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What LMS Integration Strategy Will Set Me Apart in the 2023 K-12 Market?

What is LMS integration all about?

Edtech vendors are finding themselves faced with increasingly long lists of requirements, set in place by institutions, in order to be considered for adoption at the school, district, or state level. Institutions have been giving increasing power to IT administrators in selecting which applications and products they deem to be the most secure and easiest to set up, allowing them to veto products selected by instructors or other staff.

What do institution IT administrators look for in an edtech vendor or product? Primarily, the product needs to be able to integrate with the institution’s Learning Management System (LMS), as the LMS is where instructors are accustomed to posting their classwork and entering grades, as well as where students go to view learning materials and complete their assignments. To mitigate issues of edtech vendors needing to build different integrations for each LMS, 1EdTech™ (formerly IMS Global) developed the Learning Tools Interoperability® (LTI®) specification. 1EdTech publishes the LTI standard specifications to its website for public consumption by LMSs and edtech vendors alike, such that the developers of each know what to implement for their products to work together seamlessly. For many years, LTI version 1.1 was the gold standard specification that all of the LMSs had agreed to adopt so that every edtech application could follow the same specification and be interoperable with all of the LMSs. However, within the past few years, LTI 1.3 has become the new gold standard with heightened security and ease of maintenance compared to the previous version. 

What is the current state of the K-12 LMS market?

The LMS market in the K-12 industry consists primarily of Canvas™ (28%), Google Classroom® (24%), and Schoology™ (22%) (ListedTech). Canvas and Schoology have both long supported LTI 1.1, making the implementation of the LTI 1.1 specification an obvious choice for many years. Canvas was an early adopter of LTI 1.3, which has prompted many edtech vendors to upgrade, especially since Canvas also has a very high market share in the higher education space. However, many edtech vendors heavily entrenched in the K-12 market still did not see a strong enough reason to switch since Schoology did not support LTI 1.3 yet. Finally, within this past year, Schoology has completed their LTI 1.3 upgrade and certification process with 1EdTech.

Google Classroom is much newer on the scene, having been first released in 2014. Google Classroom was able to grab a sizable chunk of the K-12 market share during the pandemic as a consequence of the existing popularity of the Google brand, combined with the offering of a free tier that was simple enough for instructors to onboard themselves. However, Google Classroom has not adopted the LTI standard, meaning that all Google Classroom integrations must take place through a custom API implementation with all of the added maintenance troubles that come with it.
How should this inform your integration strategy?

If you’ve been holding out on upgrading to LTI 1.3, Schoology’s new support for the standard is a good reason to switch gears. Schoology’s adoption of the standard suggests that there may now be twice as many institutions in the K-12 market requiring that edtech vendors implement LTI 1.3 and obtain certification to ensure that their school is using only the most secure software. The security model for LTI 1.1 leaves open the opportunity for malicious actors to compromise both LMSs and third-party applications, which could ultimately leak student personally identifiable information (PII). Since LTI 1.3 resolved the security issues of the previous version, the call to adopt it and the requirement to adopt it will only grow.

That being said, the choice to hold off on a Google Classroom integration is a choice to neglect nearly a quarter of the K-12 market as potential customers. There have not been any indications that Google Classroom will become LTI-compliant any time soon, so implementing a custom API integration is the only option. However, when building this custom integration, strategies can be employed to minimize the maintenance overhead by maximizing the reuse of your existing LTI code and confining your Google Classroom integration logic by building an adapter between Google Classroom and your existing integration.

If you are looking for assistance honing your integration strategy to increase the adoption of your products, Unicon’s integration specialists can help you evaluate your current state, implement new integrations, and streamline upgrading existing integrations.

Mary Gwozdz

Mary Gwozdz

Senior Software Developer
Mary Gwozdz is a Senior Software Developer and Integration Specialist who has been with Unicon since 2017. While at Unicon, Ms. Gwozdz has impacted numerous learners by designing and developing software solutions for the California Community Colleges (CCC) Applications, Cisco Networking Academy, Lumen Learning, and others as well as assisting with SIS integrations to Instructure products such as Canvas. Ms. Gwozdz specializes in the LTI (Learning Tool Interoperability) specification from 1EdTech and is also knowledgeable in AWS architecture, Spring Boot REST web services, and other 1EdTech specifications such as Common Cartridge and OneRoster.