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LTI Fundamentals FAQ

Learning Tools Interoperability® (LTI®) is one of the key interoperability standards needed to integrate multiple campus systems to create a coherent technology ecosystem (shared environments) made up of tools and systems from several different vendors. The purpose of this FAQ is to answer some of the basic, non-technical questions about LTI, explain its benefits, and clarify information about what LTI does and what it does not do.

Important Links

HED Innovation Leadership Networks

HED Playbook

IMS Global Technical Resources

Learning Tools Interoperability®: A Primer

Frequently Asked Questions

LTI Fundamentals

What is LTI? What does LTI stand for?

Why do I care? Why is this useful?

What problem does LTI solve?

What aspects of integration does LTI address?

How is LTI different from other methods of integrating systems, e.g. Blackboard Building Blocks?

What’s the relationship between LTI and an ‘app store’ (e.g. EduAppCenter in Canvas) or tool catalog?

Is LTI a specific type of app or product?

Does LTI solve all of my challenges with tool integrations?

How do I know that I am being moved from one system to another?

How else is LTI sometimes referenced?

What are the risks of LTI tools?

LTI Security & Privacy

What do my IT security colleagues need to know about LTI?

Are there any security-related resources available?

Is there a concern about privacy when using LTI?

Does LTI adhere to national and local laws, such as those that govern data privacy?

LTI Technical Basics

I have heard that there are different types or versions of LTI (e.g. LTI 1.x, LTI 2.x). How are these different and which one do I need to know about?

Should all of our Edtech tools and systems be LTI certified?

Does LTI always refer to custom homegrown or external/third-party apps?

What configuration parameters can/should be established when developing and integrating an LTI?

Are there good models for approving LTI integrations?

Conformance and Certification

How can I be certain that a vendor’s product is truly LTI certified?

Do Edtech Tools using LTI need to be accessibility requirement/standard compliant? 


What is LTI? What does LTI stand for?

Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) is a standard, developed by IMS Global Learning Consortium, which allows courseware and learning tools from different vendors to be launched from a tool from within an application. The LTI integration allows the student to move seamlessly from one tool to the other, with minimal effort from instructors or students. There are various versions of LTI each with a range of capabilities. For details on functionality, see the LTI version chart

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Why do I care? Why is this useful?

The basic use of the LTI standard allows the seamless connection between a web-based tool that is outside of the learning platform. LTI provides the mechanism that allows users (such as a student) to navigate among various tools while maintaining a high-level of security for passing data about the user, the place they come from, and their role (e.g. faculty, student, TA, etc.). The tools can range from simple communication applications, such as chat, to domain-specific learning environments, such as publisher products. In other words, if you have an interactive assessment application or virtual chemistry lab, it can be securely connected to an LMS in a standard way without a tool having to develop and maintain custom integrations for each platform.

LTI allows a user to navigate between various learning tools without having to log into each tool. LTI carries information about the user, the platform from which they came, the role of the user and where they are going. 

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What problem does LTI solve?

LTI provides rapid and seamless integration between a growing set of cloud-based learning applications and a growing set of learning environments or platforms, such as learning management systems, portals or learning object repositories. 

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What aspects of integration does LTI address?

LTI integration enables a secure launch from within the learning environment that handles user interface integration, sign-on to the learning application, and the passing of important context information that learning environments have, such as class information, and that learning applications need. LTI also enables secure communication of data from the learning application to the learning environment, such as scores, grade books, etc. 

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How is LTI different from other methods of integrating systems, e.g. Blackboard Building Blocks?

LTI is a standard cross-platform specification that is compatible with multiple LMS products, such as Blackboard Building Blocks. Tools that conform to a cross-platform specification should require no additional work or a proprietary API to integrate with more systems and will act consistently across systems. 

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What’s the relationship between LTI and an ‘app store’ (e.g. EduAppCenter in Canvas) or tool catalog?

An app store or tool catalog is a listing of available tools, often accompanied by a description and may include user reviews and recommendations for use, much like a listing on Amazon, Google Play Store, iTunes, etc. In many cases, the education technology tools included in a vendor-managed or an institution may host a tool catalog that lists tools available on their campus. In many cases these tools leverage the LTI standards to integrate the tool into the institution's ecosystem, LMS or course shell. Not all tools listed in a catalog use LTI to integrate with an LMS or course shell. It is essential to read the description of the tool before adoption to discover how if the tool uses LTI or another form of integration. IMS Global also offers a Certified Product Directory that lists LTI tools that have been certified. 

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Is LTI a specific type of app or product?

We often hear people refer to “LTIs” when they mean applications that integrate into an LMS using LTI. This reference is shorthand vocabulary indicating that the tool uses the LTI standard. 

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Does LTI solve all my challenges with tool integrations?

LTI solves a number of challenges. However, there are concerns that need to be appropriately examined such as the security of protected data in systems external to the institution. LTI is designed to move users and data from one system to another securely. For example, if a user is moved from an LMS to a web-based system, the items may or may not be encrypted (e.g. https). Whether the content is unsecured (http:) or secure (https:) is unique to the tool and not LTI. There is a similar case with data that can be passed between tools using some versions of LTI. Depending on how the tool integration is configured in the LMS, user data can be captured, collected, and held by the third-party tool or system. This data is not governed by LTI. It is recommended that all tools and systems be vetted to ensure their security and handling of data conforms to institutional policies. 

