Like HTTP Basic Authentication or HTTP Digest Authentication, OAuth is an authentication method used to identify the user behind a request to the API. All three authentication types require an Authorization header with each request (this differs from regular site authentication that requires each user to log in once and stores a cookie which allows subsequent requests to be made without additional authorization). Unlike the first two authentication methods however, OAuth comes with an improved feature set that improves defenses against web attacks, such as man in the middle attacks.

OAuth Basics

OAuth is a specification for security that resembles a modern valet key. You can give this key to the valet driver, which allows him to start and drive the car - it has no access to the trunk or glove compartment, unlike your regular key.

OAuth allows a way for users to allow third-party applications to act upon the Schoology API without revealing his/her password. If at anytime a user wants to revoke access from a certain application, he/she can do so without changing to a new password.

In this case, the Schoology API is the the service provider, the third-party application is the consumer, and the person using the application is the user.

Every OAuth Authorization comes with a few pieces of information that help identify the user and secure the information in the request.

Parameter Description
realm An string that identifies the OAuth request server - in this case, "Schoology API"
oauth_signature The signature protects against man in the middle attacks; it is used to ensure that the information contained within the request has not been tampered with or altered between the consumer and the service provider.
oauth_signature_method Specifies the signature type of the oauth_signature. Recommended methods are HMAC-SHA1 or PLAINTEXT.
oauth_consumer_key This parameter is what identifies the consumer to the service provider. A unique key is assigned by Schoology to each consumer.
oauth_timestamp / oauth_nonce The oauth_timestamp and oauth_nonce parameters protect against replay attacks. Before a request is processed, the service provider ensures that the request is not being copied and re-run by checking that the given nonce is not used more than once for the specified timestamp. The timestamp must also be in sequence (i.e. you cannot use a past timestamp after using a future one).
oauth_token The oauth_token is used in three-legged OAuth requests to identify the user. For two-legged OAuth requests, the oauth_token still needs to be defined, but should be an empty string (i.e. "").
oauth_version This describes the version of the OAuth Protocol being used. V1 of the Schoology API uses OAuth version "1.0".

This is an example OAuth Authorization header:

Authorization: OAuth realm="Schoology API",

The following parameters are needed to create the oauth_signature but are not explicitly passed in the Authorization header:

Parameter Definition
consumer_secret / token_secret These two secrets are used to generate the oauth_signature defined by the oauth_signature_method.
The basic idea behind this signature method is that a one-way hash is generated using the signature base string (composed of the authorization headers, URL, HTTP method, and request body) and these secrets. Only parties that know these secrets can properly generate an acceptable signature, in this case the consumer and service provider. Any third party that attempts to intercept and change the contents of this request will not be able to generate a valid signature; this altered request will therefore be invalidated and ignored once it reaches the service provider.
This signature method is meant to be used only through HTTPS; it is simply a concatenation of the two secret keys.

OAuth Types - Three-Legged

Three-legged OAuth is the scenario described by the valet example in the OAuth basics. In this case, there are three parties: the service provider, consumer, and user. You may have encountered this three-legged authentication approach when using third-party applications that access your information on Twitter or Facebook; you click on an action that requires a Twitter login, at which point you are redirected to Twitter along with a request token and are asked if you "trust this application." Once you click "yes" or "allow," that request token is marked as 'approved'. The application can now exchange the request token with an access token - this access token is used to access the API on behalf of the user.

At any point, users can revoke access from any third-party application, which invalidates the previously issued token. Any subsequent requests that use this invalidated token will be rejected.

Workflow Example

This example with walk through the process of identifying the user and accessing the API using approved access tokens. This example uses functions from the Schoology API PHP SDK.

Step 1: Identify the User
You can identify the user by having them sign in with credentials for your application. If you are developing a Schoology application, you can use the SAML login information to determine the Schoology ID of the user.
Step 2: Check to see if access tokens exist for the user
If the user has previously accessed your application, then they should already have access tokens stored in your database. If they do and the tokens are valid, skip to step 6.
  // The user ID retrieved from Step 1
  $uid = $_SESSION['user_id']; 

  // Retrieve stored token information
  // This function ignores request tokens that haven't been converted to access tokens
  $token = $storage->getAccessTokens($uid);
  // If an access token was found, test to make sure it is valid and wasn't revoked
    $this->_token_key = $token['token_key'];
    $this->_token_secret = $token['token_secret']
      // Attempt an API call with a consumer_key, consumer_secret, token_key, and token_secret
    catch(Exception $e){
      // If it failed with an HTTP Unauthorized, our token is no longer valid
      if($e->getCode() == 401){
        // Remove the token from our DB and clear it from our variables
        unset($token, $this->_token_key, $this->_token_secret);

