Absorb LMS Blog

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

OR

  • 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

OR

  • 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!

Dan


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.

The Importance of the Learner Interface

More than just a pretty face…

Don Landry, Business Development Manager, Blatant MediaOur company motto is, “Make software that feels right”. A simple and somewhat vague message perhaps, but it has served us well, based on the feedback we consistently get from clients, potential clients, and industry pundits. The visionaries who guide the evolution of Absorb, founding partners Mike Eggermont and Mike Owens (“The Mikes” as the team calls them) have been kicking down the walls of convention in the LMS industry for 12 years now. One of the many examples of this outlier thinking is the multi-award winning Absorb learner interface.

The Mikes unique approach to how the learning audience interacts with the software is one of the key differentiators between Absorb and the rest of this overcrowded market. The aforementioned feedback invariably includes adjectives like clean, sleek, beautiful, and easy which as we’d hoped, feels right.

In most environments, there is a range of comfort with software in general. On the one hand, you have individuals who only occasionally use computers, and only when they have to. This type of user often has little or no patience, and the end goal must be placed directly in front of them, or at least not more than a couple of clicks away. On the other hand, you have a whole new generation who have grown up constantly plugged into technology. They have much more sophisticated tastes and can spot a dated interface immediately.

So how do you make an interface that “feels right”, accommodates all level of computer users, and yet offers a positive learning experience? The answer is in the old cliché; “less is more”.

Many other systems out there want to “wow” learners with all of the cool things they can do in the LMS. In order to showcase these features, they tend to cram them onto the landing page. The problem is, most learners don’t give a hoot about all of this stuff. I call it the 90 cubed rule; 90% of the time, 90% of the audience doesn’t touch 90% of those features. Learners are far less in love with your LMS than you are. They want to get their training done and get on with their day. All the superfluous bells and whistles get in the way of that. They end up serving only to overwhelm people and discourage learning. Absorb has stripped away the clutter to present learners with a welcoming environment.

I won’t use any examples, because each environment is unique, and what may be clutter in one learning program may be critical to another. The point is: cut to the chase. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. What do they want/need out of the system? Once you isolate those requirements, get rid of the rest. The Absorb learner interface is highly customizable. Clients select the functionalities, in the form of “tiles” they need to support their learning strategy. In some cases as few as two or three tiles can accomplish this, as our client “Aftermath” configured their interface:

Absorb LMS: Learner Dashboard

Nobody likes an interface that is text heavy or crammed with info. Images and open spaces actually serve as a navigational tool and allow the eye to spot what is relevant.

Absorb brings more to the table than simply offering the advice of putting less in front of the audience. Workflow for your learners is as important as the tile selection. A great example of this is our “Resume” tile. This has been a fantastically popular addition to the interface. One of the biggest pain points for learners that we uncovered in our 12 years in the business is the situation where a person is searching for where they left off with their training. Online learning is typically self-paced, meaning people get to it when they have a spare moment. The problem is, those spare moments can often be days or weeks apart. The ingenious “Resume” tile takes the individual back to the launch page of the course they were last undertaking. This, coupled with Absorb’s clear tracking of progress through a course allows someone to return to the exact point where they left off within two clicks of arriving at the dashboard:

Absorb LMS: Armed Robbery

The space allotted does not allow me to go into more examples, but hopefully you get the idea; Absorb is not just pretty, it has loads of functionality built in to speed up navigation and put the focus on what is important. Your training.

What else is important? Your branding and your culture. These are two things many organizations have invested heavily in. Absorb lets you tie those into your training to not only maintain a theme, but to reinforce them. Your images and your company vernacular can be clear and present throughout the interface. Maybe in your world, they aren’t a series of courses, they are an “Integrateducation” as our customer Dialog chose to call them:

Absorb LMS Dialog

In many cases, this is the face of your organization or at the very least, of your entire training program. In either event, you want an interface that lends credibility to your training.

Just because we preach “Less is More”, this isn’t to say you can’t add value to your audience by presenting them with more than just course material. The trick is, it must be of interest to the person navigating the interface. That is where Mercury comes in. Mercury takes advantage of the same powerful rule engine that Absorb uses to control enrollments and resource access, build reports and learning Groups and so on, to deliver peripheral content to an individual that is relevant to the individual.

The addition of our Mercury Module lets you manage contests to encourage quick course completion, targeted news stories, and polls and the extremely powerful scrolling billboards (below) allow you to slip in additional self-promotion focused on the person viewing the screen.

