Absorb LMS Blog

Absorb LMS is an award winning, HTML5-based, SCORM-conformant learning management system (LMS) that’s powerful yet easy to use.
Absorb LMS Blog

Have You Considered Asking Your Learners Whether They Need to Take the Course?

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMSLearning administrators can at times suffer from a certain smugness. Although it’s unlikely that they have met the vast majority of the learners in their learning management system (LMS), these administrators are confident that they know—with absolute certainty—what learners need.

These admins will enthusiastically click away, enrolling learners into courses and curricula. In the minds of these learning professionals, mother knows best and they are mother.

“Eat your broccoli. Clean your room. Take these courses.”

If these LMS administrators are feeling generous, they may let the learner “test out” of a course or curriculum. Learners who pass the exam will be exempt from having to complete the other activities. This is the learning and development equivalent of being allowed to eat dessert even though you didn’t touch your dinner.

Here’s the problem: bulk assigning learners to a course or curriculum may make sense in some situations but not all. In some cases, you’re providing valuable learning opportunities to people who will benefit from the experience. In others, you’ll be wasting the learner’s time by making them take courses they may not need.

Here’s a better idea: why not allow the learners to assess their own strengths and weaknesses by asking them what they are good at?

Some learning administrators will instinctively recoil at the thought of allowing learners to assess themselves. Won’t this lead to anarchy and a world filled with self-described `experts’ who in fact have no skills?Snow White: The Evil Queen in front of the Magic Mirror in a 1916 illustration

I believe that most people are pretty honest and will assess their own skills to the best of their abilities. Few would risk saying they are experts in, say, project management when they have little experience in that area. After all, being assigned a large complex project without the necessary skills to ensure its successful completion would not be the best career move.

Self-assessments can be powerful tools. Best of all, some learning management systems can issue competencies/badges/certificates as well as automatically enroll learners into courses based on the answers provided. Example:

QUESTION: “How would you rate your skills as a project manager?”

  • ANSWER 1: “I’m an expert. I’m skilled in one or more project management methodologies such as PMBOK, Six Sigma, Agile, etc.”
    RESULTING LMS ACTION: Assign the project management competency/badge/certificate to the learner.
  • ANSWER 2: “I’m OK. I’ve managed some projects within schedule and budget, mostly by being organized.”
    RESULTING LMS ACTION: Enroll the learner into an exam on project management to better evaluate his or her skill level.
  • ANSWER 3: “I’m a newbie. I’ll do my best but you’ve been warned.”
    RESULTING LMS ACTION: Enroll the learner into a project management curriculum.

Absorb LMS Self Assessment

Sometimes, the easiest way to evaluate a person’s skill level is simply to ask the person.

Training in the age of Twitter

Warning: This post may exceed 142 characters. What was I saying? Sorry, I lost focus there for a second. Oh yeah…

Here at Blatant Media we know lots about Learning Management Systems and things like ‘responsive design'; it’s our job to provide our clients with great tools. But where the rubber hits the road, and where we can learn a lot about the act of learning, is to look to our customers and see how they are using Absorb LMS combined with some great content and strategies.

Among the many challenges that L&D organizations face today are:

1. Trying to fit training into the workday without pulling employees away from their jobs for too long, and,

2. Trying to find new ways to deal with millenials who simply can’t handle sitting down to complete a 2 hour online course.

Who better to undersand and speak to these challenges than one of our Absorb LMS clients, Julie Veloz? As Global Head of Learning and Development at Annalect in New York,  Julie looks at these challenges from both a learning and marketing perspective.

“According to a 2012 study commissioned by Time Inc., millennials switch media types 27 times every nonworking hour. Few things hold their focus for long, so they prefer information and communication in small chunks. They are comfortable with jumping around in the information and communication realms and are nonlinear learners.” 

Julie has some great suggestions for chunking up learning content and using diverse media to give Millenials the training the need, in the way that they prefer to access information and media. You can read Julie’s full article here.

If, like me, you also find yourself switching tasks every 2 minutes (or less), then maybe you need to try re-training your mind with meditiation or perhaps following some of the tips listed in this Lifehacker article on How to Rebuild Your Attention Span and Focus. Phew, was that two minutes already?

