Blackboard and Talis Aspire Reading Lists LTI Tool setup

This article and the video demos apply to LTI 1.1 only

In order to use the Talis Aspire Reading Lists (TARL) LTI Tool you will need to be setting this up as part of a mini-project. This has implications for older Blackboard building blocks that make requests to your Talis Aspire Reading Lists tenancy. It is likely that these are not compatible with using HTTPS for your Talis Aspire Tenancy.

The only Talis provided building block that supports a Talis Aspire Reading Lists tenancy running HTTPS is available here (this is the actively maintained building block):

Important: If you are using any other building block to integrate with Talis Aspire Reading Lists, it is important that you plan how to transition your users away from using that building block to using the new TARL LTI tool. Any building block which does not support making HTTPS calls to Talis Aspire is likely to stop working as HTTPS is enabled on your tenancy. Raise a ticket if you are in any doubt and we will help you determine the steps required.

Blackboard Ultra

Many customers are using the Blackboard Ultra experience for their courses. Here is a video which demonstrates how the LTI integration works in an Ultra course.


  • Blackboard Learn SP 13 and above.


Set up in Blackboard - No plugins required

Enabling the TARL LTI Tool in your Blackboard Learn installation requires no code to be installed.

The setup could be completed within about 20 - 30 minutes.

  1. You should only setup the TARL LTI Tool if you are working through this mini-project
  2. Make sure you have setup an integration key and secret in Talis Aspire Reading Lists. Use a separate key and secret for each LTI tool instance.
  3. Go to system admin >> building blocks >> lti tool providers
  4. Click Register provider domain
    • Provider Domain: — Enter your tenancy’s HTTPS domain e.g. <tenantshortcode>
    • Tool Provider Key: — Enter your integration Key from Talis Aspire Reading Lists.
    • Tool Provider Secret: — Enter your integration Secret from Talis Aspire Reading Lists.
    • Tool Provider Custom Params: — You will likely need to add a custom parameter here.
    • Send User Data — Make sure this is enabled.
    • User Fields to Send — Make sure that role in course is ticked. Talis Aspire Reading Lists doesn't need user names, emails or grades.
    • Make sure that Show User Acknowledgement is set to no
    • Submit these settings!
  5. Now add placements for where instructors should be able to access the tool.
    • From the LTI Tool Providers page, select manage placements from the drop down menu next to your newly added provider.
    • Click Create Placement
    • Label — This will be visible to the end user.
    • Handle — Has to be unique as it identifies the placement so that Blackboard Learn can track the links created. DO NOT USE SPACES IN THIS VALUE
    • Icon - here you can upload the image that you want to appear by the link for LTI, this is customised by you.
    • Type — select the type of placement this is. This denotes where in the course content creation interface this placement will appear.
      • Learn 9.1
        • Student Tool — Allows the student to access this as a tool, and allows instructors to add this as a ‘tool link’ to the course navigation menus.
        • Content Tool — Allows the creation link to be placed in the content creation menus.
      • Ultra / SaaS
        • Course Content Tool — Do not tick the checkboxes — this placement will appear in the content store.
      • Tool Provider Key — This should already be filled in if you entered the details earlier.
      • Tool Provider Secret — This should already be filled in if you entered the details earlier.
      • Tool Provider Custom Parameters — see the section on custom parameters for more info - You will need these and this is where you put them!

Set up in Blackboard - Using Basic LTI plugin

You can also use the Basic LTI plugin from to setup the LTI tool, however we would recommend sticking with the built in Blackboard LTI support as it has improved in recent Blackboard versions. You will need to make sure that you are sending the role of instructor for any Blackboard roles that should be able to link to specific parts of lists.

These instructions are provided to give you an idea of how it might work. We are unable to support issues with the Basic LTI building block itself. You will need to contact the block author if you find your version of Blackboard does not support this block. As always please test everything using a non-production blackboard environment.

We will assume that you have already downloaded and installed the plugin and that the plugin has been activated in your system. These instructions cover the basic setup of the plugin to gain a functional LTI integration with TARL.

