Most association eLearning businesses go through an integration to allow for their new learning management system (LMS) to communicate with the hub for the association’s tracking of data, the association management system (AMS). Internal communication and decision making within an organization during an AMS, LMS integration is important to providing your members with the continued education they need. The concept of how system integration works is rather intuitive. The AMS talks to the LMS to allow for single sign on (SSO), writeback, and eCommerce. SSO allows learners to sign into one portal and access both the AMS and the LMS. Writeback is the word used to describe the interaction and exchange of data between the AMS and LMS. And eCommerce is the tool used by your learners to purchase courses.
Though, the process is rather easy to understand, don’t overlook how important preparation for your integration process is. For your AMS to properly integrate with your LMS, you need to know who’s managing the process, what your integration considerations are, and how to clearly communicate your needs to your LMS vendor. Vice President of Implementations at Web Courseworks, Mary Meyst, explains 5 steps to appropriately preparing your organization for the integration process, beginning with the who.
Identify your main point of contact
The LMS Vendor’s Project Manager (PM) will need to communicate with someone on your team who is an AMS expert. Depending on the organization, this could be a Development Administrator or a Systems Administrator. In some instances, this could be someone from the AMS vendor’s end. It is important to identify that person early on and for both parties to have direct communication with each other. Some associations may choose to have an intermediary to relay messages between the LMS PM and the organization. When this happens, information can be lost in translation and both parties, and the project, are to experience unnecessary delays. No one wants that!
Once that person is identified, they will meet with the new LMS Developers to discuss the integration and agree upon an approach, based on the association’s requirements. Not only does this meeting setup the introduction between the two development teams, it also sets up the relationship for collaboration.
Prepare for the integration meeting
There are several data points of information that will be exchanged between your LMS and AMS. It will all depend on what information you have in your AMS, who your learners are, and what your LMS vendor can provide. Your organization will have to consider SSO, order enrollment, and writeback during your integration meeting. For this planning phase, your LMS vendor should provide you with information needed to review and prepare. This information can include webservice information, test users, user data needed in the LMS, completion data needed to be sent back to the AMS, etc.
Attend the Integration Meeting
The integration meeting is one of the more technical meetings in the project, as developers may get “into the weeds” a little when discussing the elements of the integration. Generally, user data you will bring into your LMS includes your user’s first name, last name, email and AMS ID. Sometimes, you won’t need to transfer anything else! At times there will be other fields that are important to import, including designation information and institution. Consider what user fields you would like to have on the certificate or what type of reporting you would like to see.
It is important to bring over the relevant information, but also to be careful about bring information that may seem important, but not actually necessary in the LMS. Organizations often ask to bring over information like address and phone numbers, and though this is sometimes necessary, it often is not. The AMS should be the main system of record for your users. In the end, this meeting will allow your LMS vendor to create the use case document that developers will use to proceed in next steps of the system integration.
Review and understand the use case document
The use case document outlines the specifications of the integration and is given to the LMS vendor’s support and development teams. The purpose of this document is to ensure that we design and develop your integration to your specific needs, and also to ensure that our team supports you when we go live. This document should be looked over by you (the association) to make sure it aligns with what was discussed.
It is also important for all teams to understand the document before the development begins. Knowing what elements are to be brought into the LMS and sent back to the AMS for all parties is critical for successful development and implementation. Once this is approved, changes can be costly and create delays in the project. It is important to always ask questions if there is something you don’t understand. Your LMS PM is happy to answer those for you and to ensure you are comfortable with the approach being taken.
Testing is another critical part of the integration. Not only should you test your integration as an admin, but testing it as a learner is critical for long-term success. Understanding the user experience will help you and your team to troubleshoot any integration problems your user may experience and will help build your confidence in navigation system. We recommend creating test users to access to system, enroll into a course, complete the course and have their data write back to the AMS. Navigate every inch of your new learning management system to make sure it’s exactly how you want it before launch. Again, this will help prepare you for your long-term success with your new LMS.
Test user and testing feedback
Integration can be painless if you are system integration ready. Know who’s managing the process, how to prepare and communicate during the integration meeting, what to look for during the use case documentation phase, and thoroughly explore the LMS and system integration with your test user. This is just a surface level understanding of what to know for a system integration. Web Courseworks will be at The ASAE Annual Conference in August, hosting a reception at the London House. Come by and we can answer any questions you may have, including integration preparation. RSVP today!