We’re Happy to Give Others the Last Word on Absorb LMS

Donna GernhaelderSure, this is the Absorb LMS blog and, naturally, we spend a lot of time telling you why we think Absorb is a great LMS. It’s hard not to be bias!

By all means please consider what we have to say about Absorb to help separate it from the many other LMS solutions vying for your attention. But don’t just take our word for it – listen closely to what others are saying about Absorb. Chances are, you may find their input convincing and reassuring.

A quick Google search on Absorb LMS uncovers lots of informed comments and opinions on Absorb from clients, prospects, consultants and industry analysts. Absorb is enjoying record awareness levels and new client implementations in part driven from increasing endorsements and referrals from a growing base of Absorb champions. The word is out! (It’s no wonder we’re attracting regular visits to our website these days from many competitors and prospects alike.)

Here is just a sampling of independent Absorb references:

“My assessment – I like Absorb and their LMS — powerful, global and easy with an experienced professional services team to back it up. They are a good candidate for pure extended enterprise or combo employee/external LMS initiatives.”

Talented Learning

“We have used Absorb for several of our clients now, and after using open-source LMS solutions in the past, are really impressed with the forethought put into creating this platform. Each update enhances the offering.”

−Newhall Klein

“Absorb LMS has a good balance between just-enough functionality and ease of use. Keeps delivery costs low. Through a competitive bid analysis, we found Absorb to be about 25% of the cost of other leading systems like Cornerstone, Saba and Sum Total.”

−G2 Crowd

“Blatant Media’s clients have reported their solutions to be reliable, flexible, and easy to use. A strong focus on product design, functionality and client support was integral in Blatant Media receiving a Brandon Hall Group Smartchoice® certification.”

−Brandon Hall Group

“I actually heard about [Absorb] through a colleague…When I talked to her she had mentioned that you guys were quickly becoming the new favorite and that CornerStone and SumTotal were becoming yesterday’s news ;) I looked you up and saw the reviews”


We’re not shy about declaring that we believe we have the best LMS out there. It’s easy to be confident when others back up your claims and echo your efforts, and we appreciate every comment.

The Absorb LMS Mercury Module: Content Management System or Marketing Machine?

Don Landry, Business Development Manager, Blatant MediaOver the past four years or so, the number of clients using Absorb to deliver courses for sale, or to train external learners as a value add for clients has grown dramatically. As the world of online training grows, many organizations and entrepreneurs are recognizing the opportunity that the internet provides to reach the masses with training offerings spanning every imaginable industry or topic.

This is still an industry in its infancy, and will no doubt evolve rapidly from its current state. One of the natural progressions will be to use the same system that delivers the purchased training to gather information from the audience and use that information to add value to the total offering or advertise additional training available.

Once a customer logs in to take their course, we have their full attention, which is rare these days. Why not take advantage and shamelessly promote your additional products and offerings

Mercury is a miner of marketing gold. Wonder what your audience thinks about a topic? Ask them in a targeted quick poll or survey. Used properly, it can allow a business to immediately capitalize on that information. Even better, all Mercury features allow you to distribute material based on any combination of their geographic location, industry, job title, or any other piece of information you may have gathered, so if it appears in front of someone, it is likely of interest to them.

The Mercury module turns the large piece of real estate on the main dashboard into a dynamic marketing mechanism capable of promoting additional courses or products you have for sale, upcoming seminars you are hosting, sharing brief, flattering messages about your company, announcing product launches, and so on.

News Stories

Share information beyond course material with news stories and press releases. You are proud of your product offering and services and you have so much you can tell people about them, but how? While your audience may share that interest, it is unlikely that interest is shared across the breadth of info you have to convey.

The quickest way to have people ignore your press releases and news stories is to put too many in front of them. Because Mercury news stories can be targeted to the individual, again based on whatever filters you choose, you can put what is likely of interest directly in their lap and not rely on them to sort through a pile of irrelevant articles. This drastically increases the likelihood of them actually reading your message.


Coupons and freebies have been used to boost sales since the dawn of trade. Everyone loves getting something for nothing. Use the Contest feature to entice your audience to take an extra bundle of courses that come with a chance to win prizes or rewards. How many of us have purchased that extra giant pack of paper towels to get 10 bonus Air Miles?

