There is an array of scenarios where integrations can enhance your LMS and streamline business workflow by removing otherwise manual steps and tasks. Not only does this help save time, money and resources for the organization, it also goes a long way to providing a more positive user experience.
Here are five key LMS integrations that will improve the learner experience:
1. Single Sign-On (SSO)
Single sign-on (SSO) functionality helps organizations simplify the overall user experience. Rather than requiring employees to maintain distinct usernames and passwords for every application they use, SSO allows them to maintain a single username/password that can be used to seamlessly access numerous applications, including the LMS. Single sign-on can be configured using many different providers including industry standards such as Microsoft’s Active Directory as well as other providers that support SAML or IdP.
When should you integrate SSO?
From both a business and technical perspective, it is quickest to integrate SSO with your LMS when you already have the architecture in place and your organization is using it with other applications. Once your employees have seen how simple it is to seamlessly log in to multiple applications, they will expect that same experience as new sites are implemented. If you don’t already have the technical infrastructure in place, SSO is still worth pursuing although it is a larger internal endeavor. The major gains to user experience come from using SSO across most if not all your applications requiring authentication.
2. Virtual Instructor-Led Training (vILT)
Virtual instructor-led training (vILT) integrations allow learning management systems to seamlessly join with virtual training platforms such as WebEx Training Center, Adobe Connect or other similar applications. These tools help instructors and users engage from anywhere in the world, and the integration provides a simplified workflow when administrators configure these learning events in an LMS.
vILT is commonly used for organizations that are spread across multiple locations; they can save a significant amount of money and productivity time by removing the need for employee travel and the accompanying expenses. With this integration, training can be created quickly and appear on a learner’s transcript where it can be launched with one click. It simplifies the workplace experience by allowing learners to launch from a platform where they already go to take other types of training, rather than having to log in to yet another system. Additionally, the learner’s attendance can be tracked automatically, thus removing the time-consuming task of manually tracking attendance.
When should you integrate vILT?
If your organization offers many virtual instructor-led training sessions, the reduction in manual work for your administrators makes this integration worth pursuing. Manually configuring the administrative portion of a vILT session in two systems often takes around 15 minutes, but it can be done in under 5 minutes with the vILT integration in place. When a vILT integration is in place, the system automatically tracks attendance and marks learners attended, removing manual processes on the back end of the session as well.
Content integrations allow organizations to expand their LMS learning library quickly and easily, providing a broad spectrum of additional web-based training options for learners from third-party providers. Often, organizations interested in integrating content from a third-party platform will use a pre-configured connector to seamlessly move content from the content provider to the LMS. Once the connector is configured, web-based trainings can be easily imported with almost instant access for LMS users, and updates are made as content changes.
Many content connectors are often configured by integration experts, who can help ensure content is organized and distributed according to each company’s requirements and contract provisions. Once configured, the content connectors can be used by administrators for importing additional content over time. In situations where a formal connector is not available, content integrations can still be achieved using SCORM or other standards. Without a connector or integration in place, the user experience can suffer, with learners forced to log into multiple systems and/or having to wait for a history upload to take place before they can see the completed training on their transcript.
When should you integrate content?
Content integrations are useful if your organization uses third party vendors to distribute learning content to users rather than creating content in-house, especially if content is being provided on a subscription basis so that updates can be more readily adopted. Connectors and integrations are especially valuable for compliance-related trainings that have been created and approved by governing bodies and can simply be imported to your LMS for consumption.
4. Document Management System (DMS)
A Document Management System (DMS) is a repository that stores business documents such as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), work instructions, and other similar materials that describe how specific tasks should be completed. These repositories are very common across pharmaceutical and medical device companies as well as in other highly regulated industries like aerospace. A DMS allows those with appropriate access to not only view the current version of a document but also view all prior versions. A DMS is meant to store documents and most do not offer the detailed assignment functionality that an LMS does. When these two systems are combined, it allows learners to have their due dates, completion dates, and reminders handled in an automated fashion by the LMS while providing them direct access to current documents in the DMS.
Specifically, a DMS integration with an LMS will keep all learning assignments up to date as new document versions are created in the DMS or existing versions are obsoleted. Once this daily feed is up and running, the chance of human error is significantly reduced as is the need for extensive manual maintenance. From a learner perspective, the experience is much more seamless and training completions are available instantly.
When should you integrate a DMS?
Highly regulated industries are typically very risk-averse, so setting up an integration in this instance with an LMS is a smart choice to ensure timely compliance. Without an integration multiple steps are required, which can be a time-consuming process prone to user error. For example, if a new version of an SOP is released, the DMS administrator must inform the LMS administrator. The LMS administrator then needs to deactivate the record for the old version, create the new version, and assign training on the new version. If the new version is missed by administrators, it will not get assigned and could lead to non-compliance. With an integration in place, possible points of failure are reduced as manual intervention is minimized.
5. Application Programming Interface (API)
Application Programming Interface (API) integrations empower businesses to maximize the benefits of their LMS by creating custom solutions to meet their specific requirements. Since it is impossible to account for every company’s unique business processes, API integrations can solve specific challenges without the exorbitant cost and complexity of maintaining traditional customizations. Whether an existing process needs to be streamlined or an entirely new process needs to be created, API integrations can help companies enhance their overall solution without affecting their ability to take on new releases from their LMS vendor.
Each LMS has different API endpoints which serve as the touchpoint between the API and the LMS. These API endpoints can be used in custom software or through collaboration platforms like Postman. To make an API call, one must first acquire an authentication token using system specific credentials. This allows them to update data including the user profile, learning events, and other items. LMS vendors make the process as seamless as possible through detailed documentation of their public APIs.
When should you integrate APIs?
- Streamline a business practice. An API can reduce manual work and automate processes that are prone to human errors like course registration.
- Create an enhanced user experience. Combining interesting graphics with API integrations is an easy way to get users to have more meaningful interactions inside and outside of the LMS.
- Bring the LMS functionality outside of the LMS. Some companies want to share their knowledge and learning with the public, but it may be hard for them to access it within the LMS. An API integration may allow a person to register for a course and create a user in the LMS all from the company’s own homepage.
- Create a unique process. In addition to standard fields, most systems include custom fields to increase their flexibility, allowing companies to enhance a standard feature or even create a brand new, unique process.