Campus Technology Research White Paper: Integration: The "Behind the Scenes" Key Enabler of Blended Learning


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Campus Technology Research White Paper: Integration: The "Behind the Scenes" Key Enabler of Blended Learning

  1. 1. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning WHITEPAPER Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning Approaches to and Benefits of Integrating Virtual Classrooms and Learning Management Systems Alan D. Greenberg Andy Nilssen March 2012 Study sponsored by:Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 1
  2. 2. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning ContentsContentsExecutive Summary ................................................................................................................................. 1Methodology........................................................................................................................................... 2Blended Learning and Integration Defined............................................................................................... 2The Benefits of Integration ...................................................................................................................... 4 Benefits for Instructors ........................................................................................................................ 4 Benefits for Learners ........................................................................................................................... 6 Benefits for Administrators – and the Institution ................................................................................. 7 Integration Width and Depth – and Why it’s Key ................................................................................. 9 Implementing an integrated solution – What to look for.................................................................... 12Blackboard’s Approach to Integration.................................................................................................... 14Conclusion............................................................................................................................................. 15 About the Authors ............................................................................................................................. 16 About Wainhouse Research ............................................................................................................... 16 About Blackboard, Inc. ....................................................................................................................... 16WR Paper: Integration: The “Behind the Scenes,” Key Enabler of Blended LearningCopyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research. All rights reserved.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 2
  3. 3. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended LearningExecutive SummaryThe diversity of technological platforms and tools available to educational institutions is staggering. Anyprogram – whether brick-and-mortar or online or blended – starts with the Learning ManagementSystem (LMS), the essential basis for creating and disseminating information on courses, course content,online learning, class rosters, schedules, assignments, tests, and grades. Yet most LMS platforms weredesigned to be on demand repositories of information, and are only part of the solution to blendedlearning program delivery. The other key element relates to live engagement – the ability to foster richcollaboration and communication between learners, educators, and administrators. A variety ofcollaboration tools support live engagement, but using them efficiently and maximizing the return oninvestment can call for identifying new ways of using those tools with on demand tools like the LMS.Fortunately the vendor community is well aware that the sum of a learning solution often is greater thanits parts. They also understand that because no single vendor can address all of an institution’s needs, itserves them well to cooperate with other vendors to make platforms that work well within anintegrated ecosystem. Integration consists of the ability to make two (or more) systems appear as oneto provide a seamless experience, yet the approaches to integration vary by vendor. This paper exploresthose approaches, as well as – based on structured interviews with five leading colleges and universities– the many benefits educators and their institutions can derive from integration.Just a few – perhaps the most important – of those benefits include: • Overall enhanced ability to manage (schedule, edit, and manage) class sessions • Single-click access to live sessions and recordings from the LMS • Single sign-on • One user interface (UI) to learn • Seamless work flow between systems • The ability for a variety of learning styles to be addressed by an institution • Greater self-reliance on the part of faculty and learners and greater “relationship management” between a university and its stakeholdersBecause the approaches to integration vary by both real-time collaboration vendors and those whomake asynchronous LMS platforms, this paper explores how deep and / or wide an integration might beand what to look for in implementing an integrated solution.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 1
