Academic versus Administrative Computing: Bridging the Gap - "Recommendations" (Article #4)

Published on: October 10, 2017
Linda Feng, Software Architect

As we explored earlier in this article series, "Separate Evolution of Two Systems" and "The Impact of Data on Student Success," disconnects between the two sides of campus computing, academic and administrative, can impact efforts to monitor and improve student success.  And institutions today face mounting pressure to choose from a variety of solutions that help to mitigate or minimize this disconnect (see, "Possible Solutions"). Short of undertaking massive efforts to consolidate and centralize data systems for institutions, what is the best way to bridge the gap between existing systems in order to minimize negative impact? 

Here are a few strategies that can help institutions maximize resources while reducing the impact of the divide between academic and administrative systems:

Identify the highest impact areas where a consolidated view of student data would be valuable. Then ensure the systems that either collect or process that data can be integrated. For example, an integrated planning and advising system might be a way to use technology to enhance advising. Or bringing student demographic data together with LMS data might be a way to target resources or interventions to increase the chances of student success.
 
Insist on open and/or standards based APIs when working with data systems across campus. This way, even if data is not centralized in one place, at least there are standard ways to exchange data for the most common use cases. Most established vendors in the higher education market should support standards such as IMS LTI, LIS/OneRoster, and Caliper.
 
Consider using a cloud-based integration platform. These platforms can hide much of the pain of point-to-point integrations, and allow for increased productivity when it comes to onboarding apps that need similar data feeds. Most of them support ways to map and transform data from a variety of sources such as CSV files, XML, or JSON over REST.
 

 

There may never be a reason to integrate all systems on campus into a unified whole; however, institutions should strive to bridge the gap between their systems. Modern apps will work better when not restricted to a siloed view of student data. Institutions that focus on approaches to maintain a holistic picture of students on campus will benefit from increased student satisfaction and institutional efficiency.

Useful Reading:

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Linda Feng

Software Architect

Linda Feng is a software architect at Unicon, Inc., a leading provider of education technology consulting and digital services. Linda has deep experience in student information systems (SIS) integration, open standards, and big data/ learning analytics, most recently as Senior Product Manager for Canvas SIS Integrations and Canvas Data at Instructure. Prior to Instructure, Linda held the position of software architect for Oracle's Student Products Division. In the last several years, she served as co-chair of the IMS Global Learning Initiative Learning Information Services & Privacy Working Groups, helping to bring a new Enterprise interoperability standard to market.