Set out expectations – overview of concepts. This isn’t a technical how-to guide – is too platform specific. Will be looking at the concepts and considerations for MIS Integration, and the experiences at City College
It’s very easy to start looking at what you can do, and exploring the technical options, but it’s best to start by finding out what your institution wants from the integration e.g. a simple way to upload a list of courses at the start of term, an advanced automatic system which takes MIS data via mappings to create courses, or something in-between.Talk to those who will use the system (lecturers, programme managers, Heads of School), those who own the data (admin, enrolments) and those who will make or maintain it (IT)
What data do we need – typically a feed file of users (staff, students, anyone else?), a list of the required courses, and information about who should have access to each course – student enrolments and who teachers on each course.Where does this data come from in your institution? It may mostly come from your MIS or Student Record System, but you may need feeds from other systems e.g. HR system
What are the institutional requirements for updates? Will you simply upload a list of courses at the start of term, or are students enrolling on courses very frequently and therefore requiring regular imports?
How will you be doing these updates? Manually uploading a CSV file, or automating it requiring no intervention?
We started with a system whereby every single course listed in our MIS created a matching Blackboard course. Every hour the system would look for changes in MIS data and import any changes. Then overnight all data was refreshed, to catch any other changes.
Here is a graphical representation of our MIS and VLE; the white circles on the left represent courses in the MIS. The arrows show the direct connection, producing one VLE course for every single MIS code. This was our original setup.
Although the automation of this was useful, it create a factor of about 10 times too many courses since the MIS data is designed around funding, whereas the VLE structure is around teaching materials.Also the naming of courses in the MIS wasn’t always clear; again it was for funding purposes, and not necessarily a clear name which made sense to staff and students.Many MIS codes didn’t actually require a matching Blackboard course i.e. the evening or part time course may be using the same teaching materials as the full time day course. There were even instances of MIS courses created to represent administrative time when collaborating with partner institutions; these were not ‘real’ courses
We developed a piece of middleware which sits between the MIS and VLE to do course mapping. It allows rules to be set showing which MIS codes need a VLE course, which need to be combined, and which do not any presence in Blackboard.
Let’s have a look at the Blackboard Course Creator (BCC) system
We’ve gone from a very heavily structured and prescribed system to a very open and flexible system. This solves some problems but introduces others. The system is flexible enough to cover every possible scenario, but is also flexible enough to set up ‘nonsense’ courses
The flexibility is excellent, and academic staff mostly find it very easy to use. However for larger complex courses someone needs to take charge of the course setup to avoid conflicting course structures between colleagues; students have asked for consistency in surveys. Engaging with Course Leaders or Programme Managers is essential, as is monitoring the system to look for ‘dead’ courses with no students, those with poor setups, or those created by staff who have now left.
Jisc RSC Eastern VLE Forum Nov 2013 'MIS Integration'
The first steps
• Don’t go anywhere near your MIS
system or VLE!
• What do you want from the
• Involve all relevant teams
• What type of data do we need?
• Where does the data come from?
Student record system
• How quickly do you need updates?
BCC - experiences
Solves problem of excess courses
Solves problem of difficult names
Lecturers can create any courses
Lecturers can create NO course
Lecturers can create poorly structured
or named courses
• System is flexible
• System is easy to use
• Needs coordination from course
• Needs monitoring from Bb team