Your renewed OPUS card is just a few clicks away thanks to one of Concordia’s own
Concordia students will no longer have to wait hours in line at Berri-UQAM metro to obtain their OPUS cards, thanks to a new online system that permits the STM to verify student status and send you your metro pass within a week. Available through the MyConcordia portal, students simply open their Student Services tab, click on “online OPUS card request” and pay the usual $15. All necessary information is transferred directly from the university’s databases to the STM, leaving little else for students to do but wait for their mail.
Anthony Boulos, a 21-year-old industrial engineering student at Concordia, was fed up of waiting two to three hours in line at Berri-UQAM, so he used a class report to try and make a change.
“Honestly, the technology behind this is very simple, all I’m doing is creating a database,” he said. “I had the idea in a report for one of my classes for an innovative process, and I sent that report to the STM through their information email. From there, to my great surprise, the director, René Coutu, contacted me and said, ‘let’s meet up’. So I went to their office and he said, ‘if you can get Concordia on board for this we’ll do it 100 per cent.’”
The process of making his idea a reality took Boulos from January 2014 until April of this year, due to the numerous levels of management he had to work with both at Concordia as well as the STM. His journey eventually brought him to Alex Aragona, director of application services, and Marc Denoncourt, chief information officer at Concordia’s Instructional and Informational Technology Services, both of whom, Boulos says, were eager to make the idea work.
“There’s a cost for them to do this because they have to develop the technology and advertise everything, but they wanted to do it because they saw it was a good service to the students,” he said.
Despite his eagerness to make OPUS renewal simpler for his fellow students at Concordia, Boulos said the challenges that came up took a while to overcome.
“It wasn’t a straightforward process, it sounds simplistic but it’s very complex,” he said. “Giving out Concordia students’ information is a huge deal because of confidentiality. It’s not easy to pass on that information, it has to be extremely secure. The same goes for the picture, so the student I.D. photo is now used for the OPUS card. The work that I had to do was figure out the solutions for these kinds of problems. I’ve been doing that for a year and nine months now.”
Finally, before the summer, Boulos successfully got the STM and Concordia members in the same room to finalize the project. Boulos himself was hired as project manager, and enlisted the help of Tyler Argo, a Concordia software engineering student, to implement the program.
Stressing that this is a pilot project, Boulos hopes that they will be able to expand it later. “If Concordia students actually use the service, it would be ideal so that we can start exporting it to other schools. We’re hoping to see a high participation rate,” he said.
He also had some words of motivation for his peers. “When I thought of this idea, it seemed like the kind of thing that people would be like, ‘this has for sure been thought of.’ I just persevered to make sure it went through. When you have an idea, just because it seems obvious, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”