and other learning experiences managed within numerous departments and across platforms, some of which lived outside of the institution (TerraDotta).  The platform would not only promote student opportunities but also funnel students into the unique application process for each program, driven by a dynamic application builder in Salesforce.

Suspecting there was a way to tightly integrate Drupal 8 and Salesforce but unclear how to architect a solution, Message Agency worked with Cornell’s team to help architect the solution across Drupal and Salesforce, working with the university’s internal and external partners.  

This case study jumps into the implementation process to explore how we balanced constraints of accessibility requirements, legacy data platforms, distributed systems of record and data silos, and high profile stakeholders. By leveraging the strongest traits of each platform, we delivered a multifaceted solution that uses Drupal 8 as the front end, Salesforce as a backend, and other technologies as data feeds for the information displayed to the end users.  We will also explore lessons learned in how digital agencies can collaborate with internal teams to help them manage and extend the solution.

We'll discuss how the project  leveraged a Drupal 8 stack to:

  • Complement Drupal's CMS strengths with Salesforce's CRM data processing, management, and reporting tools

  • Aggregate people and programs from several sources via webservices and custom Drupal modules

  • Serve consolidated and personalized content natively in Drupal via web and JSON API

  • Accommodate affiliated and unaffiliated applicants with two side-by-side SAML service providers for single sign-on

  • Leverage various contrib modules including Salesforce Suite, simpleSAMLphp Authentication, JSON API, Geolocation Field

  • Build custom modules to implement our business logic utilizing Drupal core and contrib APIs

Who Should Attend

  • Back-end Developers
  • Decision Makers
  • Front-end Developers
  • Project Managers
  • Site Builders