Sakora ProjectOn today's campus, two main enterprise applications run the business of a college or university. The Student Information System (SIS) is the lifeblood for tracking courses, enrollment, and outcomes at an institution. The Learning Management System (LMS) has attained a high profile on campus as learning demands for the student population change and evolve. To continue to deliver solutions that meet the critical needs of higher education, Unicon and Oracle have partnered together to integrate these two applications to offer a complete solution to the marketplace that allows for integration of course, enrollment, and outcomes information to be exchanged between the Student Information System and the Learning Management System. With the Student Administration Integration Pack (SAIP) for PeopleSoft Campus Solutions, Oracle is exposing course and enrollment data via open standards that can be consumed by a Learning Management System. Through the Sakora project, Unicon is providing the functionality for Sakai to consume this data via the same open standards. This work is a large step forward in allowing institutions to have seamless integration between the two most vital applications on campus.
LMS - SIS Integration
One of the most critical and challenging aspects of deploying a Learning Management System (LMS) like Sakai is getting it properly integrated with other enterprise systems. The most important LMS enterprise integration is with the Student Information System (SIS) so that information about courses, students, faculty, enrollment, and outcomes can be exchanged automatically between the systems.
While most LMS and SIS platforms provide some API for this kind of integration, these are generally proprietary interfaces and are really just a starting point for a significant integration effort that involves a fair amount of custom development. Some of the best interfaces currently available use the IMS Enterprise Services v1 specification to attempt to bring standards to bear on this integration. However, Enterprise Services v1 is not expressive enough to encompass the entire integration and so proprietary extensions are inevitable - which erodes most of the value of using a standard in the first place.
In recognition of the limited scope of the Enterprise Services v1 specification, IMS has been drafting Learning Information Services (LIS) (originally known as Enterprise Services v2 early in the draft process), which is much more comprehensive.
Sakai Course Management
Sakai provides a flexible Course Management Service that allows for integration of enterprise SIS data. This service provides an internal API that the rest of Sakai uses for accessing Course Management data. This API can be implemented by an institution to support their specific integration needs.
While this is a great service for enterprise integration, it still requires the kind of custom development just described. There is a reference implementation of the Course Management API available that uses a local database, but using this implementation still means that the data must be populated and maintained with custom code.
IMS Learning Information Services
The Sakora project from Unicon provides a standard IMS Learning Information Service LMS implementation for Sakai that maintains all the data in the local reference implementation of the Course Management Service. When combined with an SIS that also supports the IMS Learning Information Services v2 standard, institutions will finally be able to achieve LMS - SIS integration without large custom development projects.
The Sakora Service in Sakai provides three different modes for maintaining the Course Management data:
- Full Snapshot (Batch) - Initiated from Sakai, the full snapshot mode brings over an entire snapshot of a given set of data, based on a term or other collection of courses. It is used to initialize a set of courses in the LMS once they have been established in the SIS.
- Incremental Snapshot (Batch) - Once the courses have been initialized, they need to be maintained to pick up changes that occur before or during the term. In incremental snapshot mode, Sakai applies all pending changes to the existing data. This incremental update can be run at whatever frequency makes sense for the institution.
- Event-Based (Streaming) - To provide the least propagation delay possible, the event-based mode allows the SIS to directly make web services calls into Sakai to update course data in near real time.
These are all standard modes specified in the IMS Learning Information Services standard and will be fully supported by any compliant SIS.
In addition to the above mechanisms for maintaining courses, groups, people, and enrollment in Sakai, Sakora also provides web services that allow the SIS to retrieve outcomes for any given course or section. These services are also fully specified in the IMS Learning Information Services standard.
- The Full and Increment Snapshot mechanisms are complete.
- The Event-based mechanism is complete.
- The Outcomes mechanism has not yet been implemented.
PeopleSoft Enterprise Campus Solutions Integration
Unicon is working in close partnership with Oracle to provide the first complete reference implementation of the IMS Learning Information Services specification. While Unicon is building the Sakora project to provide the Learning Information Services for Sakai, Oracle is building the Student Administration Integration Pack (SAIP) to provide all the Learning Information Services for the PeopleSoft Campus Solutions.
Both the Unicon Sakora project and the Oracle SAIP project are currently using a draft version of the IMS LIS specification. The specification should be finalized by early 2010. At that point, both projects will be updated to the final specification to ensure proper interoperability with other implementations of the standard.
Unicon and Oracle are doing comprehensive integration testing together during the development of these two projects. This will allow both efforts to deliver proven interoperability to the market and to users of Sakai and PeopleSoft Campus Solutions.