Please explain how to use "shards" in CD2 to identify things

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In CD1 we had a very verbose identifier for things like course IDs that made it easy to identify and join an assignment to a course. In CD2 we have to join together a shard and a context_id "on the fly" (still haven't figure out how best to do this) in order to give structure to my queries. Is there an easier way to do this? Or, can this just be added back to the tables?

To me it's another example of how Instructure can take something simple and introduce complexity for no reason (unless I'm not seeing a bigger picture...which, I'll admit, does occasionally happen).