  4. 4. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended LearningMethodologyWainhouse Research (WR) interviewed a number of subject matter experts (SMEs) on the topic ofintegration, as well as five educational institutions that have accomplished some degree of integrationbetween their LMS platforms and their real-time collaboration / virtual classroom technologies.Reflecting a wide variety of organizations with a wide variety of needs, these institutions and thoseinvolved in the issue of integration, are: • Babson College – Tova Garcia Duby, Senior Manager, eLearning Platform Operations, ITSD Operations & Security • Drexel University – Dr. Mike Scheuermann, Associate Vice President, Instructional Technology Support & Executive Director, Online Learning Council • Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana – Kara Monroe, Assistant VP of Center for Instructional Technology • University of Utah – Cory Stokes, Director, Technology Assisted Curriculum Center • San Diego State University – Dr. Mark Laumakis, Lecturer Department of Psychology and Faculty in Residence, Instructional Technology ServicesBlended Learning and Integration DefinedThe world of blended learning – the combination of face-to-face and online, real-time and on-demandinstruction – received a major boost in recent years when the U.S. Department of Education conducteda meta-study that determined that, on average, students in online learning programs tend to performslightly better than those receiving only face-to-face instruction. 1 This confirmed what many educatorsalready instinctively knew: that online educational technologies not only are here to stay, but also likelyto be increasingly essential components of teaching and learning.Yet the diversity of technological platforms and tools available to educational institutions is staggering.Any program – whether brick-and-mortar or online or blended – starts with the LMS, the essential basisfor creating and disseminating information on courses, for course content, online learning, class rosters,schedules, assignments, tests, and grades. Most colleges and universities, and even someprimary/secondary schools, have adopted LMS solutions. Yet most LMS platforms were designed to beasynchronous, on demand repositories of information, and areonly part of the solution to blended learning program delivery. “Integration gives us the abilityThe other key element relates to live engagement, the ability to to see transitions from onefoster rich collaboration and communication between learners, mode to another. (IM to virtualeducators, and even administrators. Live engagement spans classroom.)”the ad hoc instant of interaction to the planned lesson, and - Kara Monroe, Ivy Techfrom post-class office hours to pre- or post-class learner review Community College Systemof material, as well as non-pedagogical but essential services,1 © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 2
  5. 5. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learningsuch as online student services (help desk, library, and orientation). A variety of collaboration toolssupport live engagement, from web conferencing – which enables virtual classrooms – to InstantMessaging & presence – which lets students network informally and engage in ad hoc collaboration –and finally to voice recording – not so much live, but which provides a rich and compelling method ofproviding feedback and input (not to be confused with recorded classes; voice recording is purely usingthe recorded voice as a tool for interaction and feedback). Other tools exist, such as groupvideoconferencing, lecture capture, and virtual worlds, but in terms of mainstream acceptance and theability to be placed in the hands of the greatest numbers of learners, web conferencing, IM, and voiceauthoring tools are leading the way.In a heterogeneous world, where choice rules and options abound, institutions seek to seamlessly tietogether their preferred learning platforms, and integration is the means of doing so.At its essence, integration consists of the ability to make two (or more) systems appear as one toprovide a seamless experience. Typically an integration between multiple systems requires that eachsystem makes what are called Extensible Markup Language (XML) calls between systems, takingadvantage of the application programming interfaces (APIs) provided by platform vendors or thirdparties. But what does that mean? As you might guess, there are many different ways to integrateplatforms, as we discuss later in this paper. Often the integration software that uses the APIs ispackaged as a “bridge” or “adapter” that sometimes works out of the box, or sometimes requirescustomization and development work. The process can be as simple or as complex as an organizationwishes it to be, often based on planning of what functionality and integration capabilities it seeks toaccomplish – and what capabilities are supported by the various vendors.What integration results in are the following possible integration capabilities where – at their best – webconferencing, IM, and voice authoring capabilities (as examples) are made available through the LMS: • The ability to schedule, edit, and manage sessions • Single-click access to live sessions and recordings from the LMS • Single sign-on – no additional user name/password required to access sessions/recordings • Scheduled sessions appear on LMS calendar – and voice commentary / guidance from the instructor can be added to LMS course pages • Voice discussions boards and emails can be generated within and from the LMS course pages • Synchronous tools appear as tools or modules within the LMS – and as an example, the IM engine can be populated with class roster information from within the LMS • Session recordings are available as individual resources within the LMS • The ability to invite external guests • The ability to pre-configure session settings and pre-assign moderator and participant roles • Sessions can be shared across courses • Integration may be enabled for all courses or for individually selected courses • Custom configurations of server settings, role mapping, and permissionsCopyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 3
