5 Benefits Of APIs School And University IT Leaders Need To Know About

5 Benefits Of APIs Schools And University IT Leaders Need To Know About
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By Team Stoplight

Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, allow separate systems or apps to communicate and exchange data with one another. It’s a simple but powerful ability, whose impact on industries that involve tech —and nowadays, which isn’t?— is undeniable. Commerce, manufacturing, retail, and in particular those where the informational value chain is as important as the physical one stand as the main beneficiaries. For tech startups, APIs have also changed the game by providing developers best of class functionality ready to plug into their app. The “Jamstack” —named after JavaScript + APIs + (HTML) Markup “stack,” or comprehensive set of development tools— enjoys a growing following, thanks to turning things upside down and placing APIs at the center of the functionality, not as simple extensions or embellishments as it was more common.

But yet another field where APIs are about to make their mark is educational technology.

If you are a user of a modern Learning Management System or similar platform, it is very likely that it already leverages API functionality to some extent: A map or social media widget, or even to grab or sync data from another system. Increasingly, however, learning organizations are paying closer attention and become more willing to invest in API technologies to improve on their productivity, security, compliance or user experience.

To illustrate just how much influence APIs can have on your elearning platform and your student’s experiences, here are five advantages schools and universities have started harnessing from them. And if you are a developer, there is an excellent arsenal of solutions to design, develop and create your own API and API documentation, or even build your own.

APIs enhance and future-proof school and university operations

APIs are the de facto way to add additional functionality to your LMS or elearning platform. Many IT professionals now understand that, in order to provide technological benefits to students or teachers into their platforms, they don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, APIs can bring existing functionality into a system in straightforward ways. The best part? Any upgrades or enhancements will automatically be available on your own system as well. Or if a better alternative arises, the process of switching functionality providers becomes much easier with APIs.

School and university admins can explore the vast marketplace of API alternatives that would create better services for operations such as registration, tuition and payments, even access to free educational resources and textbooks from within the LMS. Perhaps the most common standard for elearning applications, Experience API —or xAPI— has in a perfect illustration of such a marketplace.

Leverage APIs to increase the overall efficiency and quality of teaching

Just like any other commercial institution, schools have a fiduciary duty to make the most of their resources to deliver an effective quality of instruction. In addition to the features an API might bring to speed up and automate school administration processes, they may also bring advantages by providing pay-per-use compensation models. Many providers offer services through APIs on a pay-per-use basis, meaning the institution only gets charged if and when they make use of the solution, usually according to its volume and frequency; thereby reducing the severity of technology procurement risks. This contrasts with the acquisition or licensing of a full application, which often needs full payment in advance.

APIs pave the way for smoother technological integration on and off campus

Though APIs are significant upgrades in themselves, they also pave the way for even higher levels of technological integration among educational institutions. API developers can focus on getting a small number of features right, instead of being on the hook for the whole solution. And if the company behind the API offers additional outlets, for example through an app, students and teachers might be able to take advantage of them on the go, with their app activity reflected on the LMS or main platform. This way, APIs help make any sudden shifts to hybrid or fully online learning settings much smoother and pleasant. 

APIs are often the best way to provide essential services for Learning Management Systems

When more students are educated digitally, organizations realize the shortcomings as well as the opportunities in expanding on the quality of the virtual learning experience. And these opportunities translate into new technological needs: Multimedia, interaction and immersion; highly reliable video streaming, communication and file storage; I could go on. APIs are a ready-made method to link to any of these from the LMS, making sure students have all the tools they’ll need for learning without ever leaving the familiar and secure virtual classroom.

We’re not overstating their importance when we say that the API-driven LMS will be a concept of increasing importance in the future of digital education. Well deployed, API-driven experiences can inspire rich, textured, and insightful experiences that students will not only enjoy, but make the most of towards higher achievements, both in the physical classroom and in its virtual counterpart. 

APIs contribute to open research and development

API technology facilitates more open data-centric research, which is a boon to research teams and other stakeholders, where heavy research loads and limited resources are the norm. You need only to look at existing APIs on digital libraries, like JSTOR, that aggregate mentions in scholarly journals; or the growing landscape of Open Data repositories, where API access is becoming a must have. Services like these can streamline research work by making sources much easier to find and use, and for research outcomes to replicate and verify. If you lead an ambitious research institute, APIs are already a must if increasing your research profile, competitiveness and output is of any importance.

Conclusion: APIs and redefining the constraints of traditional education

Given the changing landscape of educational technology, there are a lot of exciting new applications for APIs. Many of them involve dismantling some of the constraints that have plagued traditional education, such as exclusivity and time-bound, solely synchronous learning. When APIs are used to improve classroom experiences, as well as the services of adjacent academic offices, everyone benefits. 

As many of today’s API support and education products demonstrate, these interfaces can unleash the potential of educational platforms within institutions, and widen the reach of their pedagogies. They facilitate easy access to electronic resources, thus heightening depth of experiences and quality of instruction constituents can receive. They also proffer more opportunities to scale up essential services and uphold professionalism and compliance. Leveraging APIs to better achieve their core mission is a clear opportunity for technologically savvy educational organizations.

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