Taking Learning Information Services from Roadmap to Roadway (Part 1)

Editor’s note: This is a guest post provided by Patrick Laughran of Framingham State University.

Framingham State University is ready to put the Learning Information Services (LIS v 2.0) specification to the test as the next step toward fulfilling a commitment to adopt the 1EdTech Consortium open interoperability standards.  The target implementation will be integration between Blackboard Learn (hosted and managed remotely by Blackboard) and Banner (hosted and managed locally by Framingham State).  The objective is to more efficiently enable combined uses of educational technology that rely on the import and export of student information without the need for custom system integrations that inhibit innovation and are costly to implement.  The hope is that this first LIS integration will be followed by others in order to meet the growing demand for easier and more cost efficient ways to merge complementary content and services from third party providers within a coherent user experience that depends on the exchange of data with the University’s student information system.   Learning Information Services is a specification that maps the exchange of data between student information systems and educational software or services for the management of information about people, courses, groups, memberships and outcomes.  LIS was developed as an open industry standard by members of the non-profit 1EdTech Consortium.  It is based on six services that can be used individually or in combination:

  1. The “Bulk Data Exchange Management Service” provides for the transfer and batch processing of data in order to initialize the exchange of information between a system of record and one or more educational resources and is used to keep them synchronized.  This includes support for the data models from each of the other five other services.
  2. The “Group Management Service” provides management and manipulation of organizational structures, and other group structures, through the exchange of data about those structures.
  3. The “Membership Management Service” provides management and manipulation of enrollment in courses, and other activities, through the exchange of data about those memberships.
  4. The “Course Management Service” provides management and manipulation of course structure information through the exchange of data about courses.
  5. The “Person Management Service” provides management and manipulation of information about people through the exchange of data about participants.
  6. The “Outcomes Management Service” provides management and manipulation of results information, from grade books etc., through the exchange of data about outcomes.

Obviously, the University needs to maintain or improve the existing integration between Blackboard and Banner which already works to most people’s satisfaction (albeit with room for improvement).  In other words, it is essential that Framingham State’s adoption of the Learning Information Services specification not “break” anything or degrade functionality as compared to what exists now.

Here are the gating factors:

Gating Factor #1:  Verify Conformance to Specification and Sufficiency of Implementation

Blackboard Learn and Banner must be equally conformant with the LIS v 2.0 specification in order to meet the minimum criteria for a successful implementation as defined above.  In addition, whether or not Blackboard Learn and Banner provide adequate service call support at the current time also needs to be verified.  The extent of conformance and service call support will hopefully prove to be a sufficient match to Framingham State’s integration requirements. The 1EdTech Consortium provides a testing and certification program for suppliers - and they list the suppliers & specific products that have achieved certification on their web site Ensuring that all vendors have achieved 1EdTech LIS v2.0 conformance certification will greatly reduce the cost of implementation and integration at Framingham State because they have gone through this rigorous interoperability testing witnessed by the neutral 1EdTech. 1EdTech also provides problem resolution services for certified products - so this is about as good go a guarantee as an institution can get to make sure the integration will work!

Gating Factor #2:  Test Target Implementation and Verify it Works

Once the degree to which both systems are conformant is determined, and whether or not mutually supported service calls meet Framingham State’s required functionality, thorough testing of the target implementation of LIS will be required to verify everything actually works as specified.  (Framingham State has test environments for both a remotely hosted Blackboard Learn and locally hosted Banner instance to use for this purpose).

A team of people from Blackboard, Ellucian, Framingham State University and other members of the 1EdTech Consortium are actively engaged in taking LIS from a roadmap to an open roadway of interoperability.  This first blog post will be followed by others to chronicle the journey, and (more importantly) help the many who follow by providing insights and guidance.