  6. 6. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended LearningLater in this paper we explore these integration features in greater detail as we describe how integrationworks.In a survey Wainhouse Research recently conducted with over 200 educational users of technologies,integration between LMS and web conferencing solutions is important or very important to 85% ofhigher education respondents and 78% of service / content providers. More than half of primary /secondary respondents feel the same. 2 0% 11% 10% Very important / valuable - 5 20% 36% 49% Important / valuable - 4 30% 40% Neutral - 3 18% 67% 50% Somewhat Important / valuable - 2 60% Not at all important / valuable - 1 27% 36% 70% 80% 11% 90% 18% 7% 2% 11% 5% 100% Primary /Secondary Higher Ed Provider Figure 1 Importance of LMS and Web Conferencing Integrations to EducatorsPlenty has been written elsewhere concerning what one can do with synchronous tools like webconferencing, IM, and voice authoring. What concerns us here is the impact of integrating synchronoustools with your LMS.The Benefits of IntegrationThe benefits for administrators, instructors, learners – and the institution – are many. Sometimes theyare unique to each user group; sometimes they overlap, as described below.Benefits for InstructorsOne benefit that affects everyone involved in educational technology is a simple one: efficiency.Efficiency can be realized in many ways, by having:2 Wainhouse Research Distance Education and e-Learning Metrics Survey 2011Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 4
  7. 7. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning • One system to log into – No need to log out to change systems, and no need to enter multiple passwords, is a simple result that translates into greater productivity. This lets instructors focus on the task at hand and not the overhead of administrative tasks (even as it gives them control over how their courses are delivered to learners). “How I access last year’s content for this year’s course: I had a recording from the summer course. All I did was go into Blackboard Learn, grab the URL, then snip it and send the shortened link. As long as they have logged out of any other live sessions they can jump in. I have it set for guest access so I have maximum flexibility to do with those archives whatever I want to do.” - Dr. Mark Laumakis, San Diego State University • One UI to learn – When well integrated, the user interface for one product can emulate the UI of the other, which makes it easier for instructors to stay on task and spend less time struggling with different user experiences. • A seamless work flow between systems – Stream of thought is not interrupted when an instructor can jump between the LMS and synchronous capabilities seamlessly. This makes the adoption of new learning technology easier and more appealing. And it makes the ability to draw upon class materials that traditionally resided in silos that much easier and effortless. • Access to content anywhere, anytime – Because “From the faculty perspective learning objects that are maintained in the LMS are what gets missed from the accessible from within a live session or in on demand ‘integration story’ is that when I fashion, faculty can use those objects easily wherever do live sessions and then have they are. This may include – in case of emergency – archives: it creates a nice recorded classes from the past that can be drawn upon backstop for when things come if the instructor is not available or past or new up. If I’m traveling to a materials that need to be made accessible spur of the conference, or have a family moment. emergency, I have a “stack” in • More modalities of learning are made available when Blackboard of recorded class learners have access, as an example, to recorded sessions I can share.” classes. An instructor can pay attention to learner - Dr. Mark Laumakis, San Diego behaviors: are an individual’s learning styles being State University helped by the choices available? Can the instructor redirect as needed? • Essential tools like voice authoring can enable instructors to provide feedback to learners and explain complex assignments. In certain disciplines of study that rely on auditory experience, e.g., language instruction or music, voice authoring can become an indispensable component of instruction – not standing on its own, but instead integrated into the other modalities such as the LMS.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 5
  8. 8. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended LearningBenefits for Learners Besides efficiency, integrations may very well translate into superior outcomes. It goes without sayingthat learners are highlydifferentiated in their behaviors,to put it mildly. They studydifferently from one another,they learn differently, and theycommunicate differently.Typically they may be lessorganized than their instructors,so while integration can offerthe same types of payback, itmay be exponentially greater. • One system to log into – As with instructors, not needing to log out to change systems and not worrying about multiple passwords is a winning combination for learners. The classic multi-taskers can focus on their learning Figure 2 Single-Sign-on with Learner Access to LMS, Web Conferencing, Voice Authoring, & IM activities, not on switching platforms. “The students are in the LMS, doing other things, then toggle to the classroom environment. That’s the way these folks work. They segment their time to do their online learning activities. Having (web conferencing) embedded in the LMS, not having them have to log out, fire up another browser, log back in with a new browser, or go someplace else and use other credentials, is tremendous.” – Dr. Mike Scheuermann, Drexel University • A seamless work flow between systems – Stream of thought is not interrupted when a learner can jump between the LMS and synchronous capabilities seamlessly. This makes the ability to access class materials more seamless. And it makes the ability to “step up” the degree of interactivity with instructors or other learners that much faster. A learner reviewing material in the LMS can quickly author a voice recording with a query, or see if an instructor or cohort member is online and available, or even launch a web conferencing session.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 6