By increasing the level of engagement with your audience, you increase the likelihood that they will return. Each time they do, you have an opportunity to sell them something new.

Want to find out more? Watch this video overview of the Absorb LMS Mercury Module:
Absorb LMS – Mercury Module from Absorb LMS on Vimeo.

One Reason Why More than 30 Per Cent of Organizations Really Hate Their Learning Management System

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMSSelecting the right learning management system (LMS) can be a daunting task. There are hundreds of systems available. Making matters worse, you wouldn’t sound like too much of a conspiracy nut to suggest that all LMS vendors get together at the corner pub every Friday night to figure out how to make it even harder for buyers to compare their products and pricing.

“John, how about you charge per course enrollment and Mary, you charge per bandwidth used but don’t make the price changes linear, make them logarithmic, OK?”

Given the level of difficulty in selecting a learning management system, many organizations look for shortcuts, the most common of which is to simply buy the system used by one or more of their closest competitors or others in their industry.

If that giant import/export conglomerate, Vandelay Industries, is using QuickyLurn LMS, then you’d be nuts to select any other system for your own import/export business! After all, Vandelay’s billion dollar annual revenues would have been more than enough to fund the most exhaustive LMS search, ever.

George Costanza, Vandelay Industies

Well, Vandelay Industries may have done its due diligence in selecting a LMS, or:

  • Perhaps someone at Vandelay was so overwhelmed with the scope of the project that a dart was thrown at a board containing the names of well-known systems. Or;
  • The LMS selected just happened to be where the secret lover of the head of the technology selection committee worked (say no more!) Or;
  • Vandelay actually picked the system they needed years ago but their needs have changed, and they are now unhappily using that same LMS because they are locked into an agreement with an expensive exit clause

Regrettably, organizations that select a competitor’s LMS too often ignore that their  learning strategy significantly impacts their LMS requirements. Your organization may be in the same industry but you may approach workplace learning differently:

  • You may make heavy use of self-paced, video-based learning content whereas Vandelay may focus on classroom-based training
  • You may wish to support external learners such as clients or partners whereas Vandelay may use the system only for employees
  • You may wish to support mobile learning whereas Vandelay is stuck with a lot of old content that doesn’t work on phones or tablets
  • Etc.

This copycat problem is particularly evident in higher education, where colleges and universities are perpetually in a state of abandoning their LMS for four or five competing systems, only to return to their first choice a dozen years later, beginning the cycle once more. We could call this dance the Moodle-Blackboard-Desire2Learn-eCollege-Sakai quickstep.

My mother used to say “just because your friend Patrick jumped into the cold lake with his clothes on doesn’t mean you had to as well.”

In writing this post, I considered referring to this copycat behavior as lemming-like but it turns out that even lemmings are smart enough to know that copying other lemmings is a bad idea. (See misconceptions about lemmings, Wikipedia.)

Lemmings and my mother provide valuable advice to organizations selecting a learning management system: don’t select a system because your competitor or other organizations in your industry use that software. Do your homework. Find a system that matches your requirements.

So, you complete a course and then what happens? Time-based enrollments in Absorb LMS.

Dan Medakovic
Dan Medakovic VP Learning Solutions

The subject of time-based enrollments has come up in client discussions quite often lately, so I thought I’d write about it here.

Here are some examples of what clients are asking for:

  • A week after a learner enrolls in a course, we want to automatically enroll them in another course, and then another one week later, and so on…


  • If the learner enrolls in  Webinar x, we want to auto-enroll them in a free sample course, 1 day later, and include a thank-you note in the email


  • If a learner fails a course, we need to auto-enroll them in some remedial training

You can easily come up with more of these types of scenarios, and they all speak to using time-based enrollment triggers. The good news is, we can easily do all of this using Post-Enrollment Triggers in Absorb.

There are three types of Post Enrollment Triggers in Absorb LMS. These are set on the Completion Tab of an ILC or Online course in Edit view.

A course can have more than one Post Enrollment Trigger.

For example:

 1. Upon ENROLLMENT. You can have a learner immediately enrolled in one or more courses, curricula or bundles upon ENROLLMENT in a Course. If you want, you can add in a delay (in days). In this case, the learner will immediately be enrolled in a second course, called “ecommerce free test course”. This a great way to give someone acess to a free module of a related course, for marketing purposes.

