Why Edtech Integration Is So Critical for Educators

Savvas Insights Team

In a recent nationwide poll conducted by Savvas, 9 out of 10 educators said it was important to them that their digital instructional tools integrate well with their learning management system (LMS). Teachers want to focus their valuable time on classroom instruction rather than being burdened by navigating the complexities of education technologies that do not sync.


Pie chart of Importance of EdTech Integration to Educators

A pioneer and leader in this area, Savvas has long made it a priority to ensure its Realize LMS — the first publisher platform to become a Google for Education Partner — seamlessly integrated with the technologies that districts use most, like Google Classroom. Savvas has also been a contributing member of IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS Global), the leading non-profit collaborative that develops standards to facilitate edtech interoperability.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Marc Nelson, Vice President of Product Management for Savvas who oversees the development of Savvas Realize, and Dr. Rob Abel, CEO of IMS Global, to discuss why the integration of digital tools and learning management systems are so critical for educators.

The following has been edited for clarity and length.

How far have we come in terms of edtech?

ROB: “When software platforms began to emerge, some were created to help teachers organize their work and then others were created to deliver content. So there was a lot of manual work to log into each product. Every teacher had a long list of logins. The technology was there but it certainly wasn’t easy, which made it confusing and frustrating. Today, because of the connectivity that we’ve built through our standards, schools have eliminated those hiccups. We call it ‘digital on day one.’ They only have to log in one place at one time. So now, with this connectedness, we’ve created a better user experience with students and teachers. It saves time, allowing them to focus more on instruction.”

MARC: “My first foray into edtech was working with laserdisc and cd-roms. We would use fax modems to download data overnight to a local hub so that students could access data the next day. Very disconnected. As the internet grew we spent as many years trying to work around it as we did working through it. Then over the last 6 or 7 years vendors have realized the importance of integration, and the conversations with schools turned to, ‘How can you make this seamless for our teachers and students and how can you make it secure?’ It went from very disconnected to something that is expected to be always connected and easy to use.”

With more teachers and students using digital learning tools and content, how has the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the demand for integration?

MARC: “When the nation pivoted to remote learning in the middle of March 2020, large districts reached out and asked us to integrate immediately with their single sign-on and their rostering systems and to provide access to all of their products for home use — we were able to do that. It wouldn't have been possible if we hadn’t been laying the groundwork for years with the standards. The pandemic has put a fine point on the demand for integration and, now that these standards are in place, we have been able to meet that demand.”

ROB: “Because the standards are easy to use, we saw a wide variety of organizations innovate. They saw a demand, or way of usage, that they hadn’t focused on before, and they were able to make changes in concert with other organizations. The education community can be really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in terms of the standards. I think there is going to be a very long-term impact on the way people are thinking about technology in a very positive way.”

laptop showing seamlessly integrated technologies

What does it look like to have the technologies that schools and districts use most seamlessly integrated with one another, and why is this important?

ROB: “Teachers, parents, and administrators want to see the data in one place, no matter how many products they’re using, and that requires interoperability. I think the better the interoperability — and Savvas is a leader in implementing interoperability standards — the more flexible teachers can be with the resources they use to teach. One of the values of the ecosystem of products is that they teach in different ways and that’s incredibly valuable. I see a world where there’s much more choice, and the students and the teachers will have much greater agency in choosing their own pathways through these resources, and that’s all made possible by the interoperability standards.”

MARC: “One of the true values is that districts now own their own data. Now, through the standards, districts can extend privileges to vendors like Savvas to provide content and learning experiences to their teachers and students. Whereas before teachers were having to roster their own kids. Well, that’s not teaching and learning. That's just a task you have to do before teaching and learning starts. And now we can start on day one.”

Could you tell us about the standards IMS Global has developed and what was the rationale behind creating them?

ROB:  “It was about creating an ecosystem from day one. IMS is an organization that gets into technology trends early, like platforms, assessment, data, digital badges. We tend to set the tone. So the leadership of IMS, which comes from K-12 districts, higher ed, and edtech suppliers and publishers, will work on standards five or ten years before they become mainstream, with a lot of foresight. They set the tone and shape the ecosystem. You can have a lot of products but they don’t become an ecosystem until you can connect them together. Now, we have over 670 members and over 6000 people are interacting through IMS. We want to improve teaching and learning, and we want to shape an ecosystem that can ensure that teaching and learning innovation, whether from products or teachers or even students, is easy to incorporate into educational processes and systems.”

How has IMS Global’s standards impacted the way edtech companies, such as Savvas, create digital tools and what drew Savvas to partner with IMS Global and agree to meet the standards?

MARC:  “IMS met a clear need for Savvas. All of the publishers and other vendors were building siloed platforms and there began to be resistance in the marketplace to bringing new solutions in. So we started to employ the standards internally to existing platforms, just to get them up to speed. For us it became a way of giving the customers exactly what they needed and were asking for while reducing time to market. We didn’t have to go out and reinvent the wheel. It enabled us to be a nimble business that meets customers where they’re at.”

What edtech trends do you foresee happening in the future?

ROB: “At IMS, we tend to think of things that we’re absolutely certain will be drivers but we never really know how long they’re going to take. We believe that curriculum equity, leveraging digital technologies, is an important theme going forward. We also see assessment being more and more embedded into the digital learning experience. Another is the immersive, engaging student experiences, such as gamification. Another in K-12, is state-level edtech infrastructures, which is an interesting trend. States are now trying to help all their districts, and the schools in their districts, set up a platform with content and access to resources. The last one is the recognition of achievement through digital credentials like Open Badges and the Comprehensive Learner Record. We think that’s going to be very important in the near future. It will help reshape how schools can recognize student achievement in more diverse ways.”

MARC: “Savvas is very interested in enabling teachers to share content and collaborate to personalize learning at scale to meet their students’ individual needs. So, every step we take is towards that direction. Areas I see us advancing in are the ability — as a provider of systems and content — to reach out to teachers with the appropriate recommendations on how to apply solutions. So, not just telling them that something is right or something is wrong, but also provide a recommendation on how to move students individually toward growth and mastery.”


Learn More about IMS Global

IMS Global Learning Consortium is a non-profit community of leading educational institutions at all levels, government organizations, and edtech suppliers that enable better digital teaching and learning by collaborating on interoperability and adoption initiatives. Together, we are committed to achieving an open and inclusive education technology ecosystem that powers learner potential. IMS Global Learning Consortium is a non-profit community of leading educational institutions at all levels, government organizations, and edtech suppliers that enable better digital teaching and learning by collaborating on interoperability and adoption initiatives. Together, we are committed to achieving an open and inclusive education technology ecosystem that powers learner potential.