  9. 9. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning • The learner can work at her own preferred pace and “Students go to their class in the modality -- He or she has choice in where to focus and LMS and all the links to meet are how and when to communicate with others when there.” assistance is needed. Voice authoring, as an example, - Cory Stokes, University of Utah will let learners use voice discussion boards to interact with one another – and/or with an instructor.Benefits for Administrators – and the InstitutionAdministrators, and the institution, benefit from integration in a variety of ways. For IT, it becomeseasier to manage systems – administrative staff can typically work with both the LMS and thesynchronous learning tools, with a number of immediate benefits: • Faster / more accurate session scheduling. Sessions can be scheduled from within the LMS, as an example, named, be made recurring, and even be assigned to groups or subset of class rosters. • Faster, more accurate course and materials updates. Materials can be updated within the LMS, as an example, at the conclusion of a class session directly from the virtual classroom. • No separate user database to synchronize. Because one database is now supporting the integration, an entire step is removed from the management process: the need to keep an entirely separate database updated via synchronization. This makes updates occur faster and allows them to be more accurate. “Integration has reduced significant time from the operations and administrative side by enabling faculty members to manage their own courses. It is used more readily on their own.” - Tova Garcia Duby, Babson CollegeAll of these management features result in less IT involvement, in fact. Course administrators, who maybe the instructors themselves or instructional designers and staff located within departments, can “do itthemselves” without needing IT support. And this results in easier adoption of the learningtechnologies.For the institution: • Integration creates an expanded, community-facing portal for enabling the very best in learning activities. Students “get this” by taking advantage of the integrations to do their work and more, and faculty “get this” by using it to foster relationships. "LMS / collaboration integration results in a relationship management tool - not just content management. It fosters student - faculty learning relationships." - Kara Monroe, Ivy Tech Community College SystemCopyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 7
  10. 10. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning • Remote faculty can be called upon to teach subjects for which there is limited demand or on campus expertise. Having the LMS integrated with the synchronous learning tools means it is easier to train remote faculty, while also easier to give them access to all the tools they need to be productive quickly. “(The company that became part of Blackboard), Wimba, took the effort to make it appear like a Blackboard interface, following a Blackboard paradigm. They made Wimba fit into that experience. The more it fits into the LMS, and operates how one configures other tools, the easier the adoption.” - Cory Stokes, University of Utah • It goes without saying that a streamlined IT organization offers its financial payback in greater productivity. With learners and instructors more able to conduct their own activities within the LMS and synchronous learning tools, the IT and/or Learning Technologies groups can focus on higher level issues. Even support can be enhanced, as is the case when learners and instructors can learn about ancillary tools while being supported on other tools, or when a Help Desk prevents redundancies by supporting the entire suite of tools, with IM as a helpmate. Thus integration has its own unexpected side benefits that leverage the investments institutions have made into their LMS platforms, as an example, by driving utilization. “We love the Blackboard Instant Messaging; it’s a tool for which I cannot begin to describe all the ways it’s used. It supports everything from basic faculty / student interaction to inter-office communications. One office keeps it open during the day, and if someone takes a student call, the technician will send an IM to be sure no one else has spoken to the person. So it immediately reduces redundancy.” - Kara Monroe, Ivy Tech Community College System • Integration helps an institution respond to crisis because mission critical communications tools are readily accessible at a moment’s notice. Specific groups or subgroups can be invited into “situational” assessments or crisis response meetings and have access to all the same materials and methods of connecting and communicating – with security and immediacy. “Most surprising to me was how quickly I was able to satisfy the university administration when people were panicked about H1N1. Within two days I had a plan for turning on the Wimba server host, in case we had to close the campus. We could post messages through the LMS that the community shouldn’t come to campus, and still have class. It was so easy to do this from the existing components.” - Cory Stokes, University of Utah • Finally, integration supports those who hold the purse strings. Among other benefits, integration can result in a richer set of analytical tools for understanding how these technologies are supporting learner activities, the goals of the institution, and even fiscal performance.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 8