  // If we get here and $token is still set, skip to step 6
Step 3: Get a request token
If no access tokens were found or the retrieved access token is no longer valid, get a new request token from the Schoology servers. This request token will eventually be converted to an access token which will then be used to access the API.
// The first time this page is run, there are no parameters
  // Get request token
  $api_result = $this->api('/oauth/request_token');
  // Parse the query-string-formatted result
  $result = array();
  parse_str($api_result->result, $result);

  // Store the request token in our DB
  $storage->saveRequestTokens($uid, $result['oauth_token'], $result['oauth_token_secret']);

  ... // Code from step 4
Step 4: Forward the user to approve the request tokens
Once you have valid request tokens, the user needs to be forwarded back to Schoology. This step accomplishes two things: the user approves your access to his/her account information, and the system associates the tokens with the user's UID. If they are not yet logged into Schoology when they are forwarded, they will be asked to log in before approving your application. The $this->_domain ensures that the user is directed back to the domain from which he/she accessed Schoology (which might not necessarily be See "Handling Domains" for more details.
  ... // Code from step 3

  // Now that we have a request token, forward the user to approve it
  $params = array(
        'oauth_callback=' . urlencode('http://' . $_SERVER['SERVER_NAME'] . $_SERVER['REQUEST_URI']),
        'oauth_token=' . urlencode($result['oauth_token']),
  $query_string = implode('&', $params);
  header('Location: ' . $this->_domain . '/oauth/authorize?'  . $query_string);
Step 5: Convert the request tokens to access tokens
If the user approves your application, they will be redirected back to the oauth_callback URL that you had passed in step 4. You can now exchange the request tokens for access tokens.
  ... // code from steps 3 and 4
else {
  // Get the existing record from our DB
  $request_tokens = $storage->getRequestTokens($uid);

  // If the token doesn't match what we have in the DB, someone's tampering with requests
  if($request_tokens['token_key'] !== $_GET['oauth_token']){
    throw new Exception('Invalid oauth_token received.');

  // Request access tokens using our newly approved request tokens
  $this->_token_key = $request_tokens['token_key'];
  $this->_token_secret = $request_tokens['token_secret'];
  $api_result = $this->api('/oauth/access_token');
  // Parse the query-string-formatted result
  $result = array();
  parse_str($api_result->result, $result);
  // Update our DB to replace the request tokens with access tokens
  $storage->requestToAccessTokens($uid, $result['oauth_token'], $result['oauth_token_secret']);
  // Update our $oauth credentials and proceed normally
  $this->_token_key = $result['oauth_token'];
  $this->_token_secret = $result['oauth_token_secret'];
Step 6 - Access the API
At this point, you now have everything you need to make an API call to Schoology.

OAuth Types - Two-Legged

If you are developing a simple application that acts only on behalf of you, then you can use the much simpler two-legged OAuth approach. In this case, the consumer and the user are one in the same, so we can leave out the part in three-legged OAuth requests that asks the user if they trust the application. Because the consumer and user are always the same, we can use the oauth_consumer_key to identify the user rather than use the oauth_token. In two-legged OAuth requests, the oauth_token is still required, but should be an empty string (i.e. "").

Consumer keys for two-legged OAuth can be obtained by clicking on the Integration menu item on the left after logging in as an administrator. NOTE: only users with roles that have the Access Schoology API permission can obtain an API consumer key.

Limited Library Support

If your chosen OAuth library does not explicitly support two-legged OAuth, you can get away without using a library and by manually creating the authorization header - since all API requests are currently passed through HTTPS, we can use the much simpler PLAINTEXT signature method. (Note: the parameter order listed below is how they should be passed in the Authorization header: realm first, oauth_signature last, and everything else alphabetical.)

Parameter Value
realm Schoology API
oauth_consumer_key dpf43f3p2l4k3l03

This value is simly the oauth_consumer_key given to you by Schoology.

oauth_token Two-legged OAuth does not have a token - this should be left blank.
oauth_nonce kllo9940pd9333jh

This nonce must be a string unique to the given timestamp. In PHP, using the function uniqid() is sufficient in creating a nonce.

oauth_timestamp 1200376800

The current unix timestamp can be generated in PHP with the function time().

oauth_signature_method PLAINTEXT
oauth_version 1.0
oauth_signature kd94hf93k423kf44%26

This value is made up of the oauth_consumer_secret given to you by Schoology. The final "%26" is the URL-encoded version of the "&" character.

This should result in an Authorization header that looks like the following:

Authorization: OAuth realm="Schoology API",

Keep in mind that this header cannot be used more than once - the oauth_nonce and oauth_timestamp must be regenerated with each request.

OAuth Libraries

Libraries exist in almost every programming language that will generate the OAuth authorization header for you. See for a full list of these libraries. You can find our recommended list of libraries in our client libraries section.

See Also