The upcoming release of Moodle 2.2 now has the IMS LTI or “External Tool” functionality which is going to be one integration type that I forsee being heavily used.

But what is it? What is IMS LTI and why would you want to use it?

IMS LTI – quick overview

For those who have not heard about it before, IMS LTI is an IMS standard for Learning Tool Interoperability. This means that learning tools now have a set way in which they can seamlessly connect to each other.

In practice while a user is logged into one tool (Moodle for example) they can then connect over to the other tool (a wiki or blog) and be automatically authenticated providing a seamless experience.

This is a link to a 30 minutes video about Basic LTI by Charles Severance which I recommend you watch when you have time!

But let’s get back to Moodle.

How will this work within Moodle?

So one example would be, that a teacher can set up an Activity in the Moodle course for the students which connects them to a blog site(like WordPress). This process automatically authenticates them and enables them to use the external blog. #

This could be used for any standalone learning tool which implements LTI.

Think about the possibilities – someone builds a really cool maths engine and instead of having to make it work inside Moodle, all they do is implement the IMS LTI standard and provide connection details to those who want to use it.

There are a range of tools already enabled such as Learning Objects Campus pack tools and Noteflight.

How to use

The integration in Moodle 2.2 is simple to use, it is just an activity in a course. A teacher turns on editing, and then starts adding the activity External Tool from the dropdown.

The basic integration details that are required are

  • Launch URL
  • Consumer key
  • Consumer secret

This is the information the Learning Tool provider needs to give to the teacher so they can connect. Depending on the tool, it is also possible to pass over some extra custom parameters which can be used to display one particular resource. This would be where the overall connection has a library of activities, but the teacher wants to connect to just one.

External Tool Settings

External Tool Settings

There are four privacy options which can control how much information the tool gets from Moodle.

Privacy Options

Privacy Options

 

The one that stands out for me is that the tool can pass grades back into Moodle. This has much potential.

An Example – ChemVantage – General Chemistry.

ChemVantage is a free resource for science education which includes grade exercises, homework exercises, practice exams, video lectures and free online textbooks. It was created by ChemVantage LLC which was founded by Prof. Chuck Wight, who has taught General Chemistry at the University of Utah since 1984. The site is powered by the5 Google App Engine.

The below image shows homework exercise on Atoms and Elements embedded into the Moodle webpage. Although the exercise is hosted on ChemVantage.org the LTI enables the teacher to use it in Moodle without having students log in again.

ChemVantage embedded into Moodle with LTI

ChemVantage embedded into Moodle with LTI

An Example – WordPress Multi-user

As mentioned, it is also possible with some changes to to an existing web application to make it an LTI provider tool. One example is turning WordPress Multi-user into an activity for Moodle. The below image shows WordPress site embedded within Moodle with the teacher automatically logged in.

Wordpress Multi-user embedded into Moodle 2 with LTI

Wordpress Multi-user embedded into Moodle 2 with LTI

This was using Dr. Chucks WordPress Multi-User Sandbox.

An Example -Mediawiki

Here is an example screenshot of using the External Tool to embed a Mediawiki site into Moodle. The category it goes to is determined by the course shortname.

Mediawiki embedded into Moodle 2 with LTI

Mediawiki embedded into Moodle 2 with LTI

An Example – Musicflight

This is an example of how it can work with a really cool Music tool called Noteflight.

More to come!

I will update this post with other examples too over the coming days.

So that is it, or isn’t it.

What are the benefits of having the tool outside of Moodle?

Learning Tool Producers

Organisations who want to provide their tool into Moodle now don’t need to learn Moodle, they just learn and implement the standard. Where before each system released an integration activity or block for Moodle and other LMS they wanted to support, now this means less cost for them in supporting and maintaining those connections. They can focus on their product – the tool.

Institutions / Teachers

If a teacher, or an institution has an idea for a tool but want to ensure it is usable with Moodle, it won’t matter if they are Perl, Java or Python developers – they don’t need to learn how to program in PHP, nor how any of the APIs in moodle works. All they do is code their tool to the standard.

Training Companies / Content Providers

Where before training companies provided a set of learning objects (usually Scorm or full course backups) which users installed into their LMS, this will provide an alternative strategy.

They will now be able to keep all the content centrally, and provide LTI access to it. This offers the training company and the end users many benefits. These benefits include:

  • Any fixed or small changes can be done centrally, and benefit everyone without having to distribute a new copy of the learning object
  • Any improvements can again be applied centrally
  • The ability to provide test access is much improved, and does not comprimise the security of the content, so it will be easier to get to test something out without having to install it locally.

