Interoperability: Providing flexible student support in a multi-LMS world


As any student-success team can tell you, migrating from one learning management system to another can be a real pain.  It’s expensive, time-consuming, and almost impossible to accomplish without involving everyone from IT, to instructional design, to individual faculty members.  Worse still, between rebuilding your course templates, training instructors and staff on updated workflows, and orienting students to a new online experience, third-party integrations often fall through the cracks, depriving students of the critical learning tools they need to be successful in their toughest courses.

According to a recent survey by Edutechnica, this is a growing problem.  The number of colleges and universities running multiple LMS platforms has more than doubled since 2014, with most schools doing so because of an ongoing migration project.  And while many institutions appear to be doing a better job with their migrations – setting up their new LMS platforms and retiring the old ones at a quicker pace – tens of thousands of learners remain stuck in legacy systems during the transition period, where they often don’t have access to third-party support services and course content.  These trends are likely to continue in the coming years, as more schools phase out their Pearson, ANGEL, and WebCT systems to transition to newer LMS solutions.

Fortunately, the burgeoning interoperability movement, led by organizations like the IMS Global Learning Consortium, is making it easier than ever to connect students with leading EdTech tools from any platform – or even multiple platforms, as the case may be – without using up your limited IT resources.

At, for example, we like to integrate our service using IMS Global’s Learning Tools Interoperability standard, or LTI.  LTI capability is included with virtually any LMS, including Blackboard Learn, Canvas, Brightspace, Moodle, Sakai, and many more, so it’s easy for administrators to create secure single sign-on links to from any course page, using their LMS’s built-in configuration tools.  There’s no code to write, no files to upload, and no “vendor lock-in” – just a quick, easy, and standardized setup process you can repeat across multiple LMS instances to connect students with an expert tutor, no matter where they sign in to access their courses.  Faculty members can even follow the same links to receive on-demand usage reports, or subscribe to real-time Early Alert notifications to help them stay on top of students who may need extra support from an instructor.

Does your school have an interoperability strategy?  Are you dealing with a tricky LMS migration?  Are you using IMS Global standards, or those of similar organizations like Shibboleth, to give students access to your full student-support ecosystem?  Please share your experiences in the comment section below – we’d love to hear how you’re approaching this problem!



One Response to Interoperability: Providing flexible student support in a multi-LMS world

  1. Newport October 29, 2016 at 6:54 PM #

    I wasn’t sure what LMS meant until you cited the example of blackboard learn. I remember being in school and black board was just being implemented and students were adjusting to online education. It’s interesting to see how far it’s come.

    Great read, and keep up the good work.

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