Integrations are our bread and butter
Ask any edtech developer and they’ll tell you that building and supporting educational integrations are not easy. There is a lot of work to go through for seamless integrations that institutions can easily connect to. This work is tiresome and isn’t central to an edtech company's core product.
Meanwhile, Edlink’s core business is creating and supporting integrations. We do this all day; other companies don’t. Because it’s our primary focus, we've done all of the heavy lifting for edtech companies to integrate to educational data systems (think LMSs, SISs, and IDMs).
Below are 4 ideas to consider when planning how your company wants to tackle its “integration problem”.
1. Integrating with each educational data system can become overwhelming.
Take LMSs for example. There is no primary LMS used throughout k12 or higher ed. Schoology, Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, and Google Classroom are very popular and see widespread adoption, but none of them have complete market coverage. So edtech companies work with schools and several times use different LMSs. And different LMSs support integrations in different ways.
Each LMS has a proprietary API. While many LMSs can also support the LTI standard for integration, not every LMS does. Thus, developers may need to provide multiple methods of integration for each school to meet the school’s interoperability needs.
Edlink provides integrations for all of the major educational data systems. Edtech companies are covered no matter which school they’re working with.
2. Each education data system structures data differently.
Not only does each data system (like LMSs and SISs) supports integrations differently, but the ways that these systems structure data also vary from platform to platform. This can cause some serious issues for edtech products with developers who are not prepared to abstract data to be retrieved from different platforms. For example, users in Google Workspace for Education and Google Classroom are divided into Organization Units (OUs). These OUs rarely mirror specific departments or schools. Thus, developers will need to build a way to handle Google Classroom users, especially if their product needs to know where a user belongs within a department or specific school.
Edlink was designed to abstract user data across various educational data systems. This allows our clients (other edtech companies) to communicate with each integrated LMS, SIS, or IDM through our unified API. Edlink’s platform is prepared to handle situations that are unique to each educational data system.
3. Getting schools to integrate with a company’s product can be a challenge.
A major part of a successful integration is how easy it is for a school’s administrator to connect. An LMS has its process to allow administrators to connect their LMS environment to third-party applications. This process ranges from somewhat easy to quite difficult depending on the platform and the type of integration. For example, integrations with Canvas and Brightspace requires administrators to create developer keys that developers will need to connect to these platforms. Developers will need to provide a secure method for administrators to transmit these developer keys.
Edlink has made the administrator onboarding flow just for this. School admins can integrate their educational data system in under five minutes. Our team also provides personalized guidance for administrators who need help setting up the connection or who have questions about the integration.
4. Edtech companies lose focus building integrations and forget about managing integrations.
Building and managing integrations is resource heavy and costly. Employing developers dedicated to building integrations in-house is expensive and takes time away from enhancing the company’s core product (sometimes months or even a year!). There are many hurdles and issues a development team is likely to run into if they are new to working with educational data systems. At the end of the day, an edtech company’s focus should be on its core product and not on its integrations.
There are many ongoing costs related to managing integrations that many companies fail to foresee. Building an integration is just the 1st part. Continually supporting integrations and managing integrated users can pull product focus over time and comes with a hefty price.
Using a unified API or an integration partner (like Edlink) lets companies leap ahead in their product roadmap without having to use half as many resources. With Edlink in hand, these jumps in interoperability let companies remain focused on their product and manage integrations at scale.
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
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!