Absorb LMS Billboards

Let’s not forget where the learner is accessing their learning from can be a detriment if your LMS interface can’t accommodate the tiny real estate afforded by mobile devices. Simply shrinking down the interface, even a three-tiled configuration, is not the answer. The HTML 5 masters on our team have designed state-of-the-art responsive design into the Absorb interface meaning we don’t just resize your interface but the interface restructures from a horizontal to vertical layout to allow for thumb-friendly, north-south navigation. Brandon Hall and Deloitte Bersin both felt this innovation was award worthy and bequeathed their Advancement in Learning Technology prizes to Absorb in 2013.

A great admin toolset is important no doubt, and Absorb delivers there too. What often gets left behind however is the learner who, at the end of the day is the most important piece in all of this. Something to consider when selecting your LMS…


Weight Control Strategies for Learning and Development

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMS

A friend of mine, an Oxford-educated mathematician, had a smart strategy to succeed in university. When two or more of her professors scheduled exams for the same week, she would immediately ask the instructors to clarify to what extent these exams would influence the final class grade. If the exam in one class was worth, say, 25 per cent of the final grade, and the exam in the other class was worth 50 per cent of the final grade, she would spend significantly more of her efforts studying for the second class.

This seems logical and self-evident.

And yet, I’m a bit ashamed to say, the relative weighting of exams was the last thing on my mind when I was a student. Presented with two exams, I’d either study equally for both or study much more for the subject I found more difficult, even if that subject’s exam was only worth 10 per cent of the final grade. Had I been as smart as my math-whiz friend, I would have largely ignored the 10 per cent exam and focused on the big fish. After all, if you can get 100 per cent on a preliminary exam worth 50 per cent of the final grade, you can pretty much ignore this subject going forward and sleep soundly knowing you’ll pass the course.

Assessments are an important part of learning and development strategies. Exams, of course, measure knowledge and retention and help establish whether a person is qualified to do a job or attain some type of accreditation.

Since we tend to overestimate our own knowledge of a subject, exams also provide an important feedback mechanism. An exam can be a wake-up call, telling us we aren’t the experts we think we are. Exams designed to provide this type of reality-check feedback really shouldn’t count for as much of the final mark as an exam designed to measure overall knowledge of the learning content.

Consequently, learning strategies can benefit from providing exams with different weightings. A course, for instance, might contain a preliminary exam worth 20 per cent of the final grade, and a final exam worth 80 per cent. Did you fail the first exam? Don’t despair! You can still pass the course if you stop goofing off and get a decent mark on the final exam.

To implement this type of strategy, look for assessment authoring tools or a learning management system that allow you to add weightings to exams:

Weighted exam in Absorb LMS
Weighted exam created with Absorb LMS

If you implement this strategy, be prepared to discover a few really smart students, like my math-whiz friend, who do poorly on the first exam and ace the second one.


LMS for Small Business – 5 Benefits & Considerations

Dan MedakovicIt really wasn’t that long ago that Learning Management Systems (LMS) used to be exclusively utilized by large enterprise organizations with thousands of employees. This is because the cost and complexity of these systems was such that only large companies with huge budgets and lots of I.T. resources could afford to license, deploy, and support them (usually on their own internal servers). Implementations took several months, involved many consultants and people with technical skills, and then usually required at least one fulltime LMS Administrator to manage and support the system on an ongoing basis.

Meanwhile, small businesses were left to grapple with spreadsheets for tracking, and relied primarily on sending their employees out to the local corporate training center to supplement any live-on-the-job training.

Fast forward to today, where the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model has brought with it a level of scalability that allows complex systems (HRIS, LMS, etc.) to be hosted in the cloud and deployed without any I.T. involvement at all, while simultaneously and significantly reducing the cost to entry for these systems.

Over the last few years, the LMS market has seen the majority of its growth (in terms of first-time LMS adoptions) in the Small & Medium business space. Yes, large organizations continue to switch LMS vendors for various reasons, but small and medium businesses have discovered the many ways in which they can benefit from licensing a SaaS LMS, such as Absorb.

