One of the primary methods of integrating with the LMS of a school or university is to connect to the platform through the LMS' API. If you don't know what API integration means - or if you don't know what an API is - then this article is for you!
Below, we'll address the following questions:
- What is an API?
- How do API integrations work?
- How do I build API integrations?
What is an API?
An API - or application programming interface - is a set of functions that allow applications to access and communicate with another service. All of the major learning management systems have some sort of API that allows for the transfer and retrieval of data from their platform.
APIs allow an application to retrieve information about an authenticated user directly from the LMS. This information includes a list of all courses and any rosters that the user manages. Users can also pass back information, such as assignments and grades, from the application back to the LMS. As long as the user has an active and authenticated token from the LMS, all of these actions can be performed without being actively present in the LMS.
How do API integrations work with an LMS?
Third-party applications that use APIs to integrate with an LMS are hosted and accessed outside of the LMS. The application will typically have a method available to sign in a user based on the LMS that the user belongs to. Once the user logs in with their LMS credentials, the application receives a token that verifies the user’s identity and allows the user into the application. As long as this token is valid, the user can send and retrieve course and student data from to and from their LMS via the application. The user does not have to be an administrator of the LMS in order to enable access for themselves and their students.
Students and teachers can login to the integrated application with their roles defined through the API. Depending on how the integration has been developed, users may be able to interact with their LMS through the app. For example, the application could allow students to save submissions to assignments. Teachers can then grade these assignments and pass the scores back to their LMS. Teachers may also be able to pull a list of all currently rostered students in their course, regardless of whether or not the student has accessed the application.
How to start building API integrations?
Each LMS has its own proprietary API. This means that you generally can't reuse an API integration that you wrote to connect your app to one LMS to connect your app to another. Furthermore, each LMS has quirks about how they implement their API. Several articles on our blog highlight these issues and are intended to help edtech developers and managers to avoid potential roadblocks. Check out the links below for more information on the challenges of integrating with each LMS!
All that being said, there is another option. Edlink offers a unified API that allows edtech developers to integrate their apps with any major LMS. We've already written API integrations to each platform, so your app only has to connect to Edlink to be able to integrate with any of the LMSs that we support. Additionally, we provide other types of integrations, including integrations through the LTI® standard or integrations with data sources such as Classlink and Clever.
If you'd like to learn more about how Edlink can help you integrate your app with any major LMS used in K12 or higher education, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a message on our support page.
Learning Tools Interoperability® (LTI®) is a trademark of the IMS Global Learning Consortium, Inc. (www.imsglobal.org). Edlink LTI integrations are not certified by the IMS Global Learning Consortium, Inc.