I’ve been reading quite a few articles recently about the future of Learning Management Systems (LMS). These have attempted to look over the horizon – beyond today’s monolithic LMS – for a future where it’s likely that these systems will be comprised of a mash-up of different ‘best in class’ components, highly integrated. Although the majority of institutions aren’t near the point where this model be mainstream, it’s something that bears thinking about in your long-range strategy. Personally, I believe that the key platform to connect all of these different components together will be SharePoint, which I think of as a platform for education web applications, in the same way as Windows is the platform for local applications.
The descriptive term for what I’m discussing is ‘composite applications’. A composite application combines data, documents and business processes through a series of building blocks to create a business solution. But how will these applications be built? And is this already happening?
There’s a ‘SharePoint Composites Handbook’ which describes some of the common scenarios for these composites, and talks about how they would be produced in SharePoint (both process and tools). I think it’s useful for people with two interests:
- Understanding how to take the next step in using SharePoint as a strategic tool across your institution by building quick composite applications, like expenses, leave and training solutions;
- Considering how you can connect together your existing systems (learning management systems, student management systems, finance systems) in a way that gives you more flexibility in the future.
Although the handbook does dive down into IT detail, there are sections of it that are useful for senior managers outside of IT who want to know what their current systems are capable of. Here’s the introduction to Composites at the beginning of the handbook:
In short, a SharePoint Composite is a “do-it-yourself” business solution. A SharePoint Composite bears close resemblance to the often-used term, “mashup”. A mashup (in contrast to a classic shrink-wrapped software product) is a quick Web application that incorporates data into a simple, visual, and interactive solution. However, the term “composite” emphasises the breadth and depth of solutions you can build on the SharePoint 2010 platform.
In Part II, the handbook also identifies 20 common design patterns for composite applications, including social computing, dynamic diagrams, business process and workflows, content management, records and media management, web databases and business intelligence. And from page 65 it lists 40 pre-made application templates, with sources, including budgeting and tracking, contact management, absence and leave requests