  11. 11. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning “The next hot thing for us is - analytics. I want to take deeper dives into the data regarding student success and student retention. That gives us the ability to share what we learn with other entities like Enrollment Management and the Provost’s office. A richer data set can be used besides ‘how many times did they log in.’ If you have the session detail integrated in the tool and take a much deeper look, it surpasses data mining and enables you to engage in real, meaningful analysis. You can’t talk about integration’s benefits without also talking about analysis of the comprehensive student and instructor experience. It’s not just getting at the surface information about student log-ins, etc.; it is about what they did.” - Dr. Mike Scheuermann, Drexel UniversityCreating new academic programs is a process that is not accomplished overnight; it requires planningand patience, often while not even certain what will be the results in terms of learner or facultyengagement. This means getting programs to their intended audiences is essential, and integration candrive revenues by being a change agent as new programs are delivered. “As our blended MBA program, Fast Track, substantially grew, more and more faculty members were teaching with technology 24x7. We needed to support the faculty and get them comfortable with the tools as quickly as possible. The pressure was on. We developed and implemented a “Driver” program, where faculty members were paired with student workers who were certified in the teaching tool the faculty was using. The student “Driver” drove the technology for the faculty – allowing the professor to focus on teaching while getting more comfortable with the tools. This made a huge difference in making the faculty comfortable and allowed us to meet the growing needs of the faculty teaching in Fast Track.” - Tova Garcia Duby, Babson CollegeIntegration Width and Depth – and Why it’s KeyWhat does it mean when two different applications claim they are integrated together? In practice thedegree of integration – and the usefulness of the result – can vary radically. Thus while integration maybe indicated with a check mark on a spec sheet, in practice no two integrations are alike. The true valueof each integration implementation can only be uncovered through careful inspection of the result.One way to measure the degree of integration between an LMS and virtual classroom technologies is toconsider two dimensions – width and depth. For the purposes of this paper, width is the degree towhich the LMS is integrated with external real-time and asynchronous collaboration components suchas:Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 9
  12. 12. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning • IM and presence – Does the integration enable the ability to post a roster of course attendees on the course web page in the LMS and indicate (by obtaining real-time presence information) those who are currently online? If so, can text chat be initiated easily and escalated to a real-time ad hoc collaboration session consisting of audio (VoIP) / video / web conferencing as needed? • Web conferencing – Can the LMS display upcoming scheduled events or meetings? Can web conferences be scheduled within the LMS? Can meeting participants be selected from the current Figure 3 Web Conferencing Session Created from within LMS course roster? • Authoring tools & archiving – Can web conferences or events be recorded, archived, and posted automatically to the LMS? Can the recordings be easily accessed by authoring tools through the LMS for editing and enhancement? And can additional tools like voice authoring be a part of the overall integrated environment?While the width of a specific integration may touch several components, depth refers to the level – ordegree of “completeness” – that has been implemented between the LMS and each virtual classroomtechnology. Thus depth may increase over time: while an initial integration may enable just a fewcapabilities, subsequent releases could potentially do more. (This partially explains why some vendorshave more integration capabilities than others: they have been at this game for a longer period of time.)Some examples of increasing depth include: 1. Single Sign-on – After logging in to the LMS, users can access each supported collaboration components without having to go through additional logins. A deeper integration would, for example, also pass the role of the user from the LMS to the web conferencing component – which could be used to assign appropriate privileges automatically – anyone can host a meeting but only instructors can post meeting archives, etc.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 10
  13. 13. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning 2. User Interface-level integration – A simple method for integration literally takes the user interface of the component and present it to the user in the LMS (typically using html’s “iframes”). While this approach may be acceptable for a first pass, chances abound for the two systems to look and act very differently – from cosmetics / look-and-feel to operational inconsistencies. Thus, unless the two systems are carefully designed up front with this level of integration in mind, this approach often appears to the user as a band-aid. A deeper integration, for example, involves having the integrated component call the user interface of the LMS (through an API) for interactions with the user – thus forcing consistency. Going forward, if the LMS UI is revised, the presentation of the integrated component is automatically revised as well. 3. bLTI (Basic Learning Tools Interoperability) – A collection of “open standard” capabilities designed with the intention of enabling a basic level of integration between learning tools from different vendors (accomplished through a consortium-defined set of APIs). Some examples of bLTI integration include the ability to schedule web conferencing sessions from within an LMS, and posting archives on the LMS. Since bLTI enables integration though API calls, it is not susceptible to the inconsistency issues of UI integration. However, to achieve its goal of being implemented by a number of vendors, bLTI can only go to a limited, “common denominator” level that can work across different solutions and is not taxing from a development resource standpoint. 