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Using LTI 1.3 with Populi Courses

If you're faculty looking to use LTI 1.3 links in your course, most of this article is technical gobbledygook you'd probably rather not wade through. More than likely, you're here because you trying to find out...

LTI stands for Learning Tools Interoperability. It is a software standard that enables users in one system to jump to other systems without a separate login or app; it also lets the two systems share pertinent information with one another.

Use LTI when you're using another LMS or service to provide course content to your students (while using Populi to store the permanent academic record). For example, a nursing school enrolls 35 students in a biology course that connects to an LTI-enabled test bank maintained by a textbook publisher: using LTI, the students can log in to Populi and follow the LTI link in the biology course to access the tests. In turn, the publisher passes the grade information back to Populi and automatically fills in the course gradebook.

LTI 1.3 is the latest version of the standard; Populi also supports LTI 1.1. LTI 1.3 includes considerably improved security procedures and some important new features. Older versions of LTI, including 1.1, are now considered deprecated and should be avoided if an LTI 1.3 option is available (Populi will continue to support LTI 1.1 along with 1.3).

Technical stuff

Here's a more technical explanation of LTI. Already savvy? Feel free to skip this part!

  • With LTI Advantage, the term "Tool" is used to refer to the external service providing functionality, while "Platform" is used to refer to the application wanting to use the functionality provided by the tool. The terms "Platform" and "Tool" can be thought of as replacements for the legacy terms "Consumer" and "Provider" respectively.
  • Populi can function as an LTI Consumer (LTI 1.0) or an LTI Platform (LTI 1.3). It is designed to work with an LTI Tool provider.
  • The new features available in LTI 1.3 are as follows: Assignment and Grade Services v2.0, Names and Role Provisioning Services v2.0, and Deep Linking v2.0. These features form a full package known as LTI Advantage. All three LTI Services are supported by Populi, though some features are not (yet) available or applicable in Populi.
  • Populi handles authentication to the provider and supplies: name, some contact info, user ID, and user roles.
  • The LTI provider uses this information to admit the Populi user with the correct permissions. For example, the course faculty clicks the LTI link and is given test management/grading permissions in the other system. A student clicks the link and is given permissions that let her take the test. The other system, in turn, can then pass the student's grade back to the Course > Gradebook in Populi.
  • The Populi user's permissions in the other system are determined by the other system's setup.

Setting up LTI 1.3 tools (registration)

Before registering an LTI Tool, consult their documentation or support resources to find out what version(s) of LTI they support and what features they offer. You will also need some configuration information from the Tool that will be entered into Populi. Once you have access to the Tool’s LTI 1.3 configuration information, you are ready to register the Tool in Populi.

Tools can be registered globally for use in all Populi courses, or at the course level for use in that particular course.

Setting up a registration

To set up a global LTI tool, you must be a Populi account administrator. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to the right corner profile menu (next to the search) -> Account & Settings > Account Settings > Integrations.
  2. Click Add an integration.
  3. For Integration type, select External LTI Tool.
  4. For LTI Version, select LTI 1.3 (LTI Advantage).

To register an LTI tool for a particular course, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Course > Settings > External LTI Tools.
  2. Click Add External LTI Tool.
  3. For LTI Version, select LTI 1.3 (LTI Advantage).
  4. Under Available Tools, choose New Custom Tool. If there are any global tools registered in Populi, they will appear in this list so they can be activated for a particular course.
  5. Continue reading the next section, Dynamic and Manual Registration.

Dynamic and Manual Registration

If your Tool appears under Available Tools, it means that this Tool is already registered in the Populi global integrations and just needs to be activated for a particular course. If you select New Custom Tool, an empty registration form will appear with two sections:

  • Dynamic registration: This option is for Tools that support an automated registration process.
  • Manual registration: For Tools that don’t support Dynamic registration, use this form.

Dynamic Registration

If the Tool supports Dynamic Registration:

  1. Enter the Tool’s dynamic registration URL in the designated field.
  2. Choose whether you wish to open Tool registration in a new browser tab (recommended) or inside the same tab—the iframe launch option.
  3. Click Register.
  4. The Tool may then guide you through some of its own registration options, or simply automatically complete the registration process and redirect you back to Populi when it is finished.
  5. Populi will then display the completed registration and allow you to modify the options as desired (such as the name, description, privacy setting, etc).
  6. Be sure to check the Assignments and grading and Course roster access settings, which are disabled by default. You must turn these settings on for roster and grade syncing to work properly.
    Assignments and grading setting
    Allow Grading and assignment management (recommended): Populi will accept assignment grades from the Tool and also allow the Tool to sync assignment details (such as the name or number of points) if changes are made after one or more links are created in Populi. Tools are also allowed to create or delete their own assignments to keep everything in sync.
    Allow grade sync only: Populi will accept assignment grades from the Tool but will not allow the Tool to edit, create, or delete or any of its LTI items in Populi.
    Course roster access setting
    Allow roster access as per the privacy setting (recommended): Allow the Tool to pull a list of course participants and faculty for particular courses to enable synchronization of accounts and roles between the two systems. If desired, you may hide names and/or email addresses from the Tool using the privacy setting directly below this setting on the LTI tool form.
  7. When finished, click Save. Your LTI registration is now complete and ready to use.

