Extending UofT’s Academic Toolbox Through Learning Portal Integrations
Portal Integrations extend the functionality of the Academic Toolbox (LMS) used at the University of Toronto. They add new tools and capabilities to the system. Integrations may allow access to vendor content, extend grading or assignment capabilities, or provide an alternative to existing services. New Integrations come out all the time and many faculty are interested in being able to use them within their courses. In order to use the extensions and alternate “apps” at UofT, they first need to go through an integration process. In this regard, “tools” could include anything from a wide range of applications, platforms, software, devices, etc.
Overview of the Integration Process
As exciting as it may be to use a new tool or access new content, it must be remembered that the Portal is an indispensable part of UofT’s learning environment. As such, it must remain secure and stable: a poorly designed or tested Integration could compromise the system and lead to security breaches, system slowdowns, or even complete service interruptions. In order to make sure that the Portal functions as well as possible and maintains student confidentiality and security, the Academic & Collaborative Technologies team has developed a process that allows for testing and verifying any Integration before it is allowed to be used within the Portal.
1. Initial Integration Request
In order to properly assess a third-party program, requestors need to provide some initial information. During this step, the requestor will provide a brief description of the integration, an overview of its academic value, and contact information for the vendor.
2. Product Review
a. Security Review
b. Functionality Review
Concurrent with the IRRM, the vendor will be asked to provide information that describes the functional structure of the integration. This includes areas such as compliance with AODA requirements, support structures, and other areas dealing with end-user functionality.
3. Contract Review
This step consists of a review of the contract conditions, Terms of Service (TOS), End-User Licensing Agreements (EULA), and other conditions that the vendor wishes either the University or the faculty and student end users to be bound by. ACT staff work closely with Procurement Services to carry out this step and will engage other relevant UofT offices, as needed.
Before the integration can be made available to the campus community, it will first be loaded on a test server. During this step, ACT staff will thoroughly test the integration to be sure that it functions as described and does not present any security or reliability concerns.
Assuming that test results and contract terms are acceptable, the integration will then be loaded onto the production server and made available for use.
6. Usage Monitoring
Once the integration is in place, staff will monitor its usage levels to determine that it remains a viable tool. If the integration is no longer needed or used, it may be removed.
Requests for integrations should be submitted by completing this form: http://integrate.act.utoronto.ca/submitidea/ with full contact information for both the vendor and proposed faculty users. Any indication that an educational review of the 3rd party extension has been performed and that the integration was found to have potential value to students within the department or college would further assist the proposal.
Requesters should note that an integration process can take several months or more to complete, depending on the level of cooperation and preparedness of the vendor in question; there have been several cases where security or technical flaws were discovered during the product review or testing phases, and the company needed extra time to fix their product before integration. As such, requests for integrations should be submitted at least six months (or two semesters) before their intended use, but even then, the ACT team cannot guarantee a successful outcome.