The Pros and Cons of Building Integrations
To build out an integration, developers will first need to decide which LMS to start with. Each LMS has different methods of integration and standards that it supports. For example, some LMSs 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 LMSs because each API is built without a need to assimilate to others.
Once developers understand which integration(s) a school needs, comes the hard part, building the integration. To build an integration, a developer needs to understand LMS integrations and how to implement it into the application. While building, developers will also have to navigate through the privacy and user consent policies of the API which define what data could be retrieved and recorded. In some cases, 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 school admins is an additional challenge. Many of the potential problems with onboarding school admins using an LMS integration aren't visible until a edtech company actually onboards a school and teachers. Even if schools use the same LMS, each school district can have an instance set-up in a different manner that can affect how users log-in.
The most apparent benefit of building in-house integrations is that the company own the code. Schools may have requests to integrate with a specific LMS in a specific way. By developing in-house integrations, developers can tailor integrations to meet the exact needs of schools.
Using an integration partner can alleviate some of the difficulties of developing an LMS integration for developers. An integration partner may already have written most of an integration with an LMS and reduce the amount of work developers have to do. The partner may also have experience handling the intricacies of integrating with each LMS and be able to guide through problems before they arise. Having this knowledge can reduce the difficulty of onboarding new clients. In addition, the APIs used to develop integrations frequently change. Having an integration partner can keep on top of these changes and help you address them.
When edtech companies outsource their LMS integrations, they do lose control of the code behind the integration itself. In this manner, the edtech company is dependent on a third-party to keep the integration operational. If something in the integration breaks, the edtech company won't be able to do anything until the integration partner addresses the issue.
What should you do?
Analyze the pros and cons of developing the integrations in-house or buying the integrations from a provider. If 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 clients use a myriad of different LMSs and are looking for different types of integrations. Some may want LTI integrations and other may be looking for API integrations.
Read More on Integration
Here are other articles we’ve written on building integrations to help you on your journey:
- What to know about Single Sign-On for Education
- Single-tenant vs Multi-tenant: What’s better for your app’s security
- Case Study: Schoolrunner
- Why would I Work with Edlink Instead of Just Building My Own LTI Application?
- District Onboarding with Edlink
Want to Learn More about Edlink?
If you're looking for a partner who can help guide you through developing LMS integrations (like these), then let’s introduce ourselves. We’re Edlink!