Five Ways an LMS Can Benefit Your Small or Medium Business

Here are 5 ways (to name a few) in which a Small or Medium Business can benefit from adopting an LMS:

1. Save Time and Money by Automating Your Training!

  • It’s long been known that replacing your Live training with self-paced courses can reduce employee training time and costs by over 60% (source, 21 years of personal experience combined with data from various studies over the years).
  • A good LMS will allow you to create learning paths based on job roles and then automate the process of enrolling employees into these learning paths. Wouldn’t it be great to know that the minute that you add a new learner to your LMS, that person will get an email with their account details and notifying them that they’ve been enrolled in their new hire training programs? You can also set this up so that learners who have a change in job role can be automatically enrolled in their new learning paths. All you need to do is change their job title in the LMS – a process that can also be automated via a simple scheduled data exchange between your payroll system and your LMS. Of course an Administrator can also do this quickly without the need for any integrations. We’ve had clients tell us they’ve saved 50% of their training administration time when switching to Absorb from another LMS. Can you imagine how much time you’d save if you don’t already have an LMS?
  • Another benefit to this is that you will never forgot to enroll someone in their required training, once you set up the appropriate rules in the system. And it’s not at all complicated.

Here’s an example: You can see how 8 people meet the criteria of this rule which is “anyone who’s job title contains the word “sales” should be enrolled in this course automatically”. Rules can be made more complex or left very simple, like this one. 

auomated enrollment rule

2. Use Your Existing Training Content

  • Wouldn’t it be great to be able to quickly and inexpensively create courses using simple videos and existing documents such as PDFs, product manuals and brochures? This is a great and inexpensive way to get started building out your content in the LMS. Over time, as you update your content, you can choose whether or not you want to make it more interactive and/or use more multimedia.
  • You can also easily find and purchase off-the-shelf elearning content that will be compatible with your LMS. Sites like Lynda.com offer huge catalogs of great content on general business skills, software skills, and management topics.

In Absorb you can, for example, create a course using an existing video followed by a PDF brochure, and then add a simple quiz in a matter of minutes. You just click to create a new course, give it a name and description, and then start adding your Learning Objects. Then you can add your enrollment rules and get back to your game of Candy Crush while your employees automatically receive their enrollment notification emails and start their training.

Easily add lessons to a course using existing or off-the-shelf content.
Easily add lessons to a course using existing or off-the-shelf content.

 3. Accurate Reports Made Easy = No More Spreadsheets!

When the CEO says to you, “I’m meeting with all the managers in 15 minutes, and I need a compliance training report, grouped by Department and sorted by Job Code as well as a report that shows how much we spent on all safety training by department in the last 6 months”, wouldn’t it be great to know you could pull that together in less than 10 minutes and quickly export it to Excel or PDF?

Better yet, wouldn’t it be great to be able to say to your CEO, “Actually, I set those up as automated reports weeks ago. You and the members of the management team have been receiving them weekly via email, but I’d be happy to print off a set of copies in time for your meeting”.

Using your LMS you should be able to track:

  • Your company’s Skills Inventory: who has which certifications and/or competencies and if/when they expire
  • Who attended which training, where and when (some of which may be a legal requirement)
  • Status of people enrolled in self-paced courses
  • Who completed assigned tasks that were part of a course
  • How people scored on assessments and control what happens if they fail (this also allows you to improve your courses)
  • Details on exams and quizzes, so you can make sure you are asking questions in the best way
  • Money and time spent on training (by course and/or by employee)
  • People’s feedback on your course offerings so you can make adjustments
  • Bonus: In Absorb you can easily push out surveys and single question polls to gather any info that you want

 4. Extend Training to Your Customers and/or Partner Organizations

Once you’ve got an LMS in place, it makes sense to think about how it can be extended to learners outside your own company. Imagine the impact you can have on things like revenue, customer satisfaction, and market share, by having a more knowledgeable customer or reseller.

A good LMS will make it very easy to set visibility rules on all of your content, so that a learner will only see what they are supposed to see in the system. The reality is you can create simple or very complex rules to ensure that learners see exactly what you want them to see. Reporting filters also ensure that you can easily filter your report results to specific audiences as well.

5. Create an Engaging Information Hub

Now that you’ve got learners coming to your LMS for mandatory training, take advantage of the situation and give them lots of reasons to come back (and stay longer). In Absorb you can create and brand Billboards to promote new content to specific audiences, you can publish News articles or connect to a news/RSS feed, or you can engage people in Polls and gain more insight into your audience’s interests and needs. Contests are a great way to incent and reward people for completing training by a specific date. Your LMS can really start to look and feel like a one-stop information hub, rather than a portal with a few lonely courses hanging out in there.

