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Blackboard Interface from LORA (Student Information System): Overview

Overview of the Interface

The basic information that Blackboard has about courses, users, and enrollments comes from LORA, Loyola’s official Student Information System (SIS). Information is transferred from LORA to Blackboard automatically, in five basic steps:

PC Task Schedule

On a selected Windows-based PC, the Task Scheduler executes a script on a fixed schedule. The script manages the steps that follow.  The scripts are written in a standard Windows PC language called PowerShell.

Retrieval of WebFOCUS Reports

Using a tool called WebFOCUS, a set of reports are run against the LORA database, extracting the basic data. The output of the reports is captured as a set of simple text (.txt) files on a Personal Computer. The result is five separate files:

    • Courses
    • Instructors
    • Students
    • Instructor Enrollments
    • Student Enrollments

These are not transaction files, but snapshots. For example, the Student Enrollments files contains a list of all students enrolled in all courses, as known to LORA at the time the report is run.

The reports are run with a single parameter specifying the semester for which data is being extracted (for example “2016S” for Spring of 2016). LORA has information about multiple semesters at any one point in time, but the interface to Blackboard is normally concerned only with one semester, either the current semester or the semester about to begin.

Data Editing And Filtering

The contens of the WebFOCUS reports are edited and reformatted programmatically. Leading and trailing blanks are removed, internal blanks in Course ID numbers are removed, courses that are not managed on Blackboard are filtered out, unused fields are discarded, and selected fields are rearranged into the format required by Blackboard's Data Integration programs.

Posting to BlackBoard

The edited and filtered data are sent to Blackboard over the internet, via HTTP Post. Each type of data (Courses, Users, and Enrollments) is sent to a different Web Address. 

Blackboard Processing

Blackboard automatically processes the files that are received by HTTP Post. Blackboard will create empty course shells, create user records, and enroll users in courses, as prompted by the data files.

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