Skip to main content
pdf?stylesheet=default
Blackboard Help

SIS Framework Overview

Existing investments in SIS integration processes may exist on your campus. You may continue to use those existing integration processes as you have in the past while assessing adoption of the SIS Integration Framework integration types.It is important however to understand that as Learn evolves, legacy integration processes will not likely keep pace with newer objects introduced in support of new Learn features and capabilities.


About SIS integration and the Learn SIS Integration Framework

Student Information System (SIS) integration helps administrators integrate course, user, and enrollment data with Blackboard Learn. Data may come from various sources and in varying formats. SIS integration provides an easy way to upgrade to Blackboard Learn from another Learning Management System (LMS), such as CE or Vista by supporting the same data feed format generated by those systems for exchanging data. SIS integration also allows system updates to be delegated to other Blackboard administrators, allowing flexibility to be built into the system.

The SIS Integration Framework is a Building Block-extensible framework that provides common functionality to all integrations while facilitating integration creation, configuration, and management within the Blackboard Learn Administrator Panel user interface. The principle is based on a separation of functionality. The SIS Framework provides the UI-based create, configure, and operation/maintenance capabilities as well as the Integration Types (based on Building Blocks) to provide the logic specific to each SIS integration type. This enables the SIS Framework to support a mix-and-match approach to integration while also enabling multiple instances of an integration type. This provides a great deal of flexibility in building out SIS integration solutions as it provides the ability to address integration needs from the simplest to the most complex.

More about SIS Integration Types

An additional capability available to all integration types is on-the-fly data mapping. This enables custom mapping of incoming data objects to Blackboard Learn data objects. This mapping ability allows you to apply javascript based custom scripts to incoming data. In the case of the Snapshot Flat File integration type, you can apply custom header mappings to match existing data formats to Blackboard formats. You may read more about Custom Mapping as it pertains to each integration type in the examples section for each integration type.


Planning

There are key advantages to using Student Information System (SIS) integrations to pass data to Blackboard Learn to automatically populate and update your system. The first is that managing course and user data can be delegated to one or more administrators who do not need command line access to Blackboard servers. Another advantage is that data can be transferred quickly and efficiently from your Information System to Learn.

It is critical to involve all stakeholders in the integration planning process - leveraging input from your SIS and Registrar, as well as Learn admin teams will ensure a successful integration.

A successful integration requires knowledge of SIS configuration options, the selection of the Learn Integration type that meets your requirements, and an understanding of the data requirements for the integration type. In the cases of the Snapshot and Enterprise 1.1 integration types an understanding of server side scripting to facilitate data transfer to the integration endpoints is also necessary.

More about planning SIS Integrations


Mentoring services

A services engagement with Blackboard Consulting can help plan, scale, and upgrade your integrations. Blackboard Consulting offers a comprehensive Integration program that fits your needs.

SIS Integration Framework mentoring

The objective of the SIS Integration Framework Mentoring service is to assist clients with the implementation of Blackboard Learn SIS Integration Framework. This fully remote service will provide your district with a consultant for guidance on basic data elements, configuration, data cleanup, scripting techniques and troubleshooting.

Project activities

  • A remote consultant assigned to your institution for the duration of the project
  • Identification of basic data elements, behaviors and business rules to automate processes for user account and course creation, user enrollment and faculty/staff assignment to courses.
  • Document decisions regarding key data elements in a data planning workbook for later client use.
  • Provide guidance in regard to the configuration of the SIS Integration Framework to 
meet documented data requirements.
  • Assist in data cleanup of existing user accounts in the Blackboard Learn environment to ensure compatibility with an automated and integrated environment.
  • Provide an overview of basic scripting techniques to be used for data transformation 
within the SIS Integration Framework tool.
  • Review troubleshooting techniques for data and integration issues.
  • Review data lifecycle management and overview of best practices for archiving and purging Blackboard data.
  • Initial configuration of the SIS Integration framework 
Program Artifacts:
    • Business process requirements documentation (Data Planning Workbook)
    • Integration configuration documentation (Operations Workbook)
    • Blackboard Learn Core Product reference materials and documentation

Take the next step!

Contact your Blackboard Sales Representative to schedule a time to discuss your recommended options and next steps. Focus on engaging and assessing learners—not on navigating a complex data integration. Let Blackboard Consulting help.

The Consulting Services SIS Integration Framework Mentoring service will provide the support you need to automate the transfer of user, course, and enrollment information from a source system (such as SIS, LMS, HR, ERP or other system of record) to Blackboard Learn. Consulting will work with you to identify key data elements, behaviors and business rules.


