LTI Integration for Blackboard

The LTI standard is from 1EdTech (formerly IMS Global). Applications that are LTI-compliant can integrate with any LMS that is also LTI-compliant, as long as the LMS supports the same LTI specification.

Blackboard supports the most recent releases of the LTI standard: LTI v1.3 and LTI Advantage. Blackboard allows users to launch into an LTI-compliant app from inside Blackboard. This typical user experience is called LTI Launch; an app appears inside of an iframe in Blackboard. Since Blackboard supports LTI Advantage, LTI-compliant apps can use the improved grade passback and enrollment provisioning services offered by LTI Advantage.

API Integration for Blackboard

API integration allows products to directly communicate with Blackboard through the proprietary Blackboard API. Users can authenticate through an OAuth 2.0 workflow into an external app using the user’s Blackboard credentials. It should be noted, though, that Blackboard's implementation of OAuth 2.0 is rather non-standard. While it still technically follows the OAuth 2.0 specification, Blackboard's implementation includes quirks that aren't generally present in other platforms that use OAuth 2.0.

Once the product and Blackboard authenticate the user, then the product can act on behalf of the user. This means the product can perform functions via the Blackboard API, such as sending back grades to the user gradebook or creating new assignments. This is all done while the user is in the product and not in Blackboard.

Note that Blackboard instances are usually self-hosted by the school or college. Due to the many legacy systems hosting the software, Blackboard environments tend not to be updated as frequently as other platforms. This can be a problem when integrating with Blackboard, as the product may try to interact with a feature that is not present in a particular school's Blackboard environment.

To get started with the Blackboard REST API, developers should register for a Blackboard developer account. It is free to register for an account but there may be costs associated with deploying an integration once a developer reaches a certain scale. For example, developers must pay Blackboard to set up development instances. This environment, which developers have to set up, lasts for 3 months.

Which Blackboard Integration Is Better?

The type of integration that developers should build will depend on the needs of the school. Some schools particularly need an LTI standard integration with their Blackboard environments. Other schools may look for a solution that includes features that are better supported by API integrations. Thus, having solutions for both situations can prove to be valuable when trying to work with a multitude of schools.

Read More on Blackboard:

Read these other articles we've written on Blackboard and integrations.

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