Moodle administrators / Teachers

Up to now, if you wanted to add a tool into Moodle you usually went through a vetting process with IT – which could include many technical, functional and security type tests such as

  • Is the code written in a secure way
  • Is the code maintained
  • Does it work with our version of Moodle?

Now it will be easier to test and check out the tools (when they implement the LTI connection) without having to worry so much on the technical side.

Summary

This seamless integration will open the doors for many cool learning tools and activities to further extend the learning eco-system beyond the LMS.

Creative Commons Licence
This work by Gavin Henrick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

20 Comments for this entry

  • Interesting development and an excellent post Gavin. Thanks!

  • ghenrick says:

    Thanks for the feedback. Yes it is an interesting move, wonder how many external apps can be developed quickly ?

  • Juan Leyva says:

    Nice post Gavin

    Do you like this idea?

    http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=191590

  • Really great post, Gavin. Thanks.

  • ghenrick says:

    Thanks Bryan,

    I have some more examples to add – just time priorities right now, and going to have a demo site with links to a number of IMS LTI up in a week or two so that people can play.

    Juan, I like the idea of a central list perhaps on a wiki page on docs.moodle.org ?

    G

  • Nitin says:

    Hi,

    Will this allow to save details in moodle.

    http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=191679#p834724

  • Useful post, but I don’t think the option for an LTI-compliant tool to access the Moodle course roster is supported by Moodle 2.2 – I suspect your screenshot came from a version which was not released. This is a shame because, whilst the memberships (roster) and setting services are not official parts of the LTI spec, I have found them very useful when adding LTI support to WebPA (an open source Peer Assessment tool).

    There is a module which has been available for a while which includes this support (basiclti4moodle), but I suspect it is likely to cause confusion if this is also installed. I hope that the Moodle developers might re-think this decision and include the additional services in a later release.

  • ghenrick says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Yes, my screenshots came from one of the beta and the final version does not have that option enabled, not sure why but will ask.

    Found the related tracker entry, which said

    “The roster setting is gone. The privacy issue is a tricky balance, because some tool providers will need the information to work correctly. I could see a master level setting indicating the default state for those values.”

    So perhaps it will be back with later version.

    Gavin.

  • Chris Scribner says:

    The roster integration didn’t make it into the final LTI plugin because it implements the LTI 1.1 spec, which does not include a roster service. As I’ve been told, later versions of LTI will support such a service, at which point support will be added.

    The basiclti4moodle service is based on Basic LTI (the older spec). It provides a custom roster service, which was sort of a skunkworks project that never became official. It didn’t make sense to port that web service over because the services changed format (to “plain old xml”).

    All of this adds up to it being a bit too early to provide an official roster service.

    • Stephen Vickers says:

      The roster sync (and setting service) may not have made it into LTI 1.1, but they are unofficial extensions which have been implemented by many LMSs, so it is a shame to see them not make it into the core of Moodle 2.2, especially as the code already exists (in the basiclti4moodle module). It is a potential source of confusion if one has to install the basiclti4moodle module in Moodle 2.2 (in addition to having the core LTI 1.1 support) in order to be able to give this higher level of support to LTI tool providers which can greatly enhance the user experience.

  • How can i use Goodle Docs with Moodle 2.2 LTI ?

  • jellisii says:

    The external tool/LTI fixes a bunch of stuff for me that I’ve been waiting for from my current LMS vendor. However, I can’t get the service to talk to me when I try and send it back a grade. It gives me back a 404, despite the fact that if I try to visit it directly it complains about not having a consumer key set.

  • Moodler says:

    Hi,

    I am trying to test external tool with a wordpress blog. I have a regular wordpress blog and I have saved http://wwww.wordpress.com in Moodles external Toolls Launch URL field, and the userid and password in Consumer Key and Shared Secret fields. When I select the course, it launches wordpress.com web site and asks for the userid and password. It doesn’t authenticate based on the userid and password specified in Moodle. Does it work only with Multi-site wordpress blog or any wordpress blog or am I not specifying something right?

    Thanks for your help.

  • Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s
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  • Cherie says:

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    Hey there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new
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  • Manas Khag says:

    I have installed some of the apps from https://lti-examples.heroku.com/index.html in my moodle 2.3 but when clicked on the activity, they are all showing “Not Found” in a blank page. Please help me.

    • ghenrick says:

      As far as I can tell, they were not developed for Moodle usage – at least I did not get any working when I spent a bit of time on it. I should have spent more I guess!

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