Manual Registration

If your Tool does not support Dynamic Registration, you can still register it manually below under the Manual Registration section:

  1. Fill out the form, consulting the LTI Tool's support resources to determine what to enter in each field. Some options, such as the Deep Linking URL, may be left blank if not supported by the Tool. Be sure to check the Assignments and grading and Course roster access settings, which are disabled by default. You must turn these settings on for roster and grade syncing to work properly (see the table provided above for more info on these settings).
  2. Click Save.
  3. Before you can start using the LTI 1.3 tool in Populi, you must also enter some details into the LTI tool to make it aware of your Populi registration. To access the information you need from Populi, find your newly created registration in the list of integrations (or the list of LTI tools if inside a course), and click Configuration Details.
  4. Copy the URLs and IDs as needed from Populi and enter them into the registration area of the LTI Tool. This area might be labeled something like "Register a new LTI platform”—again, the LTI tool's support resources are your friend here.
  5. Once the required Populi information is saved in the Tool, your Tool is ready to use.

Using LTI 1.3 tools in courses

You can view a course's current LTI tools in Course > Settings > External LTI Tools. Here's how to use these tools to add LTI links to your course.

There are three places you can create LTI links:

  • On Course > Syllabus in the Links panel.
  • In Course > Lessons within an individual Lesson's Design view.
  • In Course > Assignments.

Each of these is covered below...

Syllabus > Links

  1. For Syllabus links, go to Course > Syllabus view; in the Links panel, click Add link and select Add LTI Link.
  2. Select the LTI Tool for the link.
  3. If the LTI Tool you registered supports Deep Linking, you will need to select whether you want to create a link manually or through a LTI tool launch (known as a Deep Linking launch—see below). If this option is not shown, skip to step 4.
  4. Enter a name for the link. If your tool provides a custom URL for the resource link you are creating, enter that URL by choosing Use custom url. A field will then appear below where you can enter a new URL (the tool's Launch URL will be auto-filled if one exists in the tool settings). If the LTI Tool instructs you include any custom parameters with the link, click add custom parameters. If the LTI tool displays these custom parameters in a format with an equals sign, (for example, id=23k0-fjk2s), enter the part before the equals sign as the Name of the custom parameter, and the part after the equals sign as the Value. For example:
    • For Name, enter id
    • For Value, enter 23k0-fjk2s

Lessons

  1. Go to Course > Lessons, select a lesson, and go to the Design view.
  2. In the add... options, click LTI Link.
  3. Select the LTI tool for the link.
  4. If the LTI Tool you registered supports Deep Linking, you will need to select whether you want to create a link manually or through a LTI tool launch (known as a Deep Linking launch—see below). If this option is not shown, skip to step 4.
  5. Enter a name for the link. If your tool provides a custom URL for the resource link you are creating, enter that URL by choosing Use custom url. A field will then appear below where you can enter a new URL (the tool's Launch URL will be auto-filled if one exists in the tool settings). If the LTI Tool instructs you include any custom parameters with the link, click add custom parameters. If the LTI tool displays these custom parameters in a format with an equals sign, (for example, id=23k0-fjk2s), enter the part before the equals sign as the Name of the custom parameter, and the part after the equals sign as the Value. For example:
    • For Name, enter id
    • For Value, enter 23k0-fjk2s

Create an LTI assignment

In order to have grades pass back to Populi from a LTI activity, the LTI link to this activity must be associated with a Populi assignment. When an LTI link is bound to a Populi assignment in this fashion, we call it an LTI assignment. Here's how to create such an assignment...

  1. For LTI assignments that can receive grades via LTI, go to the Course > Assignments view, then click Add assignments > Add LTI assignment.
  2. Select the LTI tool for the assignment.
  3. If the LTI Tool you registered supports Deep Linking, you will need to select whether you want to create the assignment manually or via an LTI tool launch (known as a Deep Linking launch—see below). If this option is not shown, skip to step 4.
  4. After selecting a Tool, the assignment form will appear with the type “External LTI Tool” and the specific LTI Tool pre-selected for you. Fill out the rest of the form as needed.
  5. If your Tool provides a custom URL for the resource link you are creating, enter that URL by choosing Use custom url. A field will then appear below where you can enter a new URL (the tool's Launch URL will be auto-filled if one exists in the tool settings). Assignment links without a custom URL will use the Tool's Launch URL by default.
  6. If the LTI Tool instructs you include any custom parameters in your links, click add custom parameters. If the LTI tool displays these custom parameters in a format with an equals sign, (for example, id=23k0-fjk2s), enter the part before the equals sign as the Name of the custom parameter, and the part after the equals sign as the Value. For example:
    • For Name, enter id
    • For Value, enter 23k0-fjk2s
  7. Click Save to finish.  

