Third-Party Learning Content in Online Courses


While Canvas is the official platform for Boise State University’s online courses, there are many other technologies that help students meet course goals. There are no one-size-fits-all technology solutions, and choosing from among the ever-expanding ed-tech universe can be overwhelming. The purpose of this article is to provide considerations for selecting and integrating third-party technologies tools into an online course.


For the purpose of this article:

  • “Third-party tools” are software or applications that are not natively built into Canvas.

  • Third-party tools may include but are not limited to, Canvas “apps” (e.g., publisher courseware, Flip, etc.) or software that students access outside of the LMS (e.g., PackBack).

Tips & Considerations

Course Design

One of the most important considerations is to articulate how a tool contributes to student learning or solves a teaching/learning problem within the design of your course. With regards to the technology you’re evaluating, can you answer the following: 

  • Why is this tool important?

  • How does the tool support student learning or assessment?

  • Will learning the tool distract students from the overall learning goal?

  • What is the impact on your grading effort?

  • Are there other ways that the tool may impact teaching and learning?

Cost & Access

Technology, textbooks, and other course materials can add to students’ financial burdens beyond tuition and fees. It’s a good idea to reflect on the impact of technology tools on students’ ability to afford the course. For example, you may want to consider:

  • Who will pay for the third-party tool?

  • How does the technology cost contribute to the overall cost of the course?

  • How much will students pay for the use of the technology? 

    • Is this a one-time fee, or are students charged per course or per semester?

    • Is there a free or lower-cost alternative?

  • How will students pay to access the technology? (e.g., Inclusive Access, directly to a publisher or vendor, etc.)

  • Will the students have access to the technology, content, or their work after the course is over?

  • Can students access the technology with their devices?

    • Is the tool available on mobile and desktop devices?

    • Is the technology compatible with multiple operating systems and/or browsers?

    • Does the tool require access to a stable, high-speed internet connection?

Support & Longevity

Technology changes fast, which means that instructors and students alike need help staying up-to-date. As you choose new technologies, consider the tool’s impact on how the course is built in Canvas and the support necessary to ensure course longevity. For example:

  • Are you the only person responsible for teaching the course? If not, who will be responsible for helping other instructors learn and use the tool?

  • What set-up steps need to be taken at the beginning of the course? How will you document these steps? 

  • Are there other courses in your program that will use the tool?

  • Who is responsible for monitoring for updates and changes?

  • Who will help students learn to use the tool?

Office of Information Technology (OIT) Support

You may want to consider whether there is an OIT supported technology solution. When using supported software, faculty members, staff, and students benefit from the knowledge, assistance, and vetting that OIT provides. Refer to OIT supported software and the Teaching and Learning Tools knowledge base for a list of recommended tools. 

If OIT support is not available, you will need to locate and share publisher or vendor-provided technical support information with other instructors and with students.

Canvas Apps/LTIs

Many tools may integrate with Canvas, allowing you to streamline your course design and grading. Review OIT’s Canvas Third-Party Tools Directory to learn more about the integrations already in place. 

  • If you are interested in a new Canvas LTI, refer to the LTS Canvas Integration Policy for the process, timeline, and a link to the request form. 

  • You may want to pay close attention to whether you can copy the integration from term to term or whether it will need to be configured each time the course is taught.

Accessibility and Privacy

Accessibility and privacy are important considerations when selecting technologies (University Policy 8140), and instructors are responsible for selecting accessible materials and technologies (Policy 1075, Policy 2080). Consider:

  • Are the tool’s accessibility and privacy statements available?

  • How might the tool harm or create barriers for students? Will you be able to help students navigate barriers in order to be successful in the course?

  • What type of student data is created, collected, shared, or stored in the tool?

  • Who owns student work if it is created or submitted to a third-party tool?

Answering these questions alone cannot guarantee that a tool meets University requirements and instructional best practices. When you select technology, you should also determine whether the tools need to be reviewed by the Boise State University Software and Accessibility Review Board (SARB). When in doubt, contact the OIT SARB office for guidance.

eCampus Center Course Design & Development Projects

If you are working with the eCampus Center to design an online course, your Instructional Design Consultant can advise you on how to select and integrate technologies that align with course goals; our staff cannot be responsible for technology vetting. It will be your responsibility to communicate with vendors and navigate University processes for vetting software and for installing or configuring Canvas apps.

Need more help? Try eCampus Center Faculty Development.
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