Learn@UW - External LMS Integrations (UW-Madison)
This document is for users of a UW-Madison learning management system (LMS) who are interested in knowing more about the process for integrating external, third-party vendor tools with it. It also includes a link to the integration request form.
What is meant by "external integrations?"
Increasingly, vendors are developing varieties of add-on software that can be easily connected with learning management systems such as D2L for the purposes of "extending" the functionality of the LMS. The terms "external" or "third-party" refer to applications and services that are not owned or operated by UW-Madison but can be integrated with our campus LMSs. These integrations are becoming more and more common among textbook publishers as they continue to deliver textbook and courseware content online.
Vendors often develop their tools using Learning Tools Interoperability, or LTI, to integrate with the LMS. LTI enables a standard method for the delivery of data between the LMS to the tool provider. It is the preferred integration standard.
Generally, after a tool is integrated with the LMS it appears within the LMS as a link or a widget within a course and allows a user to be logged in and recognized by the third-party's tool environment. Sometimes it can include the passage of data, such as grades, back and forth between the vendor's environment and the LMS.
How long does it take?
Integrating a tool with a UW-Madison LMS requires the assistance of the Learn@UW Madison Service Team. In the past, these have taken anywhere from 3-4 months to implement.
Why does it take so long? First, it's important to keep in mind that student, faculty, and course data can be put at risk if shared with non-UW-Madison entities, such as third-party vendors. Therefore, the UW-Madison CIO's Office requires that all integrations meet guidelines for privacy, intellectual property, security and records retention.
To that end, the Learn@UW-Madison service team carefully evaluates all integration requests and implements only those that pass the required evaluation criteria. In addition, discussions must occur with the vendor regarding end-user licensing agreements, security practices, and end-user support to ensure that the University and its students are protected. Finally, experience has proven that these integrations require a fair amount of testing and back-and-forth with the vendor to get them to into working order. Because the notion of LMS integrations is relatively new and vendors are eager to get them to market, rigorous design and testing hasn't occurred. That's not to say they do not work; but it's important to keep expectations realistic and request as much up-front information from the vendor as possible about what the integration can and cannot do.
What can I do to assist the process?
As part of the process, requesters should be prepared to do the following:
- Submit a request and allow adequate lead time. Details on how to access the request form are below. It's suggested that you submit a request well ahead of when you actually plan to begin using the integration. Again, 3-4 months is recommended; at least one semester of lead time is preferred. It's also recommended that you plan accordingly for the rare possibility that required evaluation criteria may not be met.
- Provide some basic, up-front information about the integration. This includes when you plan to start using it, what it will be used for, how many students will use it, and so on (this information is required on the request form). Asking the vendor detailed questions about what the integration will do after it's in place may help you provide some of this information.
- Assist with testing. Testing is part of the evaluation process. Since all courses are designed uniquely, the Learn@UW Madison Service Team will require your assistance with testing in order to see how the integration functions once it's been put in place in your course(s).
- Inform your students. It will be the instructors' responsibility to communicate to students that the third-party tool is being used as part of the course. This includes informing them of how to use the integration, contact the vendor's Help Desk, or find help documents online, if applicable.
What integrations are already in place?Existing UW-Madison integrations include:
How do I request an integration?
- Ask the vendor for a description of how the integration works. It's suggested that you request a product demonstration, if possible.
- Review the UW-Madison CIO guidelines for privacy, intellectual property, security and records retention. Reviewing this document will help give you an awareness of the types of questions that will be asked of the vendor as part of the Learn@UW Madison Service Team's review process.
- Complete the request form.
If you have questions about the request process, please email Learn@UW Madison Support.