Canvas Release: Google Apps LTI (2017-01-07)

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

This document introduces the Google Apps integration as noted in the Canvas Production Release Notes (2017-01-07).


The Google Apps LTI can be configured manually by users who have permission to add and edit LTI tools.

When enabled, the Google LTI adds functionality to multiple areas in Canvas courses.

Canvas has improved its integration with Google Apps making it easier for instructors to include collaborations, content sharing, engaging course content, and assignment distribution directly within Canvas. The integration also makes it easy for students to collaborate with instructors and fellow students on individual or group assignments.



Integration Details


Google Apps is an external app (LTI) available to institutions with Google Apps for education. However, anyone with a Google account can use this integration.


The Google Apps LTI supports Google Drive in Canvas and can be enabled at the account, sub-account, or course level in a Canvas production environment. The LTI must be configured manually by users who have permission to add and edit LTI tools.


  • United States: Users can generate their own key and secret to install the LTI tool through the EduAppCenter Google app page. Instructors in Free-for-Teacher accounts can add the LTI to individual courses.

  • Worldwide Regions: Users should contact their Canvas Customer Success Manager (CSM) for region-specific configuration credentials. Google is not currently available for instructors in Free-for-Teacher accounts.


Note: Once the Google Apps LTI is added to a production environment, the institution's beta environment will adapt the settings from the production environment on the next beta refresh, which will allow users to test the integration in beta. However, please note that the integration is still subject to all feature limitations that may exist in the beta environment.


Google Drive Web Service

This integration is not affiliated with the current Google Drive web service in Canvas. If instructors and students already have Google Drive set up as a web service, they will still have to authenticate through the LTI.


The Google Drive web service should be disabled by a Canvas admin in the Account Settings page. Retaining the web service may cause confusion for students, who would otherwise see tabs for both Google Drive and Google Doc when uploading a file submission.


Canvas Documentation

Documentation for the Google Apps LTI and related Google Drive features can be found using the Google Drive tag in the Canvas Guides.


Google Limitations

As part of the Canvas integration, some functionality is limited by Google. Users should be aware of the following limitations by Google in Canvas:

  • Account sharing permissions can prevent sharing outside of an institution’s domain. Google admins can change the sharing permissions to allow documents to be shared outside the institution. This feature may affect institutions with trust accounts.
  • Document permissions can prevent files from previewing in a course. Users should ensure that permissions are set correctly for a document before sharing it with others in Canvas.
  • Google authentication is only managed when adding Google as a third-party authentication service in Canvas. The LTI integration does not support single sign-on authentication.


Canvas Account-Level Features


Canvas admins can set up Google as an authentication method so users can sign into Canvas using their Google credentials. However, the LTI integration itself does not support single sign-on (SSO) authentication. After users log in to Canvas using Google, they will also have to authenticate into the Google LTI.




Canvas Course-Level Features

Course Navigation

The Google LTI adds a link to the user’s Google Drive in the Course Navigation Menu. The name of the link aligns with the name added as part of the Google LTI (most commonly Google Drive). Users can authorize the Google Apps LTI to view their Google Drive account. If authorization to Google Drive is not successful the first time, authorize the application again.


After logging in to Google Drive, users can view everything in their My Drive folder. They can also open files in a new browser window and edit files directly.



  • Items that are in the Shared with Me folder need to be added to the user's My Drive before those items can be viewed in Canvas.
  • The Google Drive link does not automatically update content added to a user’s My Drive folder. To view the most recent content, users have to refresh their Google Drive page in Canvas.
  • Files are displayed in alphabetical order.




Google Drive Account Changes

Users can only authenticate into one Google Drive account at a time. If users need to authenticate into Google Drive using a different account, users can open the User Settings page, remove the integration, and then authenticate again using the new Google Drive account.


Note: The approved integration shows that the token has a short lifespan, but Canvas gives the app a refresh token that can be used to get new tokens when necessary. Users can still use the integration even if the expiration has passed.





