Implementing LTI 1.3 for LMS
Our client is a global provider of cloud-based learning management systems (LMS) for millions of students and teachers worldwide. They also provide educational institutions with a range of technical services, from one-off training sessions through to full-scale system implementations.
We had successfully implemented LTI 1.1 for a client in the past but since then the standard had evolved and the client came back to us with a new request to implement the latest version of the standard, LTI 1.3 and in particular LTI Advantage. While conceptually the idea behind LTI did not change, the new standard was re-thought and undergone significant changes. The client did not want to move away from LTI 1.1 either, so it was assumed that the LMS would eventually support both standards. Among other goals, the client wanted to become a 1EdTech’s certified LMS.
What is LTI?
The 1EdTech Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard prescribes a way to easily and securely connect learning applications and tools with platforms like learning management systems (LMS), portals and learning object repositories on your premise or in the cloud, in a secure and standard manner and without the need for expensive custom programming. Using LTI, if you have an interactive assessment application or virtual chemistry lab, it can be securely connected to your LMS with a few clicks. LTI is comprised of a central core and optional services to add optional features and functions. The LTI core establishes a secure connection and confirms the tool’s authenticity while the extensions add features like the exchange of assignment and grade data between an assessment tool and your LMS gradebook. (Source: https://www.imsglobal.org/activity/learning-tools-interoperability)
LTI 1.1 vs LTI 1.3
The 1EdTech Security Framework adopts the industry standard protocol IETF OAuth 2.0 for authentication services along with JSON Web Tokens (JWT) for secure message signing and adopts the Open ID Connect workflow paradigm. (Source: https://www.1edtech.org/standards/lti/why-adopt-lti-1p3)
LTI 1.3 vs LTI advantage
LTI Advantage is a set of three LTI services based on the core LTI 1.3 specification that makes it easier for faculty to build, manage, and offer courses with a premium user experience while providing world-class security. The availability of specific features is based solely on the platform and tools in use. The current LTI Advantage services include:
Assignment and Grade Services (AGS) seamlessly syncs grades, progress, and comments from multiple sources into an LMS platform’s gradebook, greatly reducing faculty effort and the chance of errors.
Deep Linking (DL) supports a natural and efficient user workflow between a learning object repository or content tool and the LMS platform when developing courses and programs, again saving teachers’ time.
The Names and Role Provisioning Services (NRPS) specification securely shares course roster/enrollment information with the requesting tool to enhance users’ experiences and provide administrators a basis for who has used the tool and, importantly, who has not.
Each of these services requires the new and improved security model available with LTI 1.3, enabling the foundation for a better, more secure user experience.
After completing a requirement analysis and review of the standard, our team created a transparent timeline for the client to achieve ready-to-use state pace by pace. The development stage included the implementation of LTI 1.3 Core and LTI Advantage (Deep Linking 1.2, Assignment and Grade Services and Name and Role Provisioning Services), followed by the initial release, certification, and maintenance.
LTI 1.3 standard prescribes that the launch of an LTI tool is preceded by a successful authentication using OAuth2. Since the client wanted to similarly implement OpenID Connect and SSO in other parts of the system, Identity Server was proposed as a technical solution for authorization. It was incorporated into the client’s application cluster so that it could be used by other applications in future.
During the launch, the platform and the tool exchange information using the URLs and other data that must be added both on the side of the tool and on the side of LMS beforehand. Thus, in addition to launching LTI tools in a course, the team also implemented LTI tool information management and integrated it into the client’s system.
After implementation of LTI advantage and subsequent release, the LMS successfully passed the certification on 1EdTech’s site. Like platforms, LTI tools can also be certified by 1EdTech to prove their compliance with the standard. Remarkably, we did not receive any major complaints from certified tools after the initial release of LTI 1.3.
As LTI has become an essential industry standard for embedding learning resources and materials from tool and content providers, its implementation has strengthened the client’s position in the market. It has helped to meet the demand and maintain the high-quality learning experience, as well as improve security.
In 2022, the client’s LMS successfully passed the certification (and renewed the certificate in 2023), which, on the one hand, sets the LMS apart from its competitors, and on the other hand, proves our work done on LTI Advantage.
Educational institutions using the LMS now have a much wider choice of external content, as many recent tool vendors have skipped LTI 1.1 and went straight to the latest version of the standard.
Administrators can add tools by managing registration and license information. Compared to LTI 1.1, the working setup consists of both registration of the tool on the LMS side and registration of the LMS on the tool side.
In addition to the known benefits inherited from LTI 1.1, such as seamless navigation between the learning resources within the learning platform without having to log into each one separately, the adoption of LTI 1.3 has allowed the functionality of the LMS to be expanded.
Teachers can easily enrich their courses by adding a broad range of ready-to-use exercises or create their own content on the side of the tool provider with an improved version 1.2 of LTI Deep Linking.
After a student has submitted their answer on the LTI learning resource, teachers can use the results posted by the learning tool to the LMS. This is made possible through the use of LTI Assignment and Grade Services. The results can be automatically added to the gradebook; the grade is calculated based on the received result and is converted to the assessment scale used in the course.
Using Name and Roles Provisioning Services, teachers can, e.g., assign licenses for individual students or organize groups of students within the tool. The passed user information is secured by the LMS’s privacy settings and is only exposed when the settings allow it.
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