LMS Integrations 101


In today's data- and machine-driven digital world, systems and tools work the best in connection and collaboration with one another as opposed to working independently. And a Learning Management System (LMS) is no different. An LMS works the best as a learning ecosystem rather than just an isolated version of itself. In isolation, chances are that even if it has the best of features, you may not be able to make the most out of it and use its full potential. The value of an LMS gets scaled up significantly once it has the ability to integrate with other systems. A thought echoed by a study conducted by the Brandon Hall Group, which concluded that 'the number one cause for discontent with LMS systems is the inability to integrate with multiple systems'. Organizations surveyed said that the lack of integration features was a bigger issue with their LMSs over poor user experience and poor analytics capabilities.

In other words, technology integration is as important a part of the LMS as the learning content itself.

But, why do we need LMS integrations?

The benefits of LMS integrations are legion. Integrations leverage the familiarity of common/ already-used systems to ease the user adoption process, thereby delivering a much better user experience too. Also, a network of systems that can communicate well with each other (by exchanging data automatically) reduces admin overload by automating tedious and time-intensive manual tasks. On a higher level, more integration in systems makes it easier for individuals, teams and sections across departments and geographies too to work together towards the same goals.

On what levels must integration take place?

It is good to understand a few things to ensure that the integration process is smooth. For starters, you may have to give a thorough thought to the levels on which the process of integration has to happen.

1. Content: Integrating an LMS with off-the-shelf courses or other online marketplaces is an important consideration. There are a number of online courses right from Lynda to Khan Academy to YouTube, Google Docs and the likes. The question is: how will you integrate your LMS so that your learners can seamlessly access content from these external resources, needless to say, through your LMS.

2. Users: Some key considerations WRT 'Users' are: Will users have to sign in on a bunch of different systems? Will users have to look at a cascade of login screens? Isn’t it better to have a single sign-on functionality across all applications which helps users by saving time which they can utilize in taking their training? (more about SSO in the following section)

3. Data: There is a lot of user data in most companies like department details, job titles, etc. How can an LMS obtain it from different systems? If there is a new training course, where would the data be sent: HR, Sales, CRM or Marketing systems? Also each employee would have so much on course progress, completion data and certifications? How would you link all of this to the LMS?

The Technical Aspects

This is where the idea of an Application Programming Interface (API) comes into picture. An API helps in seamlessly integrating the LMS with third-party enterprise applications to enable sharing of information and to manage other functions. It is an API which facilitates information to flow between applications, in turn, automating workflows and processes, as opposed to getting everything done manually. Imagine having a separate HRIS and an LMS, and then having to manually add each learner in the LMS! Cumbersome, and, not to mention, susceptible to human errors too! An API goes a long way in ensuring productivity and efficiency, and making the LMS future-ready. You can leverage APIs in your LMS to save time and effort on manual tasks by automating data exchange between the LMS and other third-party systems.

Like APIs, the concept of a Single Sign On (SSO) is also an important factor while talking about LMS integration. SSO is the ability of users to login into any system using their credentials from another application. This is convenient for users because it means, apart from one less password to remember, the ability to seamlessly access the learning platform from other systems/ applications.

When considering the technical aspects, it's important to touch upon Webhooks and JavaScript tracking. Just like APIs, Webhooks facilitates relaying and plying of data between different applications, but both have different means of doing so. An API can be used from a server to communicate with a website, while Webhooks on the other hand are automated calls from a website to a server. JavaScript tracking is a cut-and-paste code that automatically communicates with other systems without further integration.

Some useful LMS integrations that can improve your eLearning experience

With technology growing at a rapid pace, the number and variety of systems and applications being used by business continues to grow too. Generally, for most companies, integrations must happen for various platforms that are most commonly used within the organization. But some of the most common ones that we see across industries, verticals, geographies and companies are Customer Relationship platforms like Salesforce, online money transfer systems like PayPal, Virtual conferencing tools like Zoom, WebEx and GoToMeeting, HRIS/ HRMS/ HCM suites like DarwinBox (our recent strategic alliance with this leading HCM provider now gives companies a one-stop-shop for all their HR- and Learn-Tech requirements) and PeopleSoft, ERP systems like SAP, online content marketplaces like Lynda, etc.

Integrating an LMS with other systems is the need of the hour because it simply means finding everything in one single place, which helps save time, energy and improves productivity. In the complex corporate landscape, LMS integration is a simpler way to make the whole L&D game easier than ever!