4. Deep integration – Usually implemented when the LMS and collaboration component vendors agree on a set of data exchange specifications (usually though defined APIs) which may or may not be in the public domain. While this method holds the most promise, it also has its set of issues. First, the vendors must agree on how (and to what level) the integration will work, and the specification of the data exchange that will make the integration possible. Both vendors then need to develop code to support the API, test the integration (usually between specified versions of each offering), and support the integration in the field. Ongoing issues can arise when either vendor changes their offering and/or decides to no longer support the API. All of these issues can be eliminated if the same vendor is supplying both the LMS and the collaboration components. Examples of deep integration include: • In session features – Specific collaborative features can be automatically enabled based on the user’s role as defined in the LMS. For example, each user can be presented with different menus depending on their role – presenter vs. participant, privileged session controls and interactive tools, etc. • Session scheduling –Enable users to schedule web conferencing sessions that include participants that span across courses and sections. Show list of scheduled sessions for each course within the LMS.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 11
  14. 14. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning • Manage session content – Pre-plan the content needed for a collaborative session using any LMS-based materials: add slides, polls, screen sharing, web tours, breakout sessions, etc. Use the content plan to drive a web conference; post the plan in the LMS so others may see and share. • Create content – Record a collaborative session (“voice authoring”) – even if the instructor is the only attendee. Post the recording as “just another content item” in the LMS, and use the LMS access controls (course, instructor, etc). Students can record their own voice responses and post in the LMS for instructor feedback (catalyzes foreign language learning), or the original post can seed a discussion thread. • Measure level of participation – Use poll results and other interactive metrics to assign a grade to each session attendee for their level of participation • Integration interface and configurability – Enable a single web conferencing instance to integrate with more than one LMS. This can help test new LMS/collaborative solutions prior to deployment.While width and depth applies to any specific pair of LMS and collaboration offerings, a final aspect ofintegration to consider is the flexibility of both the LMS and collaboration solutions to integrate withalternative offerings. While an organization may be well serviced by a specific LMS / collaborationsolution combination today, what if plans change? The investment made in user training, processintegration, and content creation means that, if either the LMS or collaboration solution no longer fillsan organization’s need at some point in time, being able to swap out one or the other – but not both –can preserve a substantial investment. So, for example, a web conferencing system that can adequatelyintegrate with more than one LMS (or vice versa) could eventually add up to a significant advantage.Implementing an integrated solution – What to look forBefore making a final integrated solution choice, there are a few factors beyond width and depth toconsider that will impact deployment, on-going development, and support.Who develops and supports the integration? There are at least three possibilities: 1. The customer develops the integration software themselves (or by contracting a third party), either from scratch by coding to a set of defined API’s, or by acquiring third-party “OEM” modules and modifying the code as needed to fit their needs. After the development work is done, the customer implements the result and is responsible for on-going development and maintenance (modifying the code as needed to accommodate new features or API changes encountered through new LMS or collaboration software releases). 2. A partner of the LMS vendor or the web conferencing vendor develops, implements, and supports the integration software, typically with some sort of certification or “blessing” from the LMS vendor. The customer relies on the partner for on-going development and software maintenance – which can become an issue if the partner is a smaller supplier and/or changes their commitment to the solution.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 12
  15. 15. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning 3. The LMS vendor or the web conferencing vendor develops, implements (assisted by a professional services group if available), and supports the integration software. The LMS vendor provides ongoing development and software maintenance to accommodate new LMS or collaboration software releases – which becomes totally transparent if the LMS vendor is also the collaboration software vendor. “Given economic and time constraints, we need vendors to do deeper integration within the products so that we don’t have to continue to burden our IT departments with complex integrations and their ongoing management.” - Kara Monroe, Ivy Tech Community College SystemIn the first two cases, a strong integration “ecosystem” must be in place to insure that the customerand/ or the partner is successful in their development and implementation. In all cases, a healthyecosystem cultivates engaged development partners – which in turn creates a number of