Third-Party Packages, Plugins or Extensions in D2L

Textbook publishers, educational technology vendors, and other content or activity providers frequently offer extensions or plugins that allow students and faculty to access their systems via D2L course spaces.  However, there are important factors you should consider before requesting that these integrations be added to your D2L course spaces:

  • Upon request, COLI will install third-party extensions in D2L, after determining that the extension uses appropriate technology (typically Learning Tools Interoperability, or LTI) and presents no risk or harm to any course spaces, students, faculty, or any other element within D2L.  
  • Publisher plugins or extensions that require administrative work by COLI or ITS personnel may take weeks to deploy.  It's successful implementation is dependent on everything going to plan as purported by the content publisher. So you should request integrations as early as you can.
  • Beyond extension setup, ITS (including Helpdesk) and COLI do not provide support for digital products, content packages, course cartridges, websites, or other tools supplied by content creators outside Canisius University.  These publishers may include, for example, textbook or educational content publishers, database websites, mobile apps, exam operation or proctoring sites, or others with which Canisius does not have a formal, University-level business relationship.    There are too many and they vary widely in function, capability, and quality.  COLI and ITS staff seldom have any access at all to screens that students see, and never have access to administrative tools.  So publishers or vendors must provide all support for how to enroll students into online components of their packages, upload their content cartridges into Learning Management Systems like D2L, employ faculty tools such as quiz or exam builders, and so forth.
  • You need a plan B, or alternative means of teaching in case your chosen digital publisher content does not work properly. COLI staff have seen publisher plugins and other content fail and publishers fail to properly remedy the problem.  Publishers occasionally claim the problem is within D2L, but the API connection out of D2L is quite simple, and COLI has not seen instances where D2L has been the source of a problem.
  • COLI or ITS staff will judge whether the implementation of a plugin or extension poses a risk to D2L course spaces, the D2L system, or any other web-based system supplied by Canisius.  If COLI or ITS decide that implementation requirements, or subsequent modifications to D2L are not reasonable, prudent, or practical, either at a certain point in a semester or in general, we will not implement or continue to support an implementation.  
  • Your students are now facing a myriad of online tools and resources across their courses. Employing systems outside D2L, Google Drive, Turnitin, or other Canisius-supplied applications may be worth it, if these outside resources supply rich, interactive experiences for your students. But overly complicated systems that basically offer another way to deploy quizzes or collect file-based assignments, without substantially different features than D2L, are probably not worth it. Consider carefully whether convenience for you warrants additional learning responsibilities for your students.
  • Publisher plugins, extensions, and content may complicate your course building activities in D2L. For example, you may need to manage unfamiliar structures, such as LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability). If you elect to replace course content in subsequent semesters, existing content loaded in bulk might make this a bigger chore.
  • If you are relying on assessments – for example, quiz questions – supplied by the publisher, be aware that these questions and their answers may have made it somewhere onto the open internet, where students may be able to access them prior to completing an assessment in your course.

Questions For Your Publisher Agent

ITS and COLI strongly urge faculty to investigate and thoroughly test publisher digital products before using them in a class.  Here are some questions faculty should forward to any content provider:

  • How and where will students enroll, if enrollment is required beyond D2L, to access the content?
  • How and where will students get personal assistance, troubleshooting help, and tutorial documentation to use the content?
  • How will the provider handle any student-specific or -generated data that is stored in their system?  What security measures do they have in place to ensure the security of this data, in accordance with Federal Government guidelines concerning student data? 
  • Does the publisher supply step-by-step text instructions with image examples, or even tutorial videos, for instructors? 
  • Does the publisher supply a number to call, email address, or a web form to contact instructor support services?  
  • When may instructors access or obtain any student-specific or generated data, and when does that access end?
  • How might instructors download and store student-specific or generated data, for record-keeping purposes?  In what file formats will that data be available to download?
  • Some content package providers enable instructors to upload their own content to use in conjunction with publisher content.  What stipulations does the publisher make concerning the intellectual property rights of the instructor who uploads her or his own content?
  • How easy will it be to purge semester-specific publisher content or links from course content that is copied to subsequent semesters?

A good practice is to request an integration as early as possible, and test it well before committing it into a course plan.  Request a demo student license or account with the provider, and COLI can run through the student process with you to ensure it works and you know what students can do and expect.  

Guidelines for Publishers

Generally, Canisius ITS and the Center for Online Learning & Innovation are willing to install publisher tools and integrations into D2L, but there are some important things content publishers should be aware of:

  • Canisius ITS and the Center for Online Learning & Innovation reserve the right to reject any such tool or integration at any time.  This means we might elect not to install it, or might disable or remove it at our discretion.   
  • Canisius’ D2L administrators do not provide training or troubleshooting support for publishers’ integrations or tools.  Canisius ITS Help Desk does not support these tools or integrations.  If students or faculty encounter problems with publisher applications of any kind, they are directed by Help Desk to contact the publisher for technical support.
  • If a publisher representative becomes aware of a problem with their integration within Canisius’ D2L instance that requires Canisius administrator intervention, they should supply specific instruction to the Canisius administrator, and should anticipate several business days before action can be taken.