Five Key Considerations When Selecting an LMS

First off, I’m not going to talk about budget. Well okay, maybe a little bit. I think it’s a given that you should license software that you can afford, and that different companies have different needs and different budgets. LMS software varies as much in price as it does in quality. As with most products you get what you pay for. Here are 5 key considerations when evaluating LMS for Small and Medium Businesses:

1. Simplicity of Deployment and Support

  • Your LMS should be hosted in a secure, scalable environment (e.g. not on a server in a closet somewhere). Make sure your LMS provider is using a reputable hosting company and ask about up-time. We use Amazon Web Services and have a track record of greater than 99.9% uptime.
  • Your LMS should be simple enough that you shouldn’t need any technical skills to get it up and running and to continue to work with it. If your company is very sophisticated with its use of technology, then your may actually have an IT person or Department who may want to get involved to help set up Single Sign On with your network and/or an automated feed from your HR or Payroll System into your LMS. The latter would be used to automatically create and update learner accounts in the LMS, which is not a requirement, but a great bonus if you can do it.
  • Your LMS should work on a variety of devices: phones, tablets, “phablets”, PCs and Macs without the need for any Apps. This is done using “Responsive” design, which automatically adjusts the LMS interface/layout for different screen sizes. It literally means that you do not need to worry whether a learner is on an iPhone or Android phone, for example. Where it gets a little tricky is in ensuring that your content runs on mobile devices. Video is a great format for this and there are many inexpensive tools that you can license to convert PowerPoint presentations (and other material) into mobile friendly courses.

2. Quality of Interface Design

I’ve seen a lot of LMS products over the years (at one time I was a Sr. LMS Analyst with Brandon Hall Group). If you follow learning technology blogs and reports at all, you will notice that good design has recently become a bit of a hot topic. With over 500 LMS in the market that share roughly 90% of the same features, great interface design becomes an increasingly important differentiator. Let’s face it, most of your learners (especially the millennials) do recognize a good looking website from an ugly one. When they come to work, you don’t want to depress them with ugly corporate software.

Companies like Apple have really pushed the importance of design from the consumer space into the corporate space. Here at Blatant, we take great pride in the fact that our Absorb LMS always gets lots of compliments for good looks. But it’s no surprise; we’ve spent a lot of time and energy making the user experience and enjoyable one, and trying to ensure that the quality of your brand is reflected throughout. This is even more important once you open up the system to external audiences.

3. Ease of Use

This is super important. The whole point of an LMS is to reduce the effort around learner training assignments and reporting. If your LMS is not easy to use, then you may have just made your life more complicated than it already was. Ease of use is one of the main reasons that companies choose Absorb and making intuitive software is our number one goal here at Blatant.

4. Automation Features

If your organization’s training practices are complex enough, mature enough or just busy enough to justify licensing an LMS, then you are going to want to take things further and automate as many processes as possible. The two most obvious opportunities for this are:

  • Automating the enrollment of learners into required training courses, bundles or learning paths: This is really important when you have required training for a specific job role, required training for compliance, or desired training for a career path. This is the “low hanging fruit” of LMS ROI.
  • Automating reporting: You will find that managers/supervisors inside and outside your organization will typically want to see the same sets of data on a regular basis. Simply create these reports and then schedule them for automated email delivery. No more last minute report requests. Your job description may include “creating training reports” but that doesn’t mean you need to be doing it every day.

5. Flexibility

  • Flexible Business Rules: make sure it’s easy to filter content by audience type, especially around custom data fields that map to how YOU segment your learner audience. E.g. Employee/Partner/Customer/Reseller Type/Job Level
  • Flexible Content types: Don’t get tied down to one or two proprietary content types for course content. This is one the reasons why we support a huge variety of content from web links, to tasks, to videos, to PDFs, to Quizzes and Exams, to Surveys and of course, industry standard content like Tin Can (XAPI), SCORM and AICC.
  • Flexible User access:  connect from Phones, Tablets, Phablets, PCs and Macs

So you can see that there are many things to consider and I hope that you have found these tips to be helpful.

Please free to try Absorb, or to contact us and we’d be more than happy to discuss your business needs and see how they could be supported using Absorb LMS.


A First Look at Absorb LMS Version 5

After more than a year and a half in development, Absorb LMS version 5 was launched this week. This release contains more than 400 new features and enhancements. Highlights include:

  • A responsive, HTML 5, multilingual admin control panel that works on iPads and other tablets
  • The addition of competency management features capable of issuing badges
  • A significantly enhanced assessment tool that allows for multiple question pools, weighted tests, and weighted questions
  • An increased ability to automate the administration of learning from learner registration, to enrollment in courses, to issuance of certificates and badges, and generation of progress reports, all supported by customizable, personalized communication
  • Most importantly, the intuitive design of the administrative features of the system has made Absorb LMS even easier to use

Also, it’s very pretty:

Absorb LMS-Course Dashboard

Watch this short video for an overview:

Better yet, contact us for a demonstration.


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