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How do I know that I am being moved from one system to another?

You may not always know that you are being moved from one system to another. Some tools may present the end user (instructor, student) with a message letting them know they are accessing a different system the first time, however, other tools, may not. One of the strengths of LTI in the learning context is its ability to maintain a seamless experience as students, faculty, or staff move from one system to another without the worry of multiple logins. 

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How else is LTI sometimes referenced?

The term ‘integration’ is often used. 

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What are the risks of LTI tools?

If instructors are allowed to configure LTI tools without institutional approval, these tools may not comply with local standards around data security, privacy, or accessibility. Your campus LMS team can inform you about local policy for evaluating, selecting, and adding LTI tools to your LMS. 

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What do my IT security colleagues need to know about LTI?

The privacy of personal data has always been an essential element of the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) specification. LTI allows personal data about a user (such as their name, email address, and role) to be included in the messages which are sent to third-party content and learning tools. In many cases, such data is critical in providing an excellent level of service to users.  However, one of the requirements that a tool consumer must pass to be awarded LTI certification is that it must have implemented an option to enable and disable the passing of such data. Thus, the choice as to whether personal data is shared with third-parties remains under the control of the institution (at least if they are using a certified tool consumer).

When establishing a relationship with a third-party content and learning tools, it is recommended that an institution satisfies itself about:

  1. What personal data do they require to have shared with them?

  2. Do they have an adequate policy to ensure the continued privacy of any personal data which is shared?

  3. What are the consequences if it is decided not to share certain personal data?

When it comes to the sharing of personal data, the approach should always be:

  • remember that the tool consumer can control this;

  • only do so when it is required to improve the user experience;

  • only do so when adequate safeguards are in place to guarantee the continued privacy of the data;

  • review the decision on a regular basis. 

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Are there any security-related resources available?

The University of Pennsylvania developed a questionnaire for vendors intended to help guide vendor responses about existing or planned security controls protecting hosted data and/or systems. 

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Is there a concern about privacy when using LTI?

An LTI tool presents the same concerns any third party application have that is granted access to student data as part of the tool’s functionality. The ability to collect and store personally identifying information about students, including names, email addresses, and grades for activities completed is specific to the tool and not LTI. Instructors and institutions should ensure that LTI tools comply with their local campus standards around student privacy, information security, records retention, and accessibility. 

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Does LTI adhere to national and local laws, such as those that govern data privacy?

Instructors and institutions using LTI tools should review each tool integration to ensure that the vendor adheres to national, local, and campus policies and laws related to student information, records, accessibility, etc. Adopting an LTI tool should follow the same process that an institution would apply to a contract with any third party for learning resources. LTI merely changes how data is passed to third parties. 

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I have heard that there are different types or versions of LTI (e.g. LTI 1.x, LTI 2.x). How are these different and which one do I need to know about?

Like any software, LTI has evolved over time and what it is able to do continues to mature, which is why there are different versions. The LTI version number to which a tool complies is very important as it prescribes that the tool consumer (e.g. LMS) must support that specific version of LTI to take full advantage of the functionality it offers. To better understand the basics of LTI and key differences between LTI 1.0 and LTI 2 see this brief video that explains in basic terms the fundamental differences. You can also view the LTI version chart that outlines the basic functions of each version of LTI. 

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Should all of our EdTech tools and systems be LTI certified?

One of the advantages of using LTI tools that are certified by IMS Global is that IMS stands behind the certification. If you encounter an integration issue with a certified LTI app, the IMS Global technical team will work with your campus and the tool provider to resolve the issue. The LTI specification does not allow the level of integration you require. Also, note that one benefit of LTI integrations is that the integration is LMS-agnostic should the institution ever consider changing its platform. 

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Does LTI always refer to custom homegrown or external/third-party apps?

With education technology, there are at least two players: a tool consumer, such as an LMS, and a tool provider, which is the homegrown or external/third-party app. A tool can be homegrown and use the LTI standard, making the institution both the consumer and provider of the app. Typically, tools that integrate with a consumer (e.g. LMS or other enterprise systems [portal]) are referred to as an LTI tool. 

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What configuration parameters can/should be established when developing and integrating an LTI?

An integration requires at least a launch URL, a consumer key and a shared secret. Then the tool consumer may offer options to select what data is to be shared and what services are to be made available. 

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Are there good models for approving LTI integrations?

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How can I be certain that a vendor’s product is truly LTI certified?

IMS Global provides and maintains a certification directory of products that have met conformance criteria for all of its standards, including LTI. All certified products are issued a certification number and are listed in the IMS Global Certified Product Directory. Products listed in the directory are guaranteed to meet the IMS Global standards for which they have passed testing. If you experience an integration issue with an IMS Global certified product, IMS Global will work with the supplier and institution to resolve the problem.

To ensure that any tool consumer or tool provider is compliant it is recommended that you require IMS Global certification as part of an institutions’ procurement process and RFP documents and check their conformance record in the directory. 

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Do Edtech Tools using LTI need to be accessibility requirement/standard compliant?

LTI is the standard that enables two learning tools to easily integrate with each other, it is not the content of the tool. Concerns relating to accessibility compliance and the security of transmitting web content (e.g. https:) are not directly related to LTI.

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