Extending LMS using LTI

When it comes to the Learning Management Systems (LMS), no matter which one you choose, the chance that you can find one that meets all your needs is very slim. It seems there are always some tools in particular that your users hope are available. So, is there a way to bring those interesting 3rd party tools into in your LMS? Yes, and the answer is: Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI).

Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) is a protocol developed by IMS Global Learning Consortium. The principal goal of LTI is to establish a standard way of integrating rich learning tools with platforms like learning management systems, portals, or other educational environments. In LTI, these learning tools are called Tool Providers (labeled TP) and the LMS or educational environments are called Tool Consumers (labeled TC). When a user clicks on a LTI link that requests a tool launch, the learning system (Tool Consumers) prepares a launch message (including some standard, optional, and custom parameters), sends this message to the browser, and a tiny piece of javascript auto-POSTS the message to the Tool Provider. The Tool Provider then responds with a launch of the tool in the browser. This LTI 1-style launch is not designed to maintain contact between TC and TP after launch. But, what if TP wants to send information back to TC? That’s where the LTI 2.0 comes into play. LTI 2.0 is designed to extend interoperability to the entire lifecycle of the tool, which means TP can send information back to TC. In LTI 2.0, at least two extra parameters are passed in the Launch:

  • lis_outcome_service_url is a return point to which an outcome may be placed into the gradebook
  • lis_result_sourcedid is an encrypted ticket provided by the LMS to ensure that the outcome is properly labeled for the particular user, course, and link that are involved in this interaction
Learning Tools Interoperatility

Referenced from: http://developers.imsglobal.org/index.html

LTI provides an open and standard way to bring 3rd party tools into LMS. As an open standard, it avoids vendor lock-in. Therefore, if your school decides to migrate to another LMS, the existing 3rd party tools that are LTI-compliant will continue to work with the new system. With LTI, we have integrated a variety of 3rd party tools with our LMS (rSmart Sakai) here at Notre Dame. This tools list includes the following:

  • WordPress
  • Private iTunes U
  • Maple T.A.
  • CalcPortal
  • Echo 360
  • MediaSite

As a result, instructors are happy because they can continue to use their favorite teaching tools from Sakai. Students are happy because they can access different tools without separate logins.  We, the LMS administrator and developers, are happy because our customers are happy. If you are interested in any technical details for the integration, please feel free to reach me at xiaojing.duan@nd.edu.

Make Your Media More Interactive and Engaging

Have you ever wondered how to make your video accessible for people who have a hearing problem or speak a different native language? Have you ever wondered how your video can benefit visual learners who absorb and recall information best by reading as opposed to listening? Have you ever wondered how to give the audience the freedom to search across your video and jump to the exact keywords that interest them? You are not alone, we have been wondering about that for a while. Fortunately, we now have a solution … interactive transcript.

Interactive transcript provides the audience a new way to enjoy your media content. Similar to subtitles in many ways, interactive transcript is displayed next to the audio/video source. As the audience hears the words being spoken, they can also see matching words highlighted or underlined in the transcript. The entire transcript is clickable, users can click on any word and start to enjoy the audio/video from that exact point. They can also search the transcript and jump to the part that interests them. Interactive transcript provides users a much richer experience with media content.

1. Click on word "mammals", the video jumps to that point and starts to play from there.2. When "mammals" is spoken in the video, it's also highlighted in the transcript.3, Search "fish", all the parts that mention "fish" are highlighted in the transcript.

1. Click on word “mammals”, the video jumps to that point and starts to play from there.
2. When “mammals” is spoken in the video, it’s also highlighted in the transcript.
3, Search “fish”, all the parts that mention “fish” are highlighted in the transcript.

There are a nurmeous of interactive transcripts providers, of which 3PlayMedia and SpeakerText Captionbox are among the most popular. We ran a small pilot with 3Play Media’s service. We provided them audio/video files along with the transcripts, and they synchronized the text with the media using automated speech technology. The result has been very satisfying, except we find the price to be a bit high.

Can the price be a showstopper? If you are like me, a strong believer in OpenSource, you must be wondering if there is something like that available for free. Well, after some digging, voila! Pipwerks already published the API(s) for adding captions and interactive transcript for online videos. And it’s completely OpenSource. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and climb onto the shoulders of giants. Thanks to the EasyCaption and Kaltura API, I was able to help an Irish Studies professor build a repository (Irish Stories) to collect and share Irish Immigrants’ stories in a more interactive and engaging way. If you are interested, here is an example.  Please feel free to contact me at xiaojing.duan@nd.edu for any technical details.