How the SIS Integration Framework works

Beyond configuration options and integration data types (covered in separate integration type-specific sections) the SIS Integration Framework operates on four key concepts:

  1. Data Format
  2. Data Transfer
  3. Data Ownership
  4. Data Processing

In brief, each integration type and configured instance thereof receives data properly formatted per the requirements for the integration(1) for transfer into Learn via a set of integration specific services(2) utilizing a unique identifier per configured integration instance that controls ownership of the data(3) for processing by the Learn SIS Framework(4).

Each of these present important concepts in understanding how the SIS Integration Framework functions, how to best determine your integration configuration, and how to best build out your integration infrastructure in support of the SIS Integration Framework.

Data format

Each data integration type supports a data format that is specific to that integration type. Thus the data for Enterprise 1.1 is different than Enterprise 1.1 Vista, which is different than Snapshot Flat File and LIS. Awareness of these data formats informs not only the object types supported by the associated integration, but also the Custom Mapping syntax for the integration type.

In-depth coverage of integration data formats is covered in the topics for each specific integration type.

Data transfer

Each data integration type supports transfer of data via HTTP-based service endpoints that are specific in format and method to the integration type. In all cases it is considered best practices to pass data over an HTTPS connection.

Details about each integration type’s data transfer model and Learn endpoints are in the topics specific to that integration type.

All integration types can receive data over the wire by directing data to the integration URL. This is useful in the context of Enterprise 1.1 and Snapshot types, as they are now capable of wire data transfer and file based data posting.

Data ownership

The SIS Integration Framework supports the ability to manage data using more than one integration type. Each deployed integration configuration manages the data specific to that particular integration and no other. While Data Source keys may be utilized to group data for management via the user interface and supporting tools, Data Source Keys are not used by the SIS Integration Framework to limit changes on the associated data. Thus Learn objects are owned by the integration that ‘created’ them and not the associated Data Source Keys. This means that an integration may act on all data points it owns irrespective of the associated Data Source Keys.

More about Data Source Keys

Individual instances of the same integration type are uniquely identified by a system generated UID which is displayed on the integration’s configuration page and may, in the case of LIS, be used in configuration of the SIS or, in the case of Enterprise or Snapshot integration types, client provided services which convey the integration data to the endpoint. To learn more about configuring LIS or client service, see the configuration and automation topics for each integration type.

Data processing

Regardless of the Integration type or data format all processing takes place in the same manner:

  1. The SIS Integration framework receives a request on an endpoint specific to an integration type
  2. Based on the incoming UID the integration type’s configuration is loaded
  3. On successful preprocessing of the data for validation the task is brokered by ActiveMQ to be run on a target Learn application server
  4. The data is processed against the configuration settings, and custom headers and custom mapping if utilized by the integration
  5. All object processing operations are logged per object, written to a log file and also stored in the Learn database for retrieval by the UI log viewer.

The SIS Integration Framework does not process data in parallel - this would introduce a high risk of data race conditions - rather data is processed in a first in, first out manner ensuring that data is processed in the sequence required. Thus you should always wait for a data set to finish processing prior to sending the next data set.


Integration types, object support, and requirements

The Learn SIS Framework supports five integration types in a default installation comprised of Standards and Blackboard designed integration types. Additional custom types may be developed and added via the Building Block Manager. This capability of extending the supported types with additional types greatly extends the value of the SIS Framework in the enterprise, while also enabling us to update the Building Block based out-of-the-box integration types off-cycle if necessary.

Each Learn provided integration type has Learn object support and Information System requirements specific to the integration type. The following is a high level description of the integration types, the objects they support, and the Information System requirements for supporting the integration.

Note the integration types support Learn objects as specified by the integration type – there is not 100% overlap in object support across all integration types – this is one key consideration for selecting your integration type. Another key consideration is the ability of the Information System to support the integration type and data format. To learn more about an integration type, the data format, and means of data transport see the individual integration type sections.

As Learn advances in support of integrating the Information system focus of effort will be placed on LIS 2.0 and Snapshot Flat File integration types – these should be considered as priority targets for integration. The remaining three integration types are provided in support of clients who have existing integrations utilizing these integrations who are interested in utilizing the SIS Framework. Note the integration types, Enterprise 1.1, Enterprise 1.1 Vista, and Snapshot XML will not see further development in support of new Learn objects.

Enterprise 1.1 and Enterprise 1.1 Vista

Enterprise 1.1: Enterprise 1.1 was introduced in 2002 and was intended to supersede Enterprise 1.0 (1999). It provided an XML based data description to convey Person, Group, and Group membership information. Intended for the exchange of data within and between institutional Enterprise systems major vendors adopted the standard for integration purposes– WebCT and Learn both adopted the standard.

