Are you one of the many instructors at FSCJ that utilize third-party tools as a compliment to your Canvas OR Blackboard course? As faculty are completing the long process of migrating over course content, many are looking for information about how to integrate publisher content (such as My...Lab or MindTap) test proctoring platforms (like SmarterProctoring), or tutoring tools (like Brainfuse) within their course shell. These tools can really enhance the learning experience for our students and create a more varied and useful online environment. However, figuring out how to find and implement the tools that you would like to use when starting out with Canvas is proving to be a real challenge for a lot of our teachers.
In this blog post, we will discuss how to identify which third-party tools are already integrated with Canvas for your use, how to enable these tools so that they can be easily accessed by you and your students, and what you should do if you would like to use a tool that has not already been enabled in our Canvas instance.
How to Find Third Party Tools
The majority of the third-party tools that are most commonly used by our faculty are already available for easy use in Canvas. The trick to getting started with them is knowing where to look! The first thing that you should know is that Instructure, Canvas’s parent company, refers to third-party (or LTI) tools as Apps or External Tools, taking a cue from everyone's favorite ubiquitous technology, the smartphone (as a side note: in this blog post we will be using the terms “app” and “tool” interchangeably). In each course shell, visiting the “Apps” tab on the “Settings” menu and then clicking “View App Configurations” will generate an easy-to-view list of the third-party tools that have been integrated globally because they are used by most of the faculty at FSCJ. The screenshot below shows you the three steps that you should take to access this list within your Canvas course. First, click the Settings link at the bottom of the Course Navigation menu, then select the Apps tab. and click the View App Configurations button on the top right side of the screen.
You will then gain access to the Apps Configuration list, and as you can see in the image below, it consists of three columns. The middle column provides the name of the app, while the column on the left displays either a lock icon (indicating that this tool cannot be edited on the course level) or a gear icon (indicating that the tool can be changed on the course level). On the right hand side of each row, the “i” button provides information that is vital to understanding how to use this tool in your course by letting you know where it can be found in your course (this is referred to as its “app placement”).
Clicking on the i next to an any app name will open up a new, smaller dialogue box that lists the app placements for that specific LTI tool. It is useful to know that many apps are available for multiple placements, making them more flexible and versatile to use within Canvas. For example, in the image to the left, you can see that this app can be found (and used) in multiple ways within Canvas. We will take a closer look at what each of these app placement options mean as this blog post continues.
By default, most Canvas apps have an assignment selection placement. This allows you to access the tool to create assignments for your students to complete in Canvas. When you use the LTI External Tool Assignment Type, you can nest another application’s content in your Canvas course to create assignments that can be graded in your Canvas Grade book. This can create a more pleasant experience for your students while also eliminating the need for you to transfer grades from one system to another. The most commonly used EduApp that uses the Assignment Selection option is Turnitin. For more information about how to create an assignment using an external tool in Canvas, click here. Please note that, if assignment selection is not listed among the app placements for that specific app on the App Configurations page, then the tool cannot be used to create assignments with Canvas.
When an EduApp has a placement that indicates it is available for deployment on the Course Navigation Menu, it is very easy to use and share with your students. Examples of tools that fit into this category include (but are not limited to) BrainFuse and SmarterProctoring. To enable these types of tools, simply visit the settings menu within your course, go to the Navigation Tab, and find the tool that you wish to enable in the list of hidden links in the list at the bottom of the page. When you have found the link that you would like to use, simply drag it up to the top portion of the screen in the order in which you would like it to appear on the side navigation menu, and click “save” at the bottom of the screen. Then, you can access the tool from your course’s side navigation to complete any account linking that may need to be done (refer to the tool’s documentation or help resources for more information about how to do this).