For info on passing assignment grades into Populi via LTI, see below.

Create an LTI assignment inside a lesson

If using Create via LTI Launch (Deep Linking), LTI assignments and non-graded LTI links can be added directly to a lesson. However, if you are manually creating LTI assignments, you must first create the assignment from the assignments page. Then you may add the assignment to a lesson by clicking the Assignment link under Add a section and then selecting the assignment from the drop down.

Create via LTI Launch (Deep Linking)

Deep Linking (Content selection or Content creation launch) is a special LTI launch that allows faculty or staff users to add links dynamically by selecting or creating content inside the Tool and having the links to that content automatically added to Populi. Deep Linking also allows bulk creation of LTI links rather than one link at a time. Precisely what you can do with Deep Linking will depend on the particular LTI tool you are using. Again, look to their support resources for details about this!

Using Create via LTI Launch

If you have registered a Tool that supports Deep Linking, you will see the Create via LTI Launch option when you create an LTI link on Course > Syllabus, within a lesson, or when creating an LTI assignment. Select this checkbox and then click Launch Tool. You will then be launched into the LTI Tool (using the Deep Linking URL provided during registration), where you can begin to use whatever Deep Linking features are provided by the Tool. Generally this will take the form of selecting particular content you wish to link to in your Populi course. In some cases, you can also create new content on the fly in this launch. In both cases, the launch will result in the creation of one or more links in Populi.

When in a Deep Linking launch, LTI tools should present the user with an option to pass grades via LTI for the content in question, assuming grades are applicable for this content. This option may be called something like “include gradebook column”, “include LTI lineitem”, or “post grades to platform”. If this option is selected, Populi will create an LTI assignment for this content on the Course Assignments page, using whatever details that are provided by the Tool and using Populi defaults for the rest of the assignment settings.

When you have finished the content selection or creation process, the LTI tool should redirect you back to Populi, where you will see a results page describing what links were created and where they are located in the Populi course. Below the results you will see a button to return to the Populi Course. If you see a “No Content Created” message, it means that the process was canceled before completion, or that Populi encountered an error when creating the links.

After a successful Deep Linking launch, you may change the name of the Populi links as desired. If an assignment was created, you can configure the assignment settings further as needed. Just be sure to leave the LTI settings and any custom parameters untouched to avoid breaking the link!

Using LTI to pass grades into Populi's gradebook

Once you have correctly configured an LTI assignment in Populi (either manually or via LTI Launch/Deep Linking), this assignment is capable of receiving grades from the LTI Tool. Once a grade has been posted in the LTI Tool, they should be passed back to Populi within a reasonable timeframe. The frequency of LTI grade posting to registered platforms may be customizable within the Tool. Consult the LTI Tool's support resources for more information on grade sharing.

Grades posted via LTI can be updated or changed manually in Populi or reposted from the Tool, provided the student or course is not already locked. If the total points of the assignment is not the same in Populi and in the LTI Tool, Populi will simply calculate the grade based on the percentage of points earned vs. total points provided by the LTI Tool.

Troubleshooting LTI issues

If you are running into issues with your LTI 1.3 connection, there are a few troubleshooting steps you can try before reaching out to Populi Support

  1. In the LTI tool settings, check the Default launch container setting. if you are using "Use existing browser tab", try changing this to "Launch tool in a new tab" and then attempt a tool launch again.
  2. Enable third-party cookies in your browser. In Google Chrome, this can be done by going to Preferences > Privacy and Security > Third-party cookies > Allow third-party cookies.
  3. Some tools require that the person launching the tool has an active role within the course. Check to make sure you are currently listed as a Faculty member (using the "hidden" faculty feature is fine) or a Student in the specific course you are using.
  4. Look over your Populi LTI Tool settings form and ensure the Assignments and Grading and Course Roster Access are set correctly. 
  5. If you see the error message "This LTI tool has been deactivated for this course", go to Course > Settings > External LTI Tools > Add External LTI Tool. After selecting the LTI version, choose your tool from the drop-down and click Add to Course.
  6. If you see the error message "This LTI tool has been disabled", you can re-enable the tool by going to Course > Settings > External LTI Tools. Click the three dots in the right corner of your LTI tool and click Enable. If the tool was registered in the global integrations, have a Populi account administrator go to the right corner profile menu (next to the search) > Account & Settings > Account Settings > Integrations. From the integrations list, click the three dots in the right corner of the LTI tool and then Enable.
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