How to Tame the ‘Interoperability Beast’ and Reduce Your Data...


How to Tame the ‘Interoperability Beast’ and Reduce Your Data Integration Burden

from Kimono

By Wendy McMahon     Feb 26, 2019

How to Tame the ‘Interoperability Beast’ and Reduce Your Data Integration Burden

Data integration baffles even the most edtech-savvy districts.

Translating and sharing data between your student information system (SIS) and a multitude of tech applications is complex, costly and time-consuming. But with easy access to data comes visibility into students’ successes, struggles and—most importantly—their needs.

To take the pain out of SIS integration for schools, Instructure’s popular learning management system, Canvas, partnered with Kimono—an integration platform as a service (IPaaS).

Melissa Loble, Instructure’s SVP of Customer Success & Partnerships, says the partnership gives schools a taste of the educational benefits of standards-based data interoperability—in which education systems and applications use agreed-upon standards to seamlessly share data.

For 20 years Loble has taught at and led educational institutions and edtech organizations. In her current role at Instructure and as a member of the Board of Directors for IMS Global Learning Consortium, she’s pushing to advance standards-based data interoperability.

Loble spoke with EdSurge about how the Kimono and Canvas partnership tames the data-interoperability beast, how schools benefit from outsourcing SIS data integration, and the long-term benefits that interoperability promises education.

EdSurge: Why is SIS integration such a pain point for districts?

Loble: A lot of districts have poor data integration between their learning management system (LMS) and student information system. The systems don’t understand each others’ data formats and can’t share data easily.

Often, school district administrators are burdened with moving the data back and forth between systems; they have to manually push gigantic Excel files. But grabbing data collections from 15 different systems that students and teachers may be using takes a lot of time. And often you don't get that data until after the semester ends, when it’s too late to use it to support students.

And then every time a new SIS or LMS update happens, teachers have to check—is the data moving effectively?

How do Kimono and Canvas combine to make SIS integration easier?

I think of it as plumbing, connecting the sink to the water. A student information system needs to pass us—Canvas—data, such as student information, course enrollment and teacher information. We use the data to automatically create courses and populate them with students and teachers.

Before Kimono, we had to build individual integrations to all of the 30 to 40 student information systems out there that a district or a school might leverage. Now, Kimono does all that data integration work; it feeds data from an SIS to the Canvas LMS regularly. At the beginning of a semester, when the SIS is frequently updated, Kimono takes the burden off the district.

Kimono is a standards-agnostic platform, meaning it supports standards like OneRoster, Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF), and Learning Information Services.

Learn more about Kimono’s partner integrations. Meet us at SXSWedu and NC TIES.

Is it easier to share grades back to an SIS?

Yes, with Kimono we also have standards-based grade passback; that is the ability to pass student grades back from Canvas to an SIS. So it’s not just taking information from a student information system into Canvas, but also vice versa—definitely not the easiest thing to build.

With grade passback, schools and districts can get grades very easily and timely. And they can report back much more quickly and effectively on the data. And it's not even just the ease—the grades go from Canvas to the SIS at the end of the term automatically.

Now grade data isn’t stuck in different, individual systems where schools can't get it out and can't do anything with it in any meaningful way.

How does outsourcing that ‘plumbing’ benefit administrators, teachers and students?

It reduces the burden on admin staff. Kimono helps manage the data exchange between an LMS—in our case, Canvas—and a student information system, but it also allows a district to send that data to whatever reporting system it may have.

Administrators quickly gain insights like where they have challenges, where they need to make interventions, where they are seeing successes and how to repeat those successes.

Kimono also reduces the burden on teachers. They don't have to worry about their rosters being incorrect, or wonder how to get grades to a student information system at the end of the term. They can just rely on that automatic transfer and focus on teaching and learning.

In August 2017, about 25 percent of support tickets in Canvas were about SIS data integration. With the Kimono SIS integration, that number dropped to 13 percent in August 2018. This gives you an idea of how taking a standards-based approach to data interoperability can support education.

Can you explain that? How can standards-based data interoperability benefit education in the long term?

Standards take the heavy lifting out of integrating technologies and getting relevant, timely student data to educators.

Right now, we have all this data but we can’t leverage it because we have to spend so much time connecting, transforming, translating and mapping it. If we can just let interoperability do that work, we can get that data into the hands of teachers far more quickly so they can innovate and impact students' lives in a more meaningful way.

Standards also allow for innovation. Cool, new technologies can come to market without waiting around for a student information system or LMS to build an integration with them. Or they don’t need to invest in building those integrations themselves.

If edtech tools use standards, they can just plug in to every other tool using standards. That allows districts to actually leverage new, more innovative tools and experiment more.

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