  1. You should only setup the TARL LTI Tool if you are working through this mini-project
  2. Make sure you have setup an integration key and secret in Talis Aspire Reading Lists. Use a separate key and secret for each LTI tool instance.
  3. You can use this XML template to generate a working config quickly and easily.
    You will need to replace {tenancyShortCode} with your tenant short code.
    You will need to replace {MyTARLConsumerKey} with your consumer key.
    You will need to replace {MyTARLSecret} with the corresponding secret.
  4. Go to system admin >>Basic LTI Tools (in the Tools and Utilities section)
  5. Click Register new tool
  6. Click on the By XML tab
  7. In the XML descriptor box paste your custom XML
  8. Save this form and a new LTI tool will have been configured.
  9. Click the check box next to your new tool in the table
    • At this point you can choose where Blackboard places the initial create item link for this tool by selecting one of the buttons along the bottom of the table. We suggest experimenting with these to suit your needs, but content menu is a good starting point.
  10. Using the same checkbox method, as above, set your tool to have status: enabled
  11. At this point we suggest you make sure that the integration works!
  12. The drop down menu on the Tool name column allows you to change the Launch settings for this tool.
    We would advise you to set the New Window Height to 1000.
  13. You will also almost certainly need to add custom parameters to enable us to match your Blackboard course IDs with the hierarchy in Talis Aspire see the article on custom parameters for more info.
  14. Experiment! There are lots of other possible options, and experimenting with them will find the best combination of settings for your needs.

Important things to note when using LTI in Blackboard

  • 'Roles' in Blackboard do not necessarily mean 'Roles' in the context of the LTI specification. A user has to be enrolled on a course as an Instructor in order to use the TARL LTI tool placements to link to specific lists or sections.
    Talis only sees LTI roles. Talis never sees the Blackboard role and can therefore make no decisions based on it.
    Blackboard automatically maps its own Blackboard roles to LTI roles, and if you are using Blackboard's core LTI Consumer implementation, there is no provision in Blackboard to allow adjustment of this mapping.
    The third party Basic LTI Plugin can be used to map Blackboard roles to LTI roles.
    For a description of the behaviour of the LTI tool for different LTI roles, please see the main overview of LTI Tool functionality.
  • There was an historical issue in older versions of Blackboard where the use of a new line in the description field of a content item will break the LTI request sent to Talis. This is fixed now - 9.1 Q2 2016 Cumulative Update 5 (Build: 3000.1.5-rel.106+a770c2a) - full details of fixed versions on (requires Blackboard login)
  • Blackboard's core LTI consumer implementation will not show the course navigation menu.  If you want more control over how Blackboard embeds the LTI links to Talis Aspire, you could consider using the Basic LTI plugin from to extended Blackboard's core LTI implementation.

Course Templates

The Student Tool placement type which is added to the course navigation menu can be included in course templates using the same methods as other student or course tools that you might add to your templates.

There is no requirement for an academic (with LTI Instructor role) to select something to link to. The Talis Aspire LTI Tool has a mechanism for detecting the most likely list that should be shown to a student when no selection has been made. This mechanism is described in the LTI Tool overview article which describes how the integration operates from a user's perspective.

Changing the icons for the TARL LTI Tool

It is possible to change the icon associated with your LTI setup.

  1. System admin >> Building blocks >> LTI Tool Providers
  2. Select the one you want to work with
  3. Manage placements >> Edit
  4. Current icon or add icon and upload the image you wish to use

Changing the icons for the Basic LTI Plugin

It is possible to change the icon associated with your LTI setup.

  1. System admin >> Basic LTI tools
  2. Hover over the title of the one you want to change, and use the arrow key to open the options
  3. Select edit registration
  4. Other settings >> icon
  5. Upload the url of the address where the icon sits.

Blackboard mobile app

The Blackboard app partially supports LTI's, so for this reason we recommend students and staff attempting to access reading lists via the LTI use a seperate web browser and not the Blackboard app.

The following text is taken from the below linked Blackboard support site:

"The link launches in the in-app browser and there is infrastructure in place to maintain the user's session in the launch. However, the in-app browser might not support all required technologies to handle the content as expected.
NOTE: We don't guarantee that third-party tools, including building blocks or Blackboard Learn customizations, will function as desired in the Blackboard app."

For this and other information on supported content and known issues for the Blackboard mobile app, please see:

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