Cloud Assignments

Instructors can create an online embedded assignment through an external tool. With the Google Apps external tool, this assignment type creates a view of the assignment file that acts as a template for a student’s assignment submission. Accepted assignment types are Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Presentations.



  • Peer reviews cannot be used with External Tool assignments.
  • Rubrics can be added to external tool assignments, though the rubric must be added to the assignment before the assignment is set as an external tool assignment. Students can view the rubric in the assignment details page (accessed through their Grades page), and instructors can view the rubric in SpeedGrader.




When students open the assignment, Google Drive will create a copy of the file in the student’s Google Drive folder for the course for each student’s submission. Depending on how the document is configured, they may not need to log in. The students can update the document per the assignment instructions and submit it without leaving the page. If students want to view the version of their cloud document submitted for the assignment, they can view the document in the assignment details page.


Instructors view each student’s document copy in SpeedGrader for grading.




File Upload Assignments

Instructors can also continue to create regular file upload assignments. However, when instructor allows file uploads, students can view the Google Drive tab and upload files directly from Google Drive.


Note: When the Google Apps LTI is enabled, this feature no longer requires students to set up Google Drive as a web service. If the web service is still enabled, students will view tabs for both Google Drive and Google Docs.




Assignments in SpeedGrader

SpeedGrader displays any uploaded file type that is supported like other Canvas assignments. Some files cannot be previewed in SpeedGrader and have to be downloaded for viewing. However, SpeedGrader does support previews for native Google file types.



Users can create collaborations with documents, spreadsheets, or presentations.  The creator can add individual users or groups from the course to participate in the collaboration. Collaborators can be added or removed at any time, but once a user is added to the collaboration, the user always has access to the collaboration in the user’s Google Drive folder. Collaborations require a name before they can be saved.




External Collaborations Tool Feature Option

Google Apps complements Canvas with an updated Collaborations page. The page design update is controlled by the External Collaborations Tool feature option, which can be enabled by a Canvas admin and must be enabled in the same location as the Google LTI app (course or account).


  • Enabling the External Collaborations Tool feature option removes the links to all existing collaborations and no longer allows users to create collaborations with the existing Google Drive option.
  • To implement this feature, admins should set the feature option to allow so instructors can manage any existing collaborations. Instructors who want to retain existing collaborations should not enable the External Collaborations Tool feature option at the course level.


Note: This feature option is not available in the beta environment.



Users can access their Google Drive folder from the Course Navigation Menu. Google Apps does not display a folder directly in a user’s Files page.


Like other uploaded files in Canvas, student submissions are copied to a student’s submissions folder in user files if the file was uploaded using the File Upload or Google Drive upload assignment options. However, cloud assignment submissions are copied into the student’s Google Drive folder.



Google Apps displays as a Modules external tool. Instructors can add links to Google Drive documents as an external tool.


Rich Content Editor

Google Apps displays a Google Drive icon in the Rich Content Editor. The icon displays everything in a user’s Google Drive account and allows users to display documents as inline links or embed them directly. Students and teachers can view the icon anywhere they can access the Rich Content Editor, such as discussions and pages (as allowed).


If the icon does not display directly in the tool bar, the icon is included in the More External Tools drop-down menu.




Canvas Mobile App Features

The following functionality relates to Google Apps in the Canvas by Instructure app and SpeedGrader app:


Canvas by Instructure

  • Authentication through Google is not supported in the Canvas app.
  • Collaborations are not supported in the Canvas app.
  • Google files can be viewed in a mobile device by downloading the Google Drive mobile app.
  • In cloud assignments, the students can view the assignment description but cannot view the cloud assignment. In the submission tab, students can view a link to access the assignment externally, though the link is not currently functional as it cannot connect the student to the student’s Google Drive account for online editing. Instructors who incorporate cloud assignments into their coursework should let students know that cloud assignment are not currently supported in the Canvas app.
  • File upload submission types can accept files from the Google Drive mobile app per standard functionality.
  • Modules can display external tools set to a Google document if students log in to their accounts.



  • Cloud assignment submissions do not display in the app.


For any other contrary behaviors in the production environment, users should submit a Canvas support case for assistance.

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