Post Enrollment - Enroll

2. Upon COMPLETION. You can have a learner immediately enrolled in one or more courses, curricula or bundles upon COMPLETION of Course 1. If you want, you can add a delay (in days). This is a good alternative to using the Curriculum feature in Absorb, and reduces the number of courses in which the learner is initially enrolled. It’s also great if you want to force the learner to take breaks in between courses. In the example below, the learner will receive an enrollment confirmation email for the course “Customer Service Summary”, 7 days after they complete Course 1. The course will then appear in their My Courses list.

post enrollmemt trigger COPMLETE


3. Upon FAILURE. You can have a learner immediately enrolled in one or more courses, curricula or bundles upon FAILURE of Course 1. If you want, you can add a delay (in days). This is great for remedial training. In this example, the learner will be enrolled in a remedial course “Customer Service 101″, 2 days after thay fail Course 1.

post enrollmemt trigger FAIL

In cases where you want to maintain and display a single page layout (and workflow) for multiple courses, we still recommend the Curriculum feature.

Using Post Enrollment Triggers across multiple courses, you can push a learner through a path. By customizing the Enrollment Notification that the learner receives, you can control the messaging and user experience each time they are enrolled in something new.

Time based enrollment triggers are easy, give you lots of options and will simplify your life as an administrator.


You CAN always get what you need: Tips for writing a great LMS RFI/RFP

Dan Profile Pic 124 x 124  As Mick Jagger famously sang, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need!”. I sometimes wonder if he worked in  software sales (okay, not really), but  this expression could be 100% applicable to the process of procuring or selling software.

As a “Top 20″ LMS vendor, we regularly receive RFI and RFP invitations from all kinds of organizations.
While we welcome the opportunities provided, the process of answering what should be a simple Yes or No question can often be quite frustrating.

There are three reasons for this:

1. Companies can be too prescriptive with their requirements definitions.

2. Companies combine multiple requirements into a single Yes/No question.

3. Companies do not provide the vendor with an opportunity to recommend better options.

Let’s explore these problems using a single, typical, example:

Quite often in an RFI/RFP we will see a requirement like this:

The system allows external users to request an account, and for administrators to create an account, and then enroll them in their required training according to the company they work for, or the product that they have purchased.

Answer “Yes/No” and either “Custom/Out-of-the-Box”

The problem with this is that someone (with potentially limited LMS exposure) has envisioned an LMS workflow that they think is best for their use case. Rather than describing the story, they’ve actually provided a specific solution that the  vendor either either supports or does not support.  As a vendor, this paints us into a corner. For one, we need to support all aspects of the statement in order to say “Yes”. More importantly, we may have a much better solution (like Enrollment Keys) that could save the client loads of time and frustration, automate the process, and provide a better user experience, but to say so would mean answering”No” and then not complying with the requirement as stated. As a vendor, if this was a mandatory requirement, you’d be out of the running. As a customer, you may end up missing out on some of the best solutions in the market.

The better way to do this is to describe your story or use case without referring software features. For example:
Our company has been experiencing huge growth, and the current method for training new customers (live onsite) on our products is no longer scalable, timely, or cost-effective. We have converted our courses into a SCORM e-learning format and would like to use this as a way to scale-up our ability to train larger numbers of customers, and also to shorten the time it takes to get them trained from the time they purchase the product. All customer contact information and product purchase history are stored in our Salesforce.com CRM. 

Please describe the methods you support to create learner accounts, so that they can then be enrolled in the approprate training based upon their company and product(s) purchase history.

The above use case allows a vendor to provide multiple options and also to recommend the best of those options. You can still have your selection committee rank or score responses to get to a short list, and you can use your preferred options to define script-driven demos. This avoids a huge potential problem if getting what you want, but not what you need. Some of you may be familiar with the old “Tree Swing” software development cartoon that illustrates what can happen when you think you’ve been clear in what you want.

tree_swing_development_requirements In the end, a use-case or story-driven approach will get you what you need. In general, clients that follow this approach are often delighted to find that the vendors have come up with solutions that they never envisioned or even thought possible.

