Sakai Passes LTI Advantage Certification

Sakai 19 has officially passed the IMS Global LTI Advantage certification suite along with Canvas, Blackboard, and Moodle.  The standards have not yet been released to the public but as part of the process to validate the certification suite itself – IMS Contributing Members help with the testing of the suite before its formal release to insure a smooth release once certification is completed.

Having nearly every major LMS passing the certification for LTI Advantage before it is done is unprecedented and gives a hint of the big things to come with LTI Advantage.  It is the most important standard in educational technology since IMS LTI 1.0 was released in May of 2010.

I think that most everyone who has been around long enough to know and been part of standards development for the past 15 years would agree that without Sakai the market would never have created IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (started in 2004 by Sakai) and IMS Common Cartridge (started in 2005 by Sakai).  Being 100% open source and with an open community, Sakai has always put the best interests of teachers, learners, LMS administrators, and those who want to improve the educational technology ecosystem above our own market-share success.

Building an enterprise-grade open source LMS (read the book)  was a challenging effort but it gave the Sakai community and its adopters far greater influence in the marketplace than the typical university that took the easy way out and installed proprietary commercial products like Blackboard, Angel or WebCT (back in the day).  Moodle has been open source since 2004, but not actively involved contributing to the development of interoperability standards until recently.

The Sakai community was willing to invest in the greater good of interoperability and use our small (6%) market presence to gain attention for the standards that we knew would transform the market far more than the software that we were building.

When LTI 1.0 was released in May of 2010, the only major LMS that truly supported LTI was Sakai.  I had written LTI 1.0 code and contributed it to the OLAT, ATutor and Moodle open source projects to help build momentum but none of the major players provided support for IMS LTI 1.0 until Desire2Learn announced it in their 8.4.7 release at Educause in the Fall of 2010.   Blackboard announced  support in the first quarter of 2011.

The key point to all this is that back in the old days (i.e. 2010) when the LTI standard came out it was over a year before the major LMS vendors came on board and it took a lot of travel, begging and encouraging.  I even made a promise of a tattoo of their logo on my shoulder to get the vendors attention.

Now with LTI advantage, we not only have bundled four standards together:

  • LTI Core Launch
  • LTI Deep Linking
  • LTI Names and Roles
  • LTI Assignments and Grades

Four of the five of the leading LMS vendors *already* are certified for all four standards.  Believe me, this changes everything – just wait and see.

This would not have been possible without tremendous effort and cooperation between the LMS vendors and tool providers for over 18 months.   The following folks have been in weekly meetings and on Slack nearly continuously to bring this very complex suite of standards to life.

We (and I) owe these organizations and their staff a great deal of appreciation for this wonderful new suite of standards: Cengage (Chair), Canvas (co-chair), Blackboard, Moodle, Unicon, VitalSource,  the IMS Staff, LearningObjects, TurnitIn, McGraw-Hill, Houghton-Mifflen-Harcourt, and Desire2Learn.  LTI Advantage was so significant that Microsoft and Google brought engineers to the meetings.  They were somewhat limited in how much they could dive in and show source code and help others debug their code – but they provided a valuable contribution by carefully architecting and reviewing the security protocols that underpin LTI Advantage.

As I worked on adding LTI Advantage to Sakai and Tsugi I had the luxury of being surrounded by so much talent from these organizations.   I got a lot of help in the PHP version of LTI Advantage in Tsugi from Martin Lennord of Turnitin and I got a lot of help from Eric Preston of Blackboard and Paul Gray of LearningObjects who helped me when the going got rough in Java.  They were always there when I got stuck to help me get unstuck – whether in a meeting or on Slack.  I also owe a big debt to Derek Haskins of IMS who helped me work through certification issues at the last minute – we both found a few small issues in each other’s code.

All in all, being part of such a talented team of engineers from so many organizations was one of the most collaborative engineering projects I have ever experienced.

And the most important point of all is that this is just the beginning.  Just the first release.  The first release is always the most difficult.   In terms of building new standards – we have been holding our collective breath for about two years and putting any good idea that someone came up with in the “parking lot”.

This group of talented people and dedicated organizations, can now start to prioritize all those ideas.  You should expect that the next two years will be very productive as LTI Advantage expands further.