When building out an LMS integration for your platform or application, you’ll need to consider if you want to develop the integrations in-house or outsource the work to an LMS integration provider. Third-party integration providers have expertise to help you navigate some of the hurdles of LMS integration development. Meanwhile, building your own LMS integrations might be a better solution if you need to fully-own the code that enables your integrations. Below we take a look at the pros and cons for building your own LMS integrations versus buying an integration solution.
The Pros and Cons of Building Your Own Integrations
In order to actually build out an integration, you'll first need to decide which LMS's you are going to integrate with. Each LMS has different methods of integration and standards that it supports. For example, some LMS's don't support the LTI® standard. Meanwhile, others who do support the standard may only support up to LTI 1.1 and not LTI 1.3 or Advantage. API integrations also vary between LMS's.
Once you understand what integrations your clients need, you'll have to actually build out the integrations. This requires developers who understand LMS integration and how to implement it into your application. They'll also have to navigate through the privacy and user consent policies of the API which define what data you may retrieve and record. In some cases, your developers will have to manually request access to sensitive scopes from the provider of the API. This process can be lengthy and can be a potential roadblock when developing an integration.
Onboarding your clients who want to use your LMS integrations is an additional challenge. Many of the potential problems with onboarding clients using an LMS integration aren't visible until you try to actually onboard schools and teachers. Even if they use the same LMS, each school district can have their instance set-up in a different manner that can affect how users log-in.
The most apparent benefit of building your own integrations is that you own your code. Your clients may have requests to integrate with a specific LMS in a specific way. By developing your own integrations, you can tailor your integrations to meet the exact needs of your clients.
Using an integration partner can alleviate some of the difficulties of developing an LMS integration yourself. An integration partner may already have written most of an integration with an LMS and reduce the amount of work your developers have to do. The partner may also have experience handling the intricacies of integrating with each LMS and and guide you through problems before they arise. This can reduce the difficulty of onboarding new clients. In addition, the APIs used to develop integrations frequently change. Having an integration partner can keep you on top of these changes and help you address them.
When you outsource your LMS integrations, you do lose control of the code behind the integration itself. You are dependent on a third-party to keep the integration operational. If something in the integration breaks, you won't be able to do anything until your integration partner addresses the issue.
What should you do?
You should analyze how the pros and cons of developing the integrations yourself or buying the integrations from a provider impacts your business, specifically. If your clients need only one specific integration, such as deploying an LTI application for districts who use Canvas, building one integration might not be a daunting task. However, the likely scenario is that your clients use a myriad of different LMS's and are looking for different types of integrations. Some may want LTI integrations and other may be looking for API integrations.
Depending on the scale of an integration and the needs of your clients, finding a third-party integration developer may make the most sense for your company. At Edlink, we specialize in building LMS integrations for educational platforms. We offer guidance throughout the implementation, including solutions for onboarding large districts in a short amount of time. If you're interested in hearing about our solutions, please contact us at our support page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learning Tools Interoperability® (LTI®) is a trademark of the IMS Global Learning Consortium, Inc. (www.imsglobal.org)