For some tips on creating story-driven software requirements, check out the book User Stories Applied by Mike Cohn (recommended by a prospective client who submitted the best RFI I’ve ever had the pleasure of responding to).

Upgrading your current platoform, or getting your first LMS, provides a tremendous opporunity to improve your processes, save time, increase user satisfaction, save money, train more people, etc. Make sure you are giving the enthusiastic people in the industry the best possible opportunity to showcase their knowldge and experience. You will have a much better change of getting what you need!

Happy shopping!


How to Reduce Your Course Development Costs By 90+ Per Cent

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMSLearners today are presented with a wealth of choices and opportunities for learning. They can turn to Blogs, wikis, social networks, video sites, etc. to find learning content. The problem, though, is that it can be difficult to find high quality, informative learning content among a massive sea of choices.

How much stuff is out there?

YouTube Statistics
YouTube Statistics

Research indicates that the time, effort, and cost to create e-learning courses using authoring tools is exorbitant. This often quoted ASTD article states that it typically takes 127 to 184 hours (16 to 23 days) to create, using authoring tools, one hour of self-paced online learning containing moderate interactivity.

A solution

An effective solution to the problem of learning content overload and pressure on course developers to create courses quickly and cheaply is to leverage the workplace learning management system (LMS) as an on-ramp to the world’s best learning content.

Traditionally, instructional designers and course developers create courses using third party authoring tools and import these into the LMS to deliver to learners and track their progress. Comparatively, the course assembly tools built into some learning management systems (LMS) allow you to quickly create courses that contain:

  • Instructional videos from the most popular sites including YouTube, Vimeo, TED.com, etc.
  • Articles from Wikipedia and other online encyclopedia
  • Blog posts from such reputable sources as Harvard Business Review
  • Slideshare and Prezi presentations
  • Free online courses
  • External discussion forums in the form of Facebook or LinkedIn groups, Reddit discussions, etc
  • Etc.

Although the source files for the content types listed above are located outside of the LMS, the system can still track the learner’s progress through the courses. Learner activity reports can then be generated, shared, exported, and e-mailed to instructors, administrators, managers, and others.

Absorb LMS course created with content from Wikipedia, Youtube, and Slideshare
Absorb LMS course created with content from Wikipedia, YouTube, and Slideshare

Cost savings

Based on the estimate that a traditional e-learning course takes 16 to 23 days to create, and assuming a conservative annual salary of $65,000 for an instructional/designer/course developer, and 250 work days per year, a simple one-hour page-turning type course using a traditional authoring tool would cost $4160 to $5980 to create.

Comparatively, a course of a similar duration featuring, say…

  • An existing YouTube video
  • A quiz
  • A PDF document
  • A existing Prezi presentation
  • A final exam

…takes less than two days to create at a cost of $520, including the time to find and vet content, create assessments, and assemble/test the course. This translates into cost savings of $3640 to $5460 over a traditionally-authoring course. Given that most organizations provide dozens of courses to learners, the cost savings translate into tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

Higher learner engagement

Also, courses leveraging existing Web content (videos, Blogs, presentations, etc.) produce learning events that are potentially more engaging to learners than boring page-turning courses. (After all, learners hang out on such sites outside of work.) This translates into significantly higher level of course completion and increased learning.

Organizations will always need to create some courses in-house. But for a multitude of topics, cost savings and increased learning can be obtained by leveraging existing Web-based content in their learning management system.

Selecting An Easy To Customize LMS Just Makes Sense

DonnaGernhaelder-2014Choosing the right learning management system that will best serve the needs of your organization and users can be a daunting task. It is inevitable that your training and learning requirements with constantly evolve, so selecting a solution that can be easily customized to suit your needs is a no-brainer.

Customization gives you the ability to modify your LMS to perform specific functions and organize your information according to your unique requirements. Make sure your chosen solution not only supports the features you need, but also provides intuitive administrative options that allow you to tweak how you use the system.

With its modern interface and responsive design, it couldn’t be easier to customize Absorb LMS. Many custom settings are easy to turn on/off with just a few clicks, while others control automated processes specifically designed to reduce time-consuming manual administration and save you time.

