Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

Talis Keystone

I was at the Talis Integration Day yesterday, at Talis‘ new offices (new to me, anyway!). We looked at the issue of integrating the LMS with other institutional systems, and of course at Talis Keystone, their module for facilitating this.

It seemed a very logical long-term path to take, the Babelfish route for the Hitchhikers amongst us. Currently most of us can make use of APIs to link to other systems (eg the student database, the university finance system), but this code then has to be completely rewritten when either system changes. In between the 2 APIs there are often also multiple in-house scripts, which are sometimes ill-documented and fail if their author leaves the institution. By using XML and Web Services, when there is a system change only the translator component of Keystone which handles the conversion to XML has to change. The rest of the system doesn’t need to be rewritten. This makes it much more sustainable and allows re-use of code in multiple places.  Its a much more elegant way of moving forward.

The Talis staff acknowledged that the system itself can only handle half the problem however: getting both partners to an integration exercise to agree to it and to how it would work is not easy. Talis will of course also help with this as part of their business consultancy, but just getting university silos to talk to each other to agree that some data sharing would be beneficial to both sides is not easy, as I know from experience. The fact that their system only provides the glue that binds the 2 systems rather than (necessarily) the end-user interface was also a difficult idea for some people used to working with the LMS itself,  to come to terms with.

The need for integration of business systems is however in my mind a no-brainer. A 21st century University cannot continue to exist as a series of silos that are just connected by a central-heating system. Students are demanding an integrated experience from Universities and don’t have the patience to cope with multiple ways of doing things. No single university business systems product combining LMS, finance, student records, etc is available (and I doubt one could be made to be successfull in all areas) so the best alternative is to integrate them via software, and Talis is unusual in its maket sector for providing a product which does that.

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October 21, 2009 - Posted by | Libraries | ,

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