The Power of Open APIs and Standard Data Models for Education

The driving force of technology in web and mobile applications is Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs). These APIs are sometimes private and for specific purposes. Other times they are associated with large enterprise systems (like Salesforce, Workday, and more) and reduce the amount of effort it takes to create new experiences. We call those “open APIs” because they are publicly documented and available for all users of the system.

In education, there are very few systems with open APIs, because creating them requires supporting developers who integrate and build, and that requires specialized talent and a different mindset than supporting academics or administrators. One of the best ways to enable student-centered technologies to be built is to support developers who will build those technologies with open APIs. 

Most applications require data from either on-premise and cloud-based systems. So it’s not enough to just create open APIs because the data represented by those APIs need to share common definitions. If 100 apps create 100 unique APIs, you have not really simplified things in the move past 100 delimited files being generated. In education, this is particularly important, because different definitions of terms, courses, staff and students can dramatically slow down or even prevent students from accessing the latest education and learning technology. As data-hungry vendors and resource-starved IT teams push to provide students the best campus and educational experiences, the ecosystem can slowly grind to a halt.

Without open APIs and open data definitions, vendors are forced to redefine common education and learning elements like terms, courses and students. Institutions then must continue to react to vendor-led definitions and, often, reinforce delimited file integration techniques that reduce the ecosystem’s ability to innovate. The Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS) data dictionary provides a rich foundation for interoperable data elements across a wide variety of scenarios. New standards hold a strong promise for connecting systems, but need infrastructure vendors to step up, reduce implementation costs and help to increase adoption. Lingk is working to solve this problem and supports the adoption of industry standards.

Lingk combines integration and innovation into a single easy-to-use and cost-effective solution. API Hubs are the center of the story that joins standardized data definitions with open APIs. Cloud-based data management of API Hub-aligned data sets provides consumers of data with real-time or bulk integration options and allows source systems “breathing-room” for providing data at web scale. Storing data aligned with CEDS and controlling data sharing with open APIs provides a path to additional standards implementations that can improve access to technology for students and administrators.

Simply stated, open APIs make data accessible and empower driven, creative developers to accelerate innovation. We’ve talked to many of these developers at edtech startups and university innovation centers, who’ve deeply influenced our product direction. Contact us to learn more about our unique API Hubs, or sign up for a free trial to explore how the Lingk platform may facilitate your current app development initiatives.