Often Enterprise 1.1 is referred to in the context of ‘event driven’ integrations though it also was used to generate flat data files. The two ‘versions’ of Enterprise 1.1 that Learn supports are the original Vista version and an Ellucian Banner version that contains extensions to the specification for Banner clients. These are Enterprise 1.1 Vista and Enterprise 1.1 integration types in the SIS Framework.

Supported objects

Is designed for institutions that:

  • Provide an Overview of Business Process
  • Provide Configuration Guidance of the SIS Integration Framework
  • Provide Basic Scripting Techniques Review
  • Provide Troubleshooting Techniques for Data and Integration Issues
  • Document Key Data Element Decisions
Supported Objects - Enterprise 1.1
Object Description
Courses Data for creating and managing courses
Users Data for creating and managing system users (Students, Faculty, Staff, etc.)
Enrollments Data for creating and managing course memberships (enrollments)
Nodes Data for creating and managing hierarchy relationships
Terms Data for creating and managing
Cross-Listing Courses Data for merging child and parent courses.
Institution Roles Data for managing user role relationships.

Primary institution role (only) could be set on the User object in this integration using a custom field mapping. Integrations where institution role is fully supported support primary AND secondary institution roles.

Organizations Data for creating and managing Learn Organization sites.

Organizations can be created in this integration using a custom field mapping of Course objects. Integrations where organizations are fully supported can have separate feeds dedicated to organizations

Information systems

Peoplesoft versions:

Peoplesoft Campus Solutions 9, bundle 21 or earlier

Ellucian Banner versions:

Banner General

– 8.0 or higher for Intcomp 8.0.1

– 8.1 or higher for Intcomp 8.0.2

Banner Student

– 8.0 or higher for Intcomp 8.0.1

8.1 or higher for Intcomp 8.0.2

Banner Intcomp – 8.0.1 or higher

Banner Financial Aid – 8.x

Banner Integration for eLearning – 8.0

Ellucian Colleague

Requires tools for extract and conversion of data prior to sending to Learn

Before committing to support Enterprise 1.1 confirm support on later versions of third party systems.

See the Enterprise 1.1 Integration Type section for in-depth description of the integration type, noting that the data format is slightly different between the two supported flavors of Enterprise 1.1 (standard and Vista).

LIS 2.0

LIS 2.0: Learner Information Services 2.0 is to be considered the replacement for Enterprise 1.1 and comprises a solution based on lessons learned from the shortcomings of Enterprise 1.1. LIS 2.0 not only describes the data, but also describes the methods for transport and publishing/consuming that data. This enables a 1:1 mapping of the data in the originating LIS compliant system to the processes that enable consuming that data – this is good for plug and play integrations. LIS 2.0 is based on web services – compliant systems convey data based on known services and by simply providing the system endpoints two systems may exchange data.

LIS 2.0 is an ‘event driven’ model though flat files adhering to the LIS2.0 XML data description may be generated for manual upload.

Supported objects

Supported Objects - LIS 2.0
Object Description
Courses Data for creating and managing courses
Users Data for creating and managing system users (Students, Faculty, Staff, etc.)
Enrollments Data for creating and managing course memberships (enrollments)
Terms Data for creating and managing
Institution Roles Data for managing user role relationships.

Primary institution role (only) could be set on the User object in this integration using a custom field mapping. Integrations where institution role is fully supported support primary AND secondary institution roles.

Organizations Data for creating and managing Learn Organization sites.

Organizations can be created in this integration using a custom field mapping of Course objects. Integrations where organizations are fully supported can have separate feeds dedicated to organizations

Information systems

Peoplesoft versions:

Peoplesoft Campus Solutions 9, bundle 22 or later;

http://www.oracle.com/us/industries/education-and-research/056908.pdf

Ellucian Banner versions:

Banner General

– 8.1 or higher is required

Banner Student

– 8.1 or higher is required

Banner Intcomp

– 8.0.2 or higher is required

Banner Financial Aid

– 8.11

For Oracle Application Server

– 10.1.3

Ellucian Colleague

Requires ILP version 3.5

Before committing to support Enterprise 1.1 confirm support on later versions of third party systems.

More about LIS - IMS Learning Information Services

Snapshot Flat File

Learn also supports our Snapshot Flat File approach to data import. Snapshot was the first supported integration within Learn Enterprise and has a long history of success due to its simplicity of function. Originally snapshot supported both XML and CSV delimited files – one file created per data management task for Users, Courses, Enrollments, and Staff assignments. The SIS Framework supports consuming snapshot files using the Snapshot XML or Snapshot Flat File integration types. Note however that Snapshot Flat File is the only format that will receive updates for support of ‘new’ data objects moving forward – Snapshot XML is frozen in this regard and may not meet future integration requirements.

