IT systems K-12

8 truths about K-12 IT systems management

Unique complexities can be distilled down to eight truths, and may explain why vendors never seem to meet expectations in K-12 IT.

Truth #5: We Need a Flexible Data Model

There are solutions now out there that are affordable, and some that are free. But the truth is that some of those free or low-cost integrations are profoundly rigid and can’t accommodate the data reality of school districts. For example, grades are not a typical data element that is supported by most roster data models. As a result, teachers spend time entering grade data, and that rigid low-cost or free integration creates a burden. A flexible data model is the answer.

Truth #6: We Must Deal with “Dumb” End Points

In the world of district data, we are moving toward REST APIs and other unintelligent end points. There is no inherent logic in an API that tells the system how to move data. And as mentioned earlier, many legacy systems still depend on CSV’s for data. The broker must be smart enough to gracefully handle not-so-smart end points. We need to put the brains–the application intelligence–into the broker or cloud platform.

Truth #7: Integration Belongs in the Cloud but Must Accommodate On-Premise Apps

That’s a rather long headline but it represents a complex problem. We’ve now experienced enough pain with alternative approaches to know the cloud actually is an ideal setting for interoperability, especially since so many of our applications are cloud-based. It gives you maximum visibility, maximum diagnostic capability and manageability. You can manage from anywhere, anytime.

But there’s a catch.

The truth of districts is that there are and there will continue to be many on premise applications, some of them legacy applications. These, too, must be integrated and managed into the system. The system must blend heaven and earth, bridging the cloud as well as on-premise.

Truth #8: Be Multi-Tenant with Supervisory Capability

For areas where intermediate units or a Board of Cooperative Educational Standards (BOCES) provide IT services to districts, the system admins need a big picture approach. The integration platform must allow the IU or BOCES to troubleshoot, diagnose, manage, and support multiple districts in one dashboard, but only show district personnel data belonging to their organization. State education agencies also have this need.

Summing It Up

The successful platform–one that is truly useful to district admins–is a broker solution that gets various applications talking, no matter where the data comes from. It’s a cloud-based solution because that is the most flexible, but it accommodates legacy systems that might be on-premise. It must be standards agnostic, able to use the preferred data standard and integration method for each connected application.

What we’re defining begins to look like an iPaaS (integration platform as a service).

There are several reputable companies that provide an iPaaS–in fact Gartner compared 20 of them in their 2017 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service. However, without a deep understanding of education data models, even these vendors may fall short, and may be expensive.

The team at Kimono has been working on the problem of K-12 interoperability for more than 15 years and have developed an iPaaS with an education-friendly price. Built specifically for schools and districts, they accounted for these truths and made sure it supports a growing number of industry-standard data models and protocols, such as OneRoster, LIS, LTI, ILP, SIF, APIs, and CSV.

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