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Integrate Launches at UofT

Published on: May 9, 2016

Integrate – new way for gathering ideas – launches at UofT

The University of Toronto has launched a new service that allows members of the community to recommend new additions to its Academic Technology Toolbox.

“The future of academic technologies at the University of Toronto is one of flexibility and interoperability,” said Dr. Avi Hyman, Director of Academic & Collaborative Technologies (ACT) at UofT.

For the past few years, UofT has been working towards a new model of deploying educational technologies, and the ‘new idea’ recommendation service called Integrate allows instructors, students and staff to suggest ideas, and then allows other members of the community to show their support for those ideas by casting a “like” vote. Professional staff–with the assistance of an advisory group–then vet the suggestions for feasibility, before launching projects with the highest priorities.

Integrated applications may allow access to vendor content, extend grading or assignment capabilities, or provide an alternative to existing services. In this regard, suggested tools can include anything from a wide range of applications, platforms, software, devices, etc. They can also include custom-built applications, created here at UofT.

According to Marco Di Vittorio, Manager of ACT Application Administration, “in order to use the extensions and alternate apps at UofT, they first need to go through an integration process.”

“As exciting as it may be to use a new tool or access new content, it should be remembered that our Academic Toolbox is an indispensable part of UofT’s learning environment. As such, it must remain secure and stable: a poorly designed or tested Integration could compromise the system and lead to security breaches, performance issues, or even complete service interruptions,” added Di Vittorio.

In order to make sure that the Academic Toolbox functions as well as possible and maintains student confidentiality and security, the ACT team has developed a process that allows for testing and verifying any Integration before it can be used within the Academic Toolbox, and they’ve published the process for complete transparency.

“The concept for Integrate came, in part, from discussions with colleagues at the Iowa State University, who have been running a similar TechStarter initiative,” said Hyman. “Their model is applied to IT projects more generally, but we thought the concept fit nicely with where we are going with learning technologies at UofT.”

“But the idea is also heavily inspired and influenced by the work of the international IMS Global Consortium“, which is leading the way with the standards for integration and interoperability,” added Hyman, who is also a member of the IMS Global Higher Education Institutional Executive Board.

The ACT group is a partnership between the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (the University’s faculty development centre) and Information Technology Services (Office of the CIO) at the University of Toronto. ACT provides strategic and tactical leadership in the development and implementation of information technology services that support the academic mission for the university as a whole.

Interested parties can read about the new Integrate service, as well as read about suggested ideas and check the project dashboard at http://integrate.act.utoronto.ca