A Plug and Play Learning Application Integration – Seamlessly Connect to Learning

Simon Booth, Manager, eLearning Liaison & Development, University of Stirling
Stephen Vickers, Technology Enhanced Learning Manager, The University of Edinburgh

The ceLTIc Project

Creating Environments for Learning using Tightly Integrated Components Project has three academic partners, The University of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University, and University of Stirling along with a number of commercial partners including IMS, BLackboard Inc., Learning Objects Inc., and Pebble Learning Inc.

The project is looking into the integration of eLearning applications with virtual learning environments (VLE) and learning management systems (LMS) using IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI).

What is LIT?

Not this – London Taxi International:

Within your VLE/LMS you have a number of tools such as discussion boards, gradebook, announcements, and outside of this are other tools such as a blog. In order to use this outside, third-party tool, you need some way to integrate it into the VLE/LMS – in Blackboard, that is a building block. LTI makes it possible to have a connection between the VLE/LMS and the third-party tool without having individual building blocks.

A little terminology to make things clearer:

  • Tool Consumer (TC) is the system that consumers to tool, e.g. Blackboard
  • Tool Provider (TP) is the system that provides the tool, e.g. Campus Pack, Pebble Learning

A basic LTI is the smallest useful subset of LTI. It allows a tool consumer to launch an external tool and securely pass information on to the user, course and role with choices for personal info (email, name) via privacy settings, and it is supported by all major VLEs/LMSs. The benefit of LTIs is that a faculty member can create connections between their course and third-party tools without having to have the assistance of the System Administrator.

More Advanced Uses for LTI

LTI can also allow students from different institutions to collaborate together in a space outside of their VLE/LMS such as an Elgg site, but the students access the collaborative space right from their regular course making it seemless.

For more information, visit http://www.imsglobal.org/toolsinteroperability2.cfm and http://www.imsglobal.org/lti/index.html.

Extending Basic LTI

There are currently three extensions in draft: outcome service (to give the ability to populate a grade column from the LTI linked tool), memberships service (to pull the course list of students to allow an instructor to create groups in the external tool based on those students enrolled in the course) and tool setting service (allowing the data to be stored in your local VLE/LMS and get passed across to the LTI tool).

Full LTI

Full LTI is the “Future” of LTI which gives a better two-way communication between the TC and TP. It is much more automated in comparison to basic LTI. The ability to have the text next to the link be in the language of the student be it British English, American English, French, etc. Simply put it will be a much tighter integration of the tool consumers and providers.

Community Wish Lists

There are a number of things the community is looking for, so stay tuned to see these potentially developed. This is just a partial list.

  • Single sign-on
  • Automatic provisioning of users and contexts
  • Role-based permissions
  • Synchronizing groups
  • Update gradebook
  • When would you use a building block and when you would use an LTI?

    One major thing is the look and feel. If you want to follow the theme of your VLE/LMS through, then a building block would work better. The LTI requires another server, whereas a building block goes right on the existing server. LTI gives you more of a choice of development environments; Bb building blocks are all done in java. If you need tracking data, you need to use a building block. If you are on one platform and moving to a completely new one, LTIs will go right along with you! In the end, it depends on the needs of your institution.

    Project site: http://www.celtic-project.org
    A List of All Basic LTI Tools: http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/alltools.cfm

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About Meegan
Meegan has over ten years experience working in higher education. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Statistics from Western Michigan University and a Master of Education with an emphasis on Instructional Technology from American InterContinental University Online. She is currently the Instructional Technologist/Designer at Grand Rapids Community College where her main focus is helping faculty to develop and deliver quality online and hybrid courses.

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