This document is for users of Canvas 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?"
External Integrations are varieties of add-on software that can be easily connected with learning management systems (LMS), such as Canvas, 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 increasingly common among textbook publishers as they continue to deliver textbook and courseware content online.
Vendors often develop their tools using Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), to integrate with the LMS. LTI enables a standard method for the delivery of data between the LMS to the tool provider, and is the industry-preferred integration standard.
After a tool is integrated with an LMS, it generally appears within the LMS as a link or a widget within a course, which allows a user to be logged in and recognized by the third-party's tool environment. In some cases, data (such as grades) passes 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?
- Evaluation: 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.
- Learn@UW-Madison carefully evaluates all integration requests and implements only those that pass the required evaluation criteria.
- Protection: University representatives must conference with the vendor to ensure the University and its students are protected. Some considerations include:
- End-user licensing agreements
- Security practices (particularly in compliance to FERPA and HIPAA regulations)
- Support resources for the university population
- Testing: 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 LMS integrations are often developed and released quickly, they typically are not subjected to rigorous design and testing. It's important to keep expectations realistic, and request as much information from the vendor as possible about the integration's true capabilities.
How can I 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. We recommend 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. Asking the vendor detailed questions about what the integration will do after it's in place may help you provide some necessary information:
- when you plan to start using it
- what it will be used for,
- how many students will use it
- etc. (see request form)
- 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 implemented in your course(s).
- Inform your students. the instructors' responsibility is to communicate to students that the third-party tool is being used as part of the course, and how to:
- use the integration,
- contact the vendor's Help Desk
- find help documents online (if applicable)
What integrations are already in place?Refer to Canvas - Enabled Application Configurations (UW-Madison) for a list of integrations with Canvas.
How can 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 may help you understand 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.