While most technology we use today is interoperable - you've probably heard the semi-dated expression "there's an app for that!" which reinforces that a single device like a smartphone can integrate with so many other tools to help us accomplish a wide variety of tasks - edtech is only just catching up. Educators are coming to realize that without learning tools interoperability, or LTI, they’re left at a disadvantage when supporting online learning programs that don’t allow for seamless data sharing across tools.
LTI allows learning applications to communicate certain information on behalf of staff members, saving valuable time and resources that can instead be spent on educational innovation. Implementing LTI standards is imperative for any educational organization that hopes to maximize efficiency while also seeing continued growth in student outcomes. If you're just getting started on implementation, follow these 5 steps to ensure a smooth transition.
1. Set Clear Interoperability Standards to Avoid Confusion
Instead of having a static definition, interoperability contains several sets of standards to choose from. This is why clear communication among everyone involved in implementation is critical. The first step is to define the interoperability standards your district or organization will abide by to avoid unnecessary miscommunication and frustration. The standards you choose depend on the needs of your school, so choose them wisely!
2. Be Prepared to Answer Questions About Privacy
Discussions about interoperability inevitably bring up concerns about data privacy. The worry is understandable. Although users retain ownership of their data, when a company allows affiliates to access that data the original owner is somewhat left out of the loop. The privacy debate is heated, but interoperability advocates claim the practice can actually improve data safety - so who’s right?
The answer is mixed. Companies enforcing interoperability standards generally have a clear picture of what data they collect. Within this context, interoperability allows tech vendors to be more transparent, giving their customers more awareness on what data is explicitly being collected and how it’s being used. This bodes well for privacy compliance. On the flip side, since interoperability allows several edtech programs to be used jointly, the amount of data collected can really add up. It then becomes much easier to move large amounts of data in bulk. While this takes a great deal of manual work out of the equation, automated movement of that much information may create opportunities for data breaches.
That said, administrators can breathe easier knowing that vendors who support interoperability are working to put more power into the hands of consumers. Allowing a consumer to more easily review and remove their information from these systems is an example of that.
3. Know What Interoperability Should Look Like
Consider how easily we switch from device to device throughout the day. We can easily check our email or Facebook messages on our phones. Once we’re sitting at our desktop, those messages and their read status are automatically synced. Much of our data is now cloud-based, with programs like Microsoft Office backing up documents effortlessly. 15 years ago, a crashed computer was terrifying! Now, the majority of our data is easily restored because it has already been backed up in multiple locations. It’s so simple that we hardly notice it, and that’s how interoperability should work.
Edtech solutions that integrate in a similarly effortless way will offer improved convenience for educators and help to drastically cut IT costs. For example, it's typically cheaper to buy virtual space vs. physical backup drives these days.
4. Motivate Your Team
One obstacle of adapting to new tech standards is getting everyone on board. While administrators and edtech companies already know the ins and outs of LTI, teachers, students, and parents most likely do not. Since interoperability affects all of these groups, consider them part of your educational team. Take the time to explain the unique role-specific benefits of interoperability to each player of that team and how their contributions impact its effectiveness on the larger group.
To convince reluctant team members, highlight real-world examples of the cost and time savings. To give you one of those examples, providing teachers with a single system to assign homework, review completed assessments and submit grades allows the admin side to consolidate the cost of several systems used as point solutions for those 3 different actions, and saves the teacher time from having to log in/out of those different systems to do what they need. In essence, give them an idea of why these adjustments are worth the hassle.
5. Choose the Right Edtech Solution
Edtech solutions can go either way with interoperability. Well-designed programs will make your life much easier, while poorly designed ones can easily become a headache. Before you choose a new learning program, ask the vendor what problems they solved by enforcing an interoperability standard. Their answer should reveal whether or not the company has implemented their interoperability standards effectively, and whether purchasing their product will help advance your own LTI practices.