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Google LTI + Canvas Mobile

Community Coach
Community Coach
16 4 3,011

Is the Google LTI compatible with Canvas Mobile?

With all of the hype surrounding the new Google LTI, I thought I’d dive in. More than anything, I needed to know how this new and super-amazing Google LTI behaved with mobile.

Google Apps LTI is a great addition to the Canvas toolbox. Schools who have Canvas and Google Apps for Education are able to provide their students and faculty with so many resources. However, schools that are very reliant on a mobile platform need to evaluate the way the new LTI behaves natively in the app.

I set up a demo module in a course, and I tested four specific scenarios for iOS and Android

  • iOS - iPad Air 2, iOS 10.2, Canvas 3.17
  • Android - Nexus 5x, Android 7.1.1. Canvas 5.7.0

First, the good news:

  • When instructors or designers use the Google LTI to add an item to a module as a link, it appears and functions for students just link other external URLs do. It’s easy, but not much different than taking the shared URL from Google Drive and copy/pasting it into Canvas.
  • In Pages and Assignments, instructors and designers can embed content into pages. .jpgs, .pdfs, Google Sheets, and Google Docs all work well. They are automatically formatted to fit the width of the screen.

Then, the not-so-good news:

  • Sometimes waiting/loading times in the Canvas Mobile App are significantly longer than what users experience on a desktop. While loading times on a desktop are not instantaneous, most items -- embedded or linked -- load within 5 or 6 seconds. The difference with Canvas Mobile App is that, in some cases, the time it took to load and item was near double. (When comparing iOS and Android, iOS had much quicker load times.)
    • For mobile, it’s much more user-friendly to save the document to Canvas Files and link to it.
    • Another option would be to embed the document using HTML into a Page, an Assignment, etc.
    • Waiting/loading times were only a little longer on mobile devices if Canvas was accessed from the browser rather than the app.
  • Google Slides don’t seem to connect with mobile but do on a desktop.
  • When students need to use the Google LTI to submit an assignment with a mobile device, the tool launch is under the “submit assignment” tab in iOS. (There are no other directions or cues on how to submit the assignment.) After clicking “Launch External Tool”, the screen waits and never loads. With Android, students receive an error saying “External Tool is expired or is configured incorrectly” or “Cannot locate launch request, please try again.”
  • If students access an assignment that uses the Google LTI through a mobile browser, the information loads on the Submissions, but the ability to edit is not present like it is on the desktop browsers. With a Google Slide submission, the Submit button is displayed, but there is no content to modify.

If schools with a lot of mobile technology want to leverage the Google Drive LTI, please encourage instructors and designers to limit links and embedded items to PDFs, Docs, Sheets, and JPGs. Also, it would be really helpful to include a memo at the bottom of Cloud-Based assignments. (ie: For best results, do not complete this assignment on your mobile device. This assignment fully functions while on a browser on a desktop.) That way, confusion is minimized, and the potential and power of combining Canvas with Google Apps can be recognized.

The Canvas Mobile Team shared that loading times are of particular interest right now because of the various LTI tools. Their ultimate goal is to make the loading experience as amazing as possible. LTIs are powerful and use a lot of information to run. That ultimately influences the way they are presented within web and app environments.

I hope that the Canvas Mobile Apps will fully, and speedily, support the Google Drive LTI someday. For now, design wisely, knowing the loopholes.

Mobile on!

Community Coach
Community Coach

Thanks for the throughout review! It looks likes like people will have to take some caution when using this LTI and depending on mobile. 

Community Member

Hi there,

We are trying to launch google docs as an external tool for students to submit assignment on the iOS app. However it doesn't load and we are left with a blank screen. Even when trying through Safari, there is no option to edit the content. Any ideas why?

Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @h_mukaddam ‌ - I experienced the same thing when I tested different scenarios as I wrote this post. Unfortunately, I do not know what causes this. Hopefully knowing that it's not a bug unique to use is helpful. I will continue to investigate, and if I learn anything more, I will be sure to share the update in a reply.


Out of curiosity, did either Canvas Support or the LTI tool provider support resolve this issue? At my institution, we don't use this LTI tool. However, another LTI tool has begun to give multiple users similar results to what you report -- albeit with a twist:

  • Load times in Canvas apps are surprisingly long, much longer than equivalent web browser waits for the tool UI to load.
  • Users of the Canvas Android app are seeing a blank screen.
  • Users of the Canvas for iOS apps are seeing "Cannot locate launch request..."

In case any solution was found for the Google Apps LTI tool, then perhaps I might work with our CSM to connect that solution to our institution's current issue. Thanks in advance!

(Edited to add: Kristin, no response needed - I found Peyton Craighill's comment in which answers my question. I now have support cases open -- one for Android, one for iOS -- about another LTI tool which might not work optimally with Canvas mobile apps.)