How to integrate VLEs/LMSs with other student-facing systems

Posted on Posted in Architecture, Moodle, OU VLE

This is a major issue for universities. Back-end integration work is carried out so that details of which courses students are signed up to and which lecturers/teachers/tutors are assigned to them are generally passed from the central systems to the VLE. There are other types of integration too such as passing assessment results from the VLE to student record systems. But none of this addresses how to integrate the many pieces of data coming from disparate systems from the students’ perspective. Unless they’re studying software engineering they should not have to have the slightest interest in where this data comes from – or even that there are separate systems behind it all.

Gerald Evans has been leading the project at the OU to integrate the online experience, and after a cross-faculty meeting yesterday we’re that bit closer to achieving integration between Moodle and Student Home, the home of administrative information such as assessment results.

Lee Johnson’s preliminary screen designs show what is being planned. The Student Home page has three columns, the first providing links to their eportfolio, forums etc, the second presenting news items from disparate sources including the course website, and the third showing the students’ qualifications and the courses on which they’re enrolled.

Integrated Online Experience Screen 1

Entering one of the course websites you can see how the major part of the screen is from Moodle while the right hand column has live data such as results, dates for assessments etc coming from other systems.

Integrated Online Experience Screen 2

While there was reasonable consensus yesterday that this is a good way forward, those present had a number of concerns:

  • How can the sub-brand of a particular faculty (in this case the Business School with a different colour scheme and different priorities for location of data) be preserved in an integrated online experience? This may be particularly problematic where students are taking courses from more than one faculty. Lots more discussion to be had on this matter.
  • Should areas of the screen be user-controllable eg can I hide my assessment results if they’re awful so I’m not continuously depressed by seeing them? No imminent plans for this but it is clearly desirable.
  • Can the new design accommodate subjects? There’s only a placeholder at the moment for subjects but this is intended in the future.
  • Can tutors have access to individual student websites as they appear to the student? Quite clearly it’s unsatisfactory for tutors to have a different view of the course website from a student they’re having to support – so this needs to be worked on.

The new information architecture is about to be tested with students and we’ll see if they like it. If so, the plan is to have the new design rolled out to the majority of courses in September.