Five Academic Years of Activated Third-Party and Custom-Coded Applications on an LMS Instance

Five Academic Years of Activated Third-Party and Custom-Coded Applications on an LMS Instance

Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7528-3.ch002
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On Canvas's data portal, the “external_tool_activation_dim” data table showcases applications activated on the LMS instance through an LTI or other integration mechanism. The “apps” include those by third-party content providers, publishers, software makers, social media platforms, as well as in-house developers. The linked resources include e-books, simulated labs, inter-communications tools, digital content hosting services, assessment supports, proctoring services, work management tools, micro-credentialing services, and others. Understanding which third-party and customized applications are activated may shed light on the interests of the online instructors, the gaps between activated applications and available ones, local custom-coded applications, and others. This chapter captures activated app data through the full lifespan of the LMS instance at Kansas State University to the present moment and encapsulates five academic years: Fall 2013 – Summer 2014, Fall 2014 – Summer 2015, Fall 2015 – Summer 2016, Fall 2016 – Summer 2017, and Fall 2017 – Spring 2018.
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Learning management systems (LMSes), web-facing systems that enable online teaching and learning, provide a range of services to enable online learning. These capabilities include the following:

  • The creation of persistent user-based accounts (that are connected to other related databases and which enable levels of access based on roles);

  • The creation and deployment of assignments;

  • The creation and deployment of assessments;

  • Multimodal digital file-sharing in many directions (one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-one, many-to-many, and others);

  • Video streaming;

  • Collaborative teamwork;

  • Intercommunications;

  • Grading and provision of feedback;

  • Electronic surveying;

  • Assessment proctoring;

  • Event-logging; and others.

While LMS usage is widespread, there have been public debates about whether it is possible to just use various social media platforms and other lower-cost online services to provide the same online teaching and learning. Some instructors have used a well-known microblogging site (then limited to 140 characters for each message) and hosted websites for full online courses. There have now also been various online services that enable harnessing for online learning but which do not enable the full range of services. Indeed, there are free and open-source LMSes in the ecosystem (albeit often not with the full range of robust features of the commercial LMSes).

One method that various LMSes have been using to connect to the zeitgeist of the Social Web or Web 2.0 has been to harness the capabilities of the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard by the IMS Global Learning Consortium (“Learning Tools Interoperability,” 2018). Its earliest version was known as BasicLTI and created in 2008 in a Google Summer of Code project (by Jordi Piguillem), and the IMS Global Learning Consortium released LTI v1.0 in June 2010 (“Learning Tools Interoperability,” Sept. 21, 2017). Version 1.1 was released in August 2012, and v. 2 came out in January 2014. The LTI specifications enable LMSes to integrate third-party contents and capabilities that may not be native or built-in to the LMS and so add novel functionalities. The interoperability means that the third-party applications generally work seamlessly within the LMS and may not require excessive effort to integrate.

The Research

This work explores and various types of applications that have been activated on the Canvas LMS for K-State over the five academic years of the LMS’s usage through the present:

  • Academic Year: Fall 2013 – Summer 2014

  • Academic Year: Fall 2014 – Summer 2015

  • Academic Year: Fall 2015 – Summer 2016

  • Academic Year: Fall 2016 – Summer 2017

  • Academic Year: Fall 2017 – Spring 2018

The academic years are comprised of two partial calendar years. The application types will be coded into various categories (based on main functionalities). Other types of empirical-based observations will be made based on the “external_tool_activation_dim” data table treated as a “flat file”. This means that queries will be run on single columns and across columns, but there will not be references to outside data. The SQL data table will not be used with its “keys” to connect to other related data tables from Canvas. There will only be light references to outside data in terms of the respective applications (in order to accurately categorize them).

Several software programs will be used for this work: Microsoft Excel 2016, NVivo 11 Plus, Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), and RapidMiner Studio.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Internal Application: A software application to fulfill particular desired functions created by the target institution itself for its own needs.

Referatory: An online site that points to web- and internet-hosted contents but which does not generally host contents itself.

Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI): A standard to enable the integration of applications (apps) and learning management systems (LMSes).

Learning Management System (LMS): An online web-based system to enable online teaching and e-learning.

Third-Party Applications: A software application (created by a company external to a learning management system and the organization using that LMS).

Repository: A web-facing database that enables access to hosted digital contents for consumption and/or download.

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