Supported objects

Supported Objects - Snapshot Flat File
Object Description
Courses Data for creating and managing courses
Users Data for creating and managing system users (Students, Faculty, Staff, etc.)
Enrollments Data for creating and managing course memberships (enrollments)
Nodes Data for creating and managing hierarchy relationships
Terms Data for creating and managing
Catalog Categories Data for creating and managing the Learn Course Catalog
Institution Roles Data for managing user role relationships.

Primary institution role (only) could be set on the User object in this integration using a custom field mapping. Integrations where institution role is fully supported support primary AND secondary institution roles.

Organizations Data for creating and managing Learn Organization sites.

Organizations can be created in this integration using a custom field mapping of Course objects. Integrations where organizations are fully supported can have separate feeds dedicated to organizations

Cross-listed Courses Data for merging child and parent courses.
Observers Data for creating and managing observers

Information systems

Peoplesoft versions:

Requires tools for extract and conversion of data prior to sending to Learn

Ellucian Banner versions:

Requires tools for extract and conversion of data prior to sending to Learn

Ellucian Colleague

Requires tools for extract and conversion of data prior to sending to Learn

Before committing to support Snapshot Flat File confirm support for extracting data on installed versions of third party systems.

More about Snapshot Flat File

Snapshot XML

Snapshot XML has close ties to the Enterprise 1.1 specification with Learn specific additions. Similar to Enterprise 1.1, Snapshot XML has increased flexibility in that the XML files can contain one data type, or combine multiple data types to be processed at once.

Another point worth reiterating – the Snapshot XML data format should not be the integration option of first choice as it is only receiving maintenance updates not new object support or feature development. It should be expected that at some time in the future an announcement will be made for support removal with the provision of ample time for client adjustment.

Supported objects

Supported Objects - Snapshot XML
Object Description
Courses Data for creating and managing courses
Users Data for creating and managing system users (Students, Faculty, Staff, etc.)
Enrollments Data for creating and managing course memberships (enrollments)
Catalog Categories Data for creating and managing the Learn Course Catalog
Institution Roles Data for managing user role relationships.

Primary institution role (only) could be set on the User object in this integration using a custom field mapping. Integrations where institution role is fully supported support primary AND secondary institution roles.

Organizations Data for creating and managing Learn Organization sites.

Organizations can be created in this integration using a custom field mapping of Course objects. Integrations where organizations are fully supported can have separate feeds dedicated to organizations.

Observers Data for creating and managing observers

Information systems

Peoplesoft versions:

Requires tools for extract and conversion of data prior to sending to Learn

Ellucian Banner versions:

Requires tools for extract and conversion of data prior to sending to Learn

Ellucian Colleague

Requires tools for extract and conversion of data prior to sending to Learn

Before committing to support Snapshot XML confirm support for extracting data on installed versions of third party systems.

More about Snapshot XML

Custom integrations

Since the SIS Integration Framework is Building Block-extensible, you can use the SIS Framework APIs to build custom integration types which suit your specific business needs. This is applicable if your Information system does not support one of the Learn provided integration types or you have specific integration needs outside the scope of the Learn delivered integration types. In these cases you may build your own integration Building Block and have control over the Learn objects your integration supports and the integration logic specific to your information system.


General support and configuration

Blackboard Support Services provides support for the Learn-delivered Integration types. If you have questions or encounter issues with your configuration or integration processes, you can contact support by filing a support ticket on Behind the Blackboard.

You configure Learn to receive data for each of the integration types using the Learn Administrator SIS Integration configuration pages. To set up an integration, once you have determined which type is best suited to your business goals and Information capabilities, from the main SIS Configuration page you complete nine steps:

  1. Create your integration by selecting the integration type from the Create pulldown
  2. Configure your newly created integration
  3. Place the integration in test mode
  4. Make any custom mapping changes
  5. Test your integration (no changes are made to Learn data when an integration is in test mode)
  6. Confirm configuration by viewing the integration logs in the UI
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 until you are satisfied the integration will perform as expected
  8. On completion of successful testing place the integration in active mode to begin
  9. Monitor you integration by observing the integration logs

To learn more, see the configuration topics for each integration type.


Integration logging

Logging for all integration types is available via the Logging UI for the SIS Integration framework. From the UI you have access to logs containing status of the configured integrations at the object and supported logging levels to keep you informed of the integration operations.

The logging page allows for sorting of log messages based on type and integration.

In addition to UI access, logs are also written to disk for archiving and long-term analysis and triage.

The timestamp displayed in the Last Log Entry (on the Logging page) and Last Event (on the Integrations page) represent events as logged based on selected logging levels.