The Solution for Third-Party Cookies in LTI 1.3 Has Arrived
The 1EdTech (formerly IMS Global) Learning Tool Interoperability (LTI) standard’s latest version (LTI 1.3) has become the go-to method for integrating learning applications with Learning Management Systems (LMSs) such as Canvas, Blackboard, D2L Brightspace, Moodle, and Sakai. The LTI 1.3 Core specification outlines how to achieve seamless single sign-on (SSO) from an LMS into a learning application. In addition to the LTI 1.3 Core specification, LTI 1.3 also has several LTI Advantage specifications, which allow learning tools to fetch the entire class roster adhoc from the LMS (via the LTI Advantage Names & Roles Provisioning Service), post grades to the LMSs (via the LTI Advantage Assignments & Grades Service), and offer a custom user interface for instructors to insert links to their learning content directly into the LMS (LTI Advantage Deep Linking).
Unfortunately, as there has been a privacy move to block third-party cookies to prevent advertisers from tracking users, these integration standards have been caught in the crossfire. A third-party cookie is a cookie that is set by an application, such as a learning tool or an advertisement, running within an iframe of a parent application, such as an LMS or ecommerce website. Both the original LTI 1.3 Core and LTI Advantage Deep Linking specifications relied on the use of third-party cookies in order to complete the necessary security handshake for users to SSO into the learning tool’s user interface from within an iframe inside the LMS, without opening the tool in a new tab. Opening the tool in a new tab has long been the recommended workaround for this issue because it allows the learning tool to set first-party cookies to complete the SSO process instead of third-party cookies, circumventing their blockage. However, it is not possible to open LTI Advantage Deep Linking content selection menus in a new tab since they must always open within an iframe, and for many applications, users suffer a poorer user experience from going to a new tab.
Nonetheless, GDPR has cited third-party cookies as a privacy risk and has been pushing all browsers to block them. Safari was the first browser to block third-party cookies, which has already led to a great uptick in support cases regarding users reaching an error page when they try to click on LTI links within their LMS instead of being seamlessly presented with the application. As the other browsers follow suit to comply, unless LTI applications are prepared to stop using LTI Advantage Deep Linking and switch to opening in a new tab, instructors and students are at risk of not being able to access their favorite applications from within their LMS.
Luckily, 1EdTech has been aware of this looming issue for quite some time and has devised 3 new specifications to allow learning tools and LMSs to circumvent the usage of third-party cookies during LTI 1.3 Core resource link launches, as well as Deep Linking content picker launches. Within the past couple of months, 1EdTech has finally released these specifications to its members so they can begin implementing it in both tools and LMSs, and within the next couple of weeks, they are expected to become accessible to the public.
The LTI Third-Party Cookie Solution specifications are available to 1EdTech members here:
If you are an institution or school district that uses LTI tools, check with your vendor to see what plans they have for incorporating this new solution. If you are a tool or LMS vendor and you don’t have time to review all of these specifications, or don’t have time to implement this fix for all of the learners and instructors who rely on your learning tool or LMS, Unicon can help. Additionally, if you’re just getting started with LTI and are looking for some guidance on how to cut through the weeds of all these specifications to plan for and execute a solution that works for your needs, please reach out to us!