The Importance of Interoperability

Why interoperability?  Fundamentally, interoperability is exactly what it sounds like – all the different pieces of technology fitting together nicely.  What you don’t want is jenga, where removing or adding one technology system has the potential to bring the whole thing down.  What you want is legos!

jenga versus legos

An SIS, or Student Information System, is a critical part of this equation.  There are a variety of SISs on the market, but here are some of the major ones:

You don’t need to become an expert on SISs, but you should know some of the major names.  You can also Google terms like ERP, CRM, LRM in combination with “college” or “student” and get some other, smaller options that are out there.

Many of the SISs (just like the LMSs) that dominate the marketplace are older, or more legacy technologies.  Sometimes these are the most stable.  It is often challenging for an institution to extricate itself from one system to find a different one, simply because of the pain involved in going through the transfer of information and the necessary updates to workflow, processes and procedures.

SISs and LMSs are two of the major systems that must integrate.  There are a whole host of plugins or additional modular software components that can be added on to any of these types of systems for additional functionality.  For example, Blackboard Collaborate, a synchronous webconferencing tool, can be selected by colleges, but isn’t part of the base “Blackboard Learn” product.

Interoperability is hard, which is why IMS Global – a nonprofit consortium – has been working to create stable open standards (learn more about that here) so that all manner of companies and institutions can create more “plug and play” environments.

Icon representing plug and play nature of architecture

If you’re interested in a bit more complexity surrounding interoperability, you can find it here (and on many pages of the IMS Global site.)  The below graphic illustrates some of the elements and open standard languages necessary to make “plug and play” possible without needing programmers to write the integration for each college separately on a custom basis.

IMS interoperability figure

And that’s all there is to know!  Just kidding – but this is a good start:)

Play icon indicating proceed to next page Now, let’s check out some info on big data and analytics (fascinating, right?)  Actually, it’s pretty cool stuff.