Many CSC Online-Sakai instructors are familiar with the pre-configured External Tools available to all online courses such as TurnItIn and the EBSCO Reading List. However, a vast array of educational applications are available which offer integration capabilities with CSC’s learning management system (LMS). The Teaching & Learning Center encourages the exploration and trial of new technology in teaching, and past experience has shown that integration with CSC Online can be the key to successfully launching a new learning tool. This article will discuss the background of Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) integration and how to get started using it with External Tools in CSC Online.
What Are External (LTI) Tools?
External Tools utilize the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard, which allows for simple and secure integration with external applications. The LTI protocol provides a method for the LMS to securely send user names, email addresses, user roles, and other course information to the external application.
Educational applications may use LTI integration in a wide variety of ways. Some apps may only use LTI to send the student’s name and role to the application to avoid requiring the student to log in. Other applications may directly integrate with the CSC Online Gradebook, allowing instructors to score student activities in an external application.
Using External Tools in a CSC Online Course
All course instructors have the ability to add External Tools to CSC Online courses. While an External Tool may be added and configured for any individual site by an instructor (without admin approval), some commonly used tools have been made available system-wide and may be added without additional configuration (ie. TurnItIn).
However, often times an instructor may want to test and use an external app in a course utilizing LTI integration. Fortunately, all instructors have the ability to add an External Tool without requiring the LMS administrator to make it available for all CSC Online courses. External Tools are added in Site Info > Edit Tools > External Tools. Once the tool is added, follow these instructions to configure the tool with the launch URL, secret and key provided by the publisher.
Example Applications With LTI Support
Many existing educational applications and tools contain an LTI integration component. Below are three examples to try out:
Office Mix is a free PowerPoint plug-in that provides tools for narrating, annotating, and creating interactive content such as polls within a presentation. Content created with Office Mix (referred to as Mixes) may be uploaded and shared within the Office Mix web application. While Office Mix may be used independently of the LMS, it offers an LTI integration to allow instructors to easily share Mixes in a course and track student participation. Interested in learning more about this application? Sign up for the TLC workshop offered in March 2017, Geared to Engage Students in Learning: A Simple Way to Add Interactive Content to Your Course.
Piazza is a wiki-style Q&A platform that may be used to foster strong peer (student-to-student) learning in an online class. It works by allowing students to ask and answer questions in real-time. Instructors may join in, or simply guide the conversation with endorsements and other feedback tools. Piazza can be used successfully without integrating with CSC Online. However, to avoid manually adding and requiring students to log in, the application offers a complete LTI integration (instructions here for a sample Sakai integration).
OneNote Class Notebook provides an easy way to launch a OneNote notebook for all participants of a course. A class notebook can provide a flexible space for organizing notes, collaborating on assignments, or providing real-time feedback on student work. The LTI integration will automatically add students to the notebook and provide access from within an online course.
Discovering More LTI Apps
These examples provide only a brief introduction to the variety of applications that are utilizing LTI to integrate with online learning systems. To discover more apps, browse through the IMS LTI Product Directory and the EduAppCenter collection of LTI apps.
Please contact the Teaching & Learning Center (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information about LTI, External Tools, and to discuss piloting a new application integration in your courses.