high quality,leading edge alternatives for end users. “We expect that the API’s exist and are well documented. And we expect the vendor to partner with our LMS provider, bring them into whatever developer network they have. Wimba had a Vista Powerlink and Moodle API. That gave them a huge leg up in the RFP process. - Cory Stokes, University of UtahA strong integration ecosystem consists of: • A full set of useful, well defined APIs – that do not change over time and remain backwards compatible. • Committed developer support – including quality documentation, phone support (multi-lingual as needed), access to test systems, and strong communication (on new software versions, collecting input on API enhancements, etc). • A formal partner program – to assist developers with testing and certification, and to help publish, promote, and co-sell the resulting integrations. • Vendor-provided consulting services – to assist with end user implementation and adoption to ensure success. • A community of like-minded professionals or cohorts – who can offer integrated learning / collaboration systems advice and best practices. While vendors can be expected to do their part, the ability for those who roll up their sleeves to deploy and monitor integrated solutions to share lessons learned can be invaluable at improving performance and reliability.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 13
  16. 16. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning Blackboard’s Approach to Integration Blackboard – sponsor of this paper – and both of the companies it acquired to create Blackboard Collaborate (Elluminate and Wimba) have separately and together worked to make integration opportunities as seamless as possible for many years. This started with Blackboard’s Building Blocks program but also, on the part of Wimba and Elluminate, with creating the APIs and programs for integration of their own tools with the broader marketplace. This has resulted in what may be the deepest possible integration between two platforms, Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate, and the broadest set of third-party LMS integrations between Blackboard Collaborate and other LMS platforms. What this means in practice is that Blackboard is supporting not just Blackboard, but the entire ecosystem of third-party and open source LMS platforms. And it results in the following: • Deep integration between Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate – Naturally, because they are under the same umbrella, Blackboard Learn and Collaborate together total a whole greater than the parts – when it comes to integration. In-session, scheduling, and interface / configuration features drill down to a rich set of live engagement and on demand (e.g., voice authoring) capabilities accessible from within Blackboard Learn. • Similar deep integration between Blackboard Collaborate and open source LMS platforms like Moodle and Sakai – Many (but not all) of the Blackboard Collaborate capabilities available to Learn users are available to Moodle and Sakai users. One reason is that they are open source, and it is relatively simpler to accomplish new capabilities on the part of Blackboard (any vendor can do this; pay attention to how much they take advantage of open source). Some limitations do exist, however, which may simply be the result of technology differences or timing: because Collaborate is the new integrated synchronous platform for Blackboard, available only since summer 2011, it may take time for some capabilities to be added. Email notifications and scheduling integration features may be most robust in Learn, and less so in Moodle and Sakai. Or the ability to set permissions in-session may be available from within Sakai but not from within Moodle. These typically are minor missing parts: all Collaborate real-time, in-session virtual classroom capabilities are available to be fully integrated with Moodle and Sakai. • Highly functional, partner-supported integrations between Blackboard Collaborate and well known third- party LMS platforms – LMS makers Desire2Learn, Epsilen, BrainHoney, and itslearning, as examples have their own integrations with Blackboard Collaborate, the depth of which may be based on how those vendors chose to create their APIs or work with Collaborate’s APIs. The integration code resides in their LMS environment but it is built according to Blackboard’s specifications and standards. The partner typically sells that capability and is responsible for forming and maintaining the necessary software code. As with the open source platforms, all of these platforms integrate fully with Collaborate’s real-time tools on an in-session basis. And as with open source platforms, all of these vendors have various degrees of scheduling and role configuration abilities, making it easy to schedule and start sessions, or (as an example) create an assignment within the LMS or take attendance. This results in a richer set of functionality in these partner supported versions than in the next category, the “OEM’d” integrations. • The OEM’d class of integrations of Collaborate available from Pearson’s Learning Studio Class Live, Class Live Pro, and both Fronter Lite and Fronter Full – These differ from partner- or Blackboard- supported integrations in that the LMS maker Pearson builds a simple, standard offering in their LMS’s inCopyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 14
