Case Study: North Dakota University System

Enabling Moodle integration with PeopleSoft Campus Solutions for the North Dakota University System (NDUS)

LIS Gateway uses the LIS standard to enable direct integration between Campus Solutions and Moodle; handles 20,000 unique enrollments.

The North Dakota University System (NDUS) is made up of 11 campuses: two world-class research institutions, four regional universities and five community colleges. Together, they serve nearly 50,000 students.  Each campus offers different learning and living experiences, and all share a commitment to excellence and personal and professional growth. Thanks to investment in technology and the connectedness of the campuses, University System students have excellent access to instruction, no matter where they live.

NDUS has been using the PeopleSoft Campus Solutions student information system since the late 1990s, serving all 11 institutions from one single environment. However, each campus runs its own learning management system: four use Blackboard Learn, three use Pearson Learning Studio and four use Moodle from Remote Learner. All of these need to be populated from the Campus Solutions database.

NDUS have been using Oracle’s Student Administration Integration Pack (SAIP) which provides an open, standards-based integration from PeopleSoft Campus Solutions to popular learning management systems, including Blackboard Learn and Pearson Learning Studio. The SAIP interface is constructed on the IMS Learning Information Services standard specification (LIS v2.0). This specification provides standard information models and protocols representing person, courses, enrolments and outcomes and enables the exchange of data between systems.

However, NDUS also required a solution that would work in the same way for Moodle. Moodle presents unique challenges for integration because there are many different versions in use and it is written in PHP, making implementation of LIS difficult. Oracle recommended that NDUS make contact with Psydev Ltd., an Oracle Gold Partner that specialises in data interoperability standards for educational systems.

Psydev staff worked closely with IMS on the development and testing of the LIS standard. The LIS Gateway for Moodle was developed specifically to overcome the problems of implementing LIS with Moodle.  It is a certified Moodle LIS implementation which allows system administrators to integrate their Moodle directly with a student information system that supports LIS. Gateway creates, edits and deletes course, enrolment and person records in Moodle. It listens for messages being sent from SAIP (for example, a message describing a new course). On receiving the message, Gateway logs the message and then converts it into a format that Moodle understands. The converted message is then sent on to Moodle itself, which responds back to Gateway. Gateway then makes a final response back to SAIP. All of this happens in a completely transparent way.

 

Jerry Rostad, Director of User Services for Core Technology Services of the NDUS, explains the process:

“We viewed a demonstration of the LIS Gateway and it looked like it offered a solution to our problem. However, we needed to be sure that we were making a robust buying decision and the burden of proof was very much on Psydev. They worked with us to be clear on our requirements and then provided a proof of concept which gave us the confidence to continue.”

While Gateway for Moodle has been designed to be usable “out of the box” it also has the flexibility to allow for customisation to suit specific needs. Jerry Rostad continues:

“During the proof of concept phase, Psydev identified some potential bugs and undertook additional development to create customised plugins for our Moodle. Once these were approved by Remote Learner, we moved on to install the Gateway against a copy of our database and begin testing.”

During testing, NDUS identified a need for some additional customisation. Because all the Campus Solutions data is held in one place, there is a need to identify which course belongs to which campus so that the data can be sent to the correct Moodle environment. Psydev wrote some custom scripts to combine data from different fields in order to achieve this.

Jerry Rostad comments:

“This is an example of the best part of our relationship with Psydev – how well they have accommodated our needs. They have been incredibly helpful throughout and have never given up, even when we presented them with some tricky challenges!”

“We are now implementing the LIS Gateway and, starting in the spring semester, it will be processing roughly 1,500 courses and 20,000 unique enrolments. The tool has been great. It greatly increases the efficiencies of getting data from our PeopleSoft student system to Moodle.”

He concludes:

“Working with Psydev has been a great experience. They are very responsive and prompt and excellent communicators. They have supported us throughout and have been able to tailor their Gateway product to suit our specific requirements.”