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The Power of Purpose-Built Solutions and Integrations to Extend Your SIS

As colleges and universities continue to evolve and become more complex, the once catch-all Student Information System (SIS) can no longer keep up with the needs of today’s modern institution. Rather than opting to implement a new SIS through a costly and lengthy process, many institutions are turning to purpose-built solutions that integrate and extend the functionality of their SIS. However, higher ed leaders need to carefully evaluate any prospective integration to ensure it will deliver on the institution’s needs and not strain their IT team.

Our guide to evaluating an integration with your SIS walks leaders through the essential questions to ask when assessing a purpose-built solution. Download the guide for a step-by-step analysis to ensure end users and IT teams will be served by a new integration.

Key Learnings

  • Questions to evaluate if a vendor understands your SIS and functional requirements
  • How to evaluate if a vendor uses modern architecture and industry best practices
  • Considerations for the implementation process and vendor support

The Technical Guide to Evaluating an Integration with Your SIS

The Student Information System (SIS) is on the decline—once thought to be the answer to all of highered’s needs, institutions are beginning to realize that the SIS cannot keep up with their growing needs. Rather than conducting an expensive, time consuming rip and replace migration or asking your IT staff to develop a resource-intensive workaround, vendors promise to fill in the functional gaps of the SIS with specialized integrations. Given that, institutions are opting for purpose-built solutions to support the evolving needs on campus.

An effective integration with your SIS should enhance your institution’s capabilities and extend the life of your SIS. However, after implementation many institutions find that they still need to go into the SIS more frequently than promised to re-enter data or complete various tasks. Administrators can’t complete the tasks they were promised they’d be able to and an already strained IT team is asked to come in and provide a solution.

“For us, pricing of the implementation is mostly the cost in terms of the cost on our own staff. We have to look at the cost, but also our staff’s availability. This is very important because when we present to the IT team, there is the vendor price, but there is also the price that they have to pay.” - CIO, Private University

To avoid frustrating staff and further straining IT resources, institutions should thoroughly evaluate potential vendor partners to ensure they can meet your integration needs and dramatically reduce administrative staff time in the SIS. This includes examining the integration process and the wide array of integration pathways across vendors. IT leaders and staff should walk through the following questions to evaluate if a vendor will meet the institution’s needs. Start with the basics such as:

Does the vendor leverage a modern technology stack?

Coursedog delivers a flexible and intuitive experience on top of modern technology. We invest heavily in product R&D to continually improve and grow with you. No need to interact with dated technology such as SOAP or SFTP.

Is the solution secure?

Our cloud hosted solution follows industry best practices around the transfer, storage, and monitoring of data. See our security overview for more information.

How is the user authentication handled?

Coursedog supports federated authentication (SSO) through the SAML 2.0 or CAS protocols.

Coursedog allows granular user and role based permission. Our documentation for the Curriculum (User, Roles) and Catalog (User, Roles) products provide more detail.

Data Mapping

Data is the cornerstone of any successful integration. Every integration requires data to be synced between platforms. To ensure you’ll be able to successfully sync data, the first step of any evaluation should examine if the vendor understands your SIS and meets your functional requirements.

Will the vendor review how your data is handled in the SIS to make sure it meets your functional requirements? Does the vendor understand your system’s schema?

Centralize your scheduling and curricular data with Coursedog. We have experts on staff that understand your SIS. Our integration specifications (see Peoplesoft example) detail the extensive coverage of the tables we interact with. Attributes and records outside the scope of the integration may be appended to the data in Coursedog through manual and batch loading mechanisms.

Will the vendor identify and ingest any required data stored outside of the SIS? If so, how is Source of Truth (SOT) managed?

Coursedog allows you to define the SOT at a granular level. For example, if you manage rooms in the SIS, but room features are in a spreadsheet. Coursedog allows you to set the SOT as “SIS”, and the features as “Coursedog’’. We even go one step further by ensuring the end user forms reflect what is, and isn’t editable.

How does the vendor handle quality and clean-up?

Coursedog data engineers will:

  • Help apply filters in Coursedog to avoid a costly clean-up in your SIS
  • Provide recommendations for clean-up in the SIS (if applicable)

How are data mappings handled? Are custom tables required?

It is common for vendors to require custom tables and mappings in the SIS that results in extra work and maintenance. Coursedog allows you to map and manage all data mappings and cross walks within our integration toolset.

Integration Architecture

For a successful integration, institutions must consider how the data is synced between their SIS and the purpose-built system. It’s also important to ensure that vendors use modern architecture that follow SIS best practices and avoid technical debt. The questions below will help guide you through that process.

What is the sync cadence?

Coursedog ensures the data is kept up to date between the systems in real time. No waiting for the nightly sync to refresh data.

Does the integration follow industry best practices and is it secure?

Coursedog partners with each SIS vendor to ensure we provide compliant integrations. No need to install and maintain multiple gateways.

  • Native APIs where available (Ellucian Ethos, Anthology Student, Workday)
  • Oracle PeopleSoft Campus Solutions OVI (Integration Broker + Application Designer)
  • Ellucian Banner compliant (component interface, SQL)

Do they support non Standard/homegrown SIS?

Coursedog provides an IntegrationToolkit as a means to integrate with any system.

Does the vendor provide APIs to interact with the system?

Coursedog includes access to APIs as part of the standard license.

Deploy and Maintenance

IT time is precious and integrations can require involvement from already resource-constrained teams. Given that, institutions need to consider how the vendor will guide you through the deployment process and to what extent your IT team will need to be involved. We recommend evaluating the implementation methodology, integration toolset, and support framework with the following questions.

What does the implementation process entail? Does it follow best practices? What resources are provided?

We’ve built a thoughtful, hands-on implementation process to help your institution get the most out of our solutions. Your dedicated Project Manager (PM) will drive the project and provide consultation. The Data Engineer (DE) will ensure all data is brought into the Coursedog application. Coursedog ensures precious IT time isn’t wasted with a guided hands installation. The Coursedog project team will provide testing support and training to ensure a successful launch.

Does the vendor provide multiple environments that can be used for testing, training and system upgrades?

Coursedog provides a dedicated production and staging account. All initial integration and configuration will take place within the staging environment to be thoroughly tested before being pushed to production. There is no additional cost for maintaining the staging environment throughout the duration of the partnership.

Does the vendor provide a self service toolset for admins?

Managing integrations with Coursedog is easy with our self service tools:

Integration Settings:

  • Settings (cadence, SOT, etc.)• Data filters - view and manage filters
  • Data mappings/crosswalks
  • Single Sign On (SSO) - e.g. update certs without entering a ticket

Troubleshooting:

  • Logging - Detailed reports are surfaced from the SIS that are filterable, and searchable
  • Push notifications to stay in the loop (nightly, or upon error)
  • User activity logging• Ad hoc data sync - Execute a one off merge (helpful with data updates, outages, troubleshooting, etc.)

How does the vendor support the integration?

Coursedog understands that time is of the essence with any support issue. We provide you with an array of resources to ensure your needs are met.

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