LTI terminology (LTI versions, secret, tool etc.)

In the context of Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), there are several important terms and concepts that are crucial for understanding how it works and its capabilities.
Written by Joris Even
Updated 5 months ago

When working with LTI you might encounter some terms that you are unfamiliar with. Understanding these terms is crucial for navigating the LTI landscape, as they form the foundation of how different learning applications and systems interact and integrate with each other in a standardized way.

Here's a list of some key terms:

  1. LTI Version: Different versions of the LTI standard (like LTI 1.1, LTI 1.3, LTI Advantage) offer different features and levels of security. Understanding the version is important for compatibility and functionality.

  2. OAuth: A protocol used in LTI for security, specifically for authentication and authorizing requests between the Tool Provider and the Tool Consumer. OAuth ensures that the exchange of data is secure and authorized.

  3. Context ID: This is an identifier used to represent the 'context' in which the LTI tool is being used – for example, a specific course or class within the LMS. It helps the Tool Provider to understand the scope in which it's operating.

  4. Resource Link ID: A unique identifier for the specific location within the course where the LTI tool is integrated. It allows the Tool Provider to track where its tool is being used within the Tool Consumer's environment.

  5. User ID: A unique identifier for the user who is accessing the LTI tool. This allows the Tool Provider to personalize the experience for each user.

  6. Roles and Permissions: These determine what a user can see and do within an LTI tool. Common roles include Instructor, Student, Administrator, etc.

  7. Outcome Service: A feature in LTI that allows Tool Providers to send grade information back to the LMS. It's used for tools that need to report scores or grades as part of their functionality.

  8. LTI Advantage: An extension of LTI 1.3 that adds enhanced services like Deep Linking, Names and Role Provisioning Services (NRPS), and Assignment and Grade Services (AGS). It represents a more advanced and secure version of LTI.

  9. 1EdTech (before this was IMS Global: The organization that develops and maintains the LTI standard. Understanding their role and the resources they provide is important for staying current with LTI specifications and best practices.

  10. Single Sign-On (SSO): A feature that allows users to use one set of login credentials to access multiple applications, including LTI tools. SSO enhances user experience by simplifying access to various tools within the learning ecosystem.

Terminology when connecting platforms

The following terms and concepts are important to know when connecting your Tool to a Platform. 

  1. Secret: In LTI, a 'secret' is part of the security mechanism used to ensure secure communication between the learning tool (like an external quiz or content module) and the platform (like an LMS). It's akin to a password. When a learning tool is integrated into an LMS, both the tool and the LMS have a shared secret. This secret is used to create a signature for messages passed between them, ensuring that the messages are secure and come from a trusted source.

  2. Launch URL: The Launch URL is the address that the LMS uses to launch the external learning tool. When a user in the LMS selects the tool, the LMS sends an HTTP request to this URL. This request contains information about the user, the course, and other context needed for the tool to operate correctly, typically including LTI-specific parameters and a signature created using the shared secret.

  3. Registration URL: The Registration URL is used in some LTI integrations for the initial setup and registration of the external tool with the LMS. This URL is used to establish the initial connection and share key information like the shared secret and key, and to set up any necessary configuration data.

  4. Cartridge URL: The Cartridge URL is typically associated with LTI Content-Item Message. It's a URL to a Common Cartridge or Thin Common Cartridge, which are standards for packaging digital learning content and tools. The Cartridge URL allows the LMS to import and launch content that's formatted in this standardized way. This can include things like quizzes, modules, or entire courses.

  5. Custom Properties: These are additional parameters or data that can be sent from the LMS to the learning tool when it's launched. Custom properties are used to pass extra information that might be required by the tool to function properly or to provide a customized experience. They are defined by the LMS administrator or instructor and can include things like user roles, course names, or specific settings for the tool.

  6. Tool Provider: The Tool Provider in the context of LTI refers to an external application or service that is integrated into a learning platform. This could be anything from a third-party quiz tool, a virtual lab, a video lecture service, or any interactive learning content. The Tool Provider offers specialized functionalities that are not natively available in the learning platform. It 'provides' the tool which learners or educators interact with through the learning platform.

  7. Tool Consumer: The Tool Consumer is typically the Learning Management System (LMS) or any platform that consumes, or uses, the services provided by the Tool Provider. It's where the learning takes place, like Moodle, Blackboard, or Canvas. The Tool Consumer initiates the LTI launch process, sending user data and context to the Tool Provider in a standardized format. Essentially, it 'consumes' the services of the external tools to enhance its capabilities and offer a broader range of learning experiences.

  8. Platform: In the LTI context, the term 'platform' generally refers to the broader system in which learning occurs and where various tools (both internal and external) are utilized. While often used interchangeably with Tool Consumer, the platform might encompass a wider ecosystem, including the LMS, various integrated tools, and other educational technologies. It's the overall environment or framework supporting digital learning experiences.

  9. Deep Linking (LTI Deep Linking): Deep Linking in LTI refers to the mechanism that allows Tool Providers to send back links (or references) to specific resources or activities. Unlike basic LTI integration, where the Tool Consumer redirects to a general page or dashboard of the Tool Provider, Deep Linking allows the Tool Consumer to integrate links pointing directly to specific items or content within the Tool Provider. This enhances the integration by allowing educators to embed or link directly to particular tools or content items within their course materials, making the learning experience more seamless and integrated.

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