  17. 17. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended Learning which a very limited number of in-session features are available, such as text chat or polling. Many other capabilities, such as telephony, whiteboarding, and application sharing may or may not be available from within their LMS, should a Collaborate user organization wish to integrate. Features like scheduling or the ability to work with multiple recordings in a robust fashion are missing. More to the point: often only one virtual classroom is available per course instance, as an example. Thus one of the key benefits of Collaborate – breakout rooms and multiple classroom instances – may not be available in this type of integration. Three major points are worth making here regarding integration: 1) The deeper partner-supported integrations of Desire2Learn, Epsilen, BrainHoney, and itslearning offer more functionality than do the pure OEM, “limited” integrations. 2) The Blackboard Collaborate-driven integrations with Moodle, Sakai, and Blackboard Learn offer the richest set of opportunities for full or (in the case of the open source products) almost full integration. Finally, 3) WR recommends that organizations wishing to integrate their Blackboard or third-party LMS with Blackboard Collaborate spend time investigating the specifics of the integration capabilities that will be available to them. Much of the work has been done by Blackboard and other vendors but, as they say, the devil is in the details. Where an institution sits in the process of deploying either its real-time, live engagement and on demand tools like voice authoring capabilities and its LMS solutions will determine how it should proceed in attempting an integration.ConclusionIntegrating your LMS with your web conferencing and other live learning tools is not a simple process,but it is much easier than ever before based on the work done by the vendor community. Our hope isthat this white paper has shown why colleges and universities and schools can benefit from integrations,how the process takes place, and what to seek in an integration ecosystem. The benefits range from thesimple to the sublime. “One of the great things about this tool, it keeps giving back. Many of our reference desks use the (Blackboard Collaborate IM) tool to provide instant feedback to students.” - Kara Monroe, Ivy Tech Community College SystemAnd once an organization has experienced the benefits, there is no going back. “We never considered not going integrated. The idea that others are not integrated is an anomaly to me.” - Kara Monroe, Ivy Tech Community College SystemTwo or more platforms plus seamless access result in greater efficiencies. This will impact allstakeholders involved in the business and pleasure of education: instructors, learners, and theinstitutions in which they are a part.Copyright © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 15
  18. 18. Integration: The “Behind the Scenes” Key Enabler of Blended LearningAbout the AuthorsAlan D. Greenberg is Senior Analyst & Partner at Wainhouse Research. He is distance education ande-Learning practice manager at Wainhouse Research, and co-lead analyst on WR’s WebMetrics webconferencing survey program. He has conducted research into dozens of distance learning networks ande-learning users, authored the three-volume segment report The Distance Education and e-LearningLandscape, as well as numerous white papers and reports on lecture capture, web conferencing,videoconferencing, virtual worlds, and interactive whiteboards as applied for education and e-Learning.He also has consulted to many states, universities, and regional educational consortia on distanceeducation strategies, and received the 2010 Outstanding Leadership by an Individual in the Field ofDistance Learning award from the U.S. Distance Learning Association. Alan holds an M.A. from theUniversity of Texas at Austin and a B.A. from Hampshire College. He can be reached H. Nilssen is a Senior Analyst & Partner at Wainhouse Research, where he is a consultant torich media conferencing vendors, network infrastructure vendors, end users, government agencies, endusers, and venture capitalists. Andy is a co-author of WRs annual three volume series Rich MediaConferencing, the firm’s thorough analysis of the conferencing industry and leads the WR webconferencing and IM & Presence practice. Earlier in his career, Andy managed the planning andlaunching of PictureTels Venue and Concorde group videoconferencing systems. Andy has 25 years ofexperience in high-technology product marketing and market research, earned his MBA and BSEEdegrees from the University of New Hampshire, and holds two ease-of-use related patents. Andy can bereached at andyn@wainhouse.comAbout Wainhouse ResearchWainhouse Research,, is an independent market research firm that focuses oncritical issues in the Unified Communications and rich media conferencing fields, including applicationslike distance education and e-Learning. The company conducts multi-client and custom research studies,consults with end users on key implementation issues, publishes white papers and market statistics, anddelivers public and private seminars as well as speaker presentations at industry group meetings.Wainhouse Research publishes a variety of reports that cover all aspects of rich media conferencing, andthe free newsletter, The Wainhouse Research Bulletin.About Blackboard, Inc.Blackboard Inc. is a global leader in enterprise technology and innovative solutions that improve theexperience of millions of students and learners around the world every day. Blackboards solutions allowthousands of higher education, K-12, professional, corporate, and government organizations to extendteaching and learning online, facilitate campus commerce and security, and communicate moreeffectively with their communities. Founded in 1997, Blackboard is headquartered in Washington, D.C.,with offices in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.Built for education, Blackboard Collaborate delivers web conferencing, enterprise instant messaging, andvoice authoring capabilities that facilitate effective and efficient instruction, meetings, and help—anywhere,anytime. To learn more about how you can reach your academic, administrative, and financial goalsthrough more interactive and cost-effective collaboration, visit, contact us, or try our solution free for 30 days at © 2012 Wainhouse Research, LLC Page 16