As an example, user management features in Absorb LMS provide robust customization options to control:

  • Granting or restricting user access
  • Defining user roles and permissions
  • Adding and maintaining custom user fields
  • Designing user registration tools
  • Organizing users into groups

Watch blatant^’s Client Advocate, Ryan McAllister, as he highlights the powerful customization options available for user management in Absorb LMS:

Tips for Creating Effective Video Training on a Budget

Dan MedakovicLet’s face it, most companies don’t have hundreds of thousands (or even tens of thousands) of dollars available in their courseware development budgets, but they still have a need to create effective training content for their employees, customers or channel partners.

High-end interactive e-learning content development can get expensive, and pushing out static PDFs or PowerPoints is a great way to make you the least-popular department in the entire company, a pariah at the annual company picnic.

The good news is that it is now easier and cheaper than ever to create engaging video content. If you plan carefully, you can even do this using a smartphone or inexpensive HD Video camera, and some consumer video editing software. 

Here are some pre-production tips:

Create a script with a SME (Subject Matter Expert). You need to make sure that your learning objectives are covered and that the information is accurate.

When it comes to casting for the video, use someone who is articulate and has great energy. If your SME is great on camera, then even better, it will add credibility.

Script it into short, logical clips. This will help immensly during editing and uploading into the LMS.

Incorporate humour when appropriate. Your viewers will appreciate this greatly. If you are simply not funny, or if you think you may be crossing the line with a sensitive issue, then don’t do it.

Scout your locations to check for excessive noise and lighting conditions. It’s almost impossible to get rid of background noise later on, and having good lighting makes a huge difference in the perceived quaity of the final video. Natural light always works best for low budget videos, so shoot near a window if possible, or under the shade of a tree, for example. Full sun can cause glare, over-exposure and too much contrast so indirect natural light is best. Early morning or early evening natural lighting is always the nicest (the golden hour).

Shooting Tips:

If you’re using an HD smartphone, make sure it’s in landscape mode (or “sideways” in layman’s terms). That sounds really obvious but it’s easy to forget if you don’t shoot a lot of video with your phone.

Shoot close-up when someone is talking (From shoulders to the top of their head). This is more engaging for the viewer and also will get you much better audio quality.

Listen for background noise. If you can, purchase and use a clip-on (lavalier or lapel microphone). You can get basic ones for under $50 from Best Buy and higher quality ones at your camera store. You can hide the cord under their shirt and clip the mic on near their collar.

Always use a tripod (you can get them for phones too). Shaky camera work is not cool. If you don’t have a tripod, then rest the side or bottom of your camera or phone up against a wall or on a table for stability.

Don’t be afraid to shoot mulitple takes until you get it right. You can always erase and shoot again (and again) if you start running low on space.

Take a few still photos of the scene. You may want to use these later in editing.

Popcorn and Movie Tickets

Editing tips:

Try to create a dynamic pace. You can do this by inserting still images to reinforce a point, cutting away to close-ups of the subject that is being discussed, and using music in the background. Just make sure the music is not drowning out the dialogue.

Be sure to use royalty-free (legal) music and licensed stock images in your videos. You don’t want to get into trouble down the road for copyright infringement.

Output your videos as shorter lessons (5-10 minutes max). These can be sequenced and grouped into Chapters in Absorb. This makes it easier for the learner to complete the course in “chunks”, may reduce potential issues when streaming video over cellular networks and also allows you to insert quizzes and/or tasks and assignments in between lessons.

My favourite video editing software (Pinnacle Studio) costs only $99 and offers a lot of professional features. It also includes a library of royalty-free music and a host of special effects.

The other great thing about video is that it plays well across various devices and platforms. We recommend that you publish your videos as MP4 files and then import them as Video Lessons into your Absorb Online course. 

Once you’ve added your video lessons to Absorb, you may want to insert Absorb Quizzes along the way, and perhaps a final Exam. You can adjust the weighting of each of the assessments as they apply to towards the learner’s final mark for the course.

You can also make the video files available for download by creating course-specific resources from the same source files.

Video is an effective learning tool and anyone can now make high-quality videos with a little planning and effort. Give it a try!

An Absorb course with video lesson, file upload assignment (task) and Quiz.
An Absorb course with video lesson, file upload assignment (task) and Quiz.

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