Are new interoperability standards a solution to integration headaches?
GUEST COLUMN | by John Lepanto
As a product manager who oversees third-party integrations at an edtech company, I am tasked with researching a lot of different products. And I do mean a lot of products.
It seems that every time I login to my email I see a few of these, “Have you heard of this new online proctoring service?” or, “Hey, can you check out this new learning management system?” It’s getting to the point where I can’t even keep track of all the new edtech vendors.
It can take weeks, sometimes even months, and a lot of resources to build a custom integration between software platforms, so how does one solve this issue?
The education technology space is experiencing a period of tremendous growth and innovation. It has been estimated by the Software and Information Industry Association that the PreK-12 edtech market size is nearly $8 billion. The global education market, according to IBIS Capital, has reached $4.4 trillion.
While having a huge assortment of services and technologies at their disposal can be an instructor’s dream, it can be a technologist’s worst nightmare. Attempting to make many different software applications work together in perfect harmony is a major undertaking. It can take weeks, sometimes even months, and a lot of resources to build a custom integration between software platforms, so how does one solve this issue?
Enter the standards-based education technology integration. IMS Global Learning Consortium has developed a set of interoperability standards that could make integrating the plethora of learning technologies scalable and affordable for both schools and technology companies. Gathering feedback from the edtech community, IMS Global created specifications for integrating education technology products and content which can help alleviate many of the pains the industry is experiencing.
For a smaller company, creating custom system integrations for every school, learning management system, or other product would be too cost prohibitive to build and support. Most companies have limited resources and I imagine would rather use those resources building their product offering instead of developing a custom integration for every system they wish to integrate with. Utilizing the IMS Global standards, you can build the integration once and deliver an offering for all conformant products. That is a huge win for the company and their customers.
For the schools adopting these products, standards-based integrations are also a win. Instead of spending weeks with back and forth emails and calls setting up a custom integration, school IT administrators can have a new product or content integrated into their school’s learning ecosystem in a couple of clicks. In most cases instructors can integrate third-party products and content into their course by themselves, without the help of the IT department. Tell me that doesn’t make an IT admin happy.
While there will be times where a custom integration will be needed, it is always a great idea to look for a way to implement some kind of standard. Standards based integrations can save time, effort and headache, and in the end allow edtech companies, schools and educators to focus on what is really important, teaching and learning.
John Lepanto is Associate Product Manager for WebAssign, a Raleigh, NC-based independent, employee-owned benefit company dedicated to education technology. For more information, visit www.webassign.com.