Some of the more commonly used content tools within Canvas have helpfully been placed within the Rich Content Editor so that you can easily use them when you are making pages, assignments, quizzes, and discussions. The tools that appear in the Rich Content Editor have an App Placement of Editor Button. The image below shows how to access these tools when using the Rich Content Editor anywhere within Canvas. First, select the “V” icon on the bottom row of buttons in the Rich Content Editor. Then, select one of the tools from the dropdown and, in the subsequent dialog box, select the piece of content from the tool that you would like to embed in your course. As you can see in the image below, you can use this feature to embed videos that you have created in Studio (formerly Arc), or videos and materials form FSCJ’s library.
Apps that are placed in the Global Navigation bar appear on the left side blue navigation area that is available everywhere that you go within Canvas. These are the tools that are most commonly used by students and faculty or the ones that need to be accessible even when a user is not enrolled in a current course. These include EduApps like Follett Discover for textbook adoption and Studio for video creation and storage. Note that this placement is set when the tool is set up and cannot be changed by the Canvas User—these menu options are simply a part of our shared life within Canvas.
The “Homework Submission” placement type is a kind of interesting and hard-to track down variant, because it is only visible in the student’s view of Canvas (if you want to check out how it works, I recommend using Canvas’s student view). EduApps with “Homework Submission” enabled allow students to submit directly from the tool whenever they are submitting assignments. As of this writing we have very few LTI tools that utilize this placement, but a great and widely-used example of one is Canvas Studio. Students can use Studio directly to upload videos as assignment submissions. The image below shows a student view of the assignment upload screen, and you can see that it consists of three tabs, allowing the student to upload assignments in three ways—via Website URL, using Studio, or via Office365. Because Office365 and Studio have a “Homework Submission” placement, they can be enabled to allow students to use them to submit assignments.
When Link Selection is an option for app placement, you can choose to create a direct link to this tool within your course modules. For example, if you would like to embed a specific YouTube video in your course as a module item, you can use the “External Tool” option to find that specific video within YouTube and embed it as a specific module item. It will then appear as a separate clickable line within your module, indicating to the student that it is an important part of that particular unit. Note that some External Tools allow you to search for a specific resource within the tool and link that to your Canvas course. Those are indicated by a magnifying glass to the right of their name in the tool search box. Others require you to simply link to the front page of the tool itself.
Complete instructions for how to add content from an EduApp/LTI Tool to your Canvas Module can be found here.
No Placements Enabled
Ahh the dreaded “No Placements Enabled” LTI tool message. This sounds like the tool itself is broken right? Not So! Normally, “No Placements Enabled” will appear when an LTI requires the upload of a Common Course Cartridge in order to work. You may find yourself in this situation if you are attempting to create a “deep” link between your Canvas course and a smaller/OER publisher that requires you to create your course materials in their tool before exporting them and then uploading them into canvas. More information on this can be found in the section below.
How to Create “Deep Links” with an LTI Tool/EduApp
“Deep Linking” generally requires the instructor to first visit the outside portal of the online application with which they would like to link their course. At this external portal, the instructor can look at the instructional materials that are available to be integrated into their course and make some selections about which content and assignments they would like to have integrated directly into their Canvas course. Once these selections are made within the external tool, the instructor will then be directed to create a Canvas-compatible export package that they would then download onto their computer and upload into Canvas. This is a general overview of this process—unfortunately, many publishers have differences in the details of how this process functions. Questions about deep linking publisher’s content are best directed to your contact at the publisher, or to their knowledge base or support services.
What Do I Do if I Need to Use an App that is Not Currently Integrated with Canvas?
At this time, instructors do not have the ability to integrate new LTI tools within Canvas, but they can request that a tool be integrated with the system. To do so, please visit help.fscj.edu and submit a request. Prior to doing so, it is helpful to have done some research on the basics of the tool, including its cost (if any) and who will fund this cost from year to year. When completing the request, you will be asked for information about how to request a technical consultation with a member of the tool provider’s integration team, so please do some research about this, as well. Finally, please make your request at least a month in advance of the time that you plan to use the tool, as integrations can take time, depending upon their complexity.
If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, please feel free to reach out to EdTech@fscj.edu!