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School Interoperability Framework (SIF)

Exchanging and synchronizing data

The School Interoperability Framework (SIF) is an industry initiative to develop a scalable solution for data exchange, synchronizing data entered in one system with the data in other systems within the SIF framework. A SIF implementation is a distributed networking system that consists of a Zone Integration Server (ZIS) and one or more SIF integration agents that communicate with the ZIS, all organized into a zone. The size of the zone is flexible and could consist of a single building, a school, a small group of schools, or a district.

The ZIS is responsible for all access control and routing within the system. It provides integration services to all the agents registered with it so that the agents can subscribe to data changes that occur within the zone or publish data changes out into the zone. For example, if a user’s phone number is changed on one of the agent systems, the agent can publish this change to the ZIS, and any other agents that have subscribed to user information data changes will then receive the new phone number from the ZIS.

In SIF, an agent never talks to another agent directly. Instead, an agent communicates with the ZIS which manages the connection to the other agent. By having the ZIS manage the routing responsibilities, complex communications can occur between agents that have no direct information about each other. The ZIS acts as the trusted intermediary that brokers the data exchange.

The Blackboard SIF Agent

The Backboard SIF Agent registers with a ZIS and indicates the data Blackboard Learn can receive. ZIS tracks the data that the Blackboard SIF Agent can receive and forwards a message to the Blackboard SIF Agent if another agent has posted an applicable data change to the ZIS.

The Blackboard SIF Agent conforms to SIF standards for receiving updates to user information data from the ZIS. It subscribes to data changes but does not publish data changes. SIF communication is automated. Once the Blackboard SIF Agent is configured, it automatically updates information when notification of a data change is received from the ZIS. The frequency of updates is configurable.

Some important points about the Blackboard SIF Agent:

  • The SIF Agent will not transmit information to the ZIS server, it will only receive information.
  • The SIF Agent will add, modify, or delete user records. It will not make changes to other data.
  • The SIF Agent is configured to listen for data from the ZIS at intervals using the Pull protocol.
  • The ZIS server owns the data sent according to the Blackboard Learn database. Ensure that this does not conflict with established integration solutions using Snapshot or the Blackboard integration APIs.