If you’re preparing to scale up and invest in a new learning management system (LMS), you’re probably evaluating tools against a number of competing interests. Core functionality, pricing, and ease of use all come to mind.
However, when you invest in a new LMS, your considerations need to extend well beyond the characteristics of that solution itself. The new LMS also needs to be compatible with the other software solutions in your association’s tech stack.
At Web Courseworks, we’re familiar with the importance of LMS integrations both through our consulting efforts and research done when creating our own learning solution. In this guide, we’ll provide an in-depth look at what LMS integrations, how these connections work, and the integrations that are most important for a learning business such as yours:
- What is LMS integration?
- How do LMS integrations work?
- 7+ Essential LMS Integrations for Your Learning Business
Let’s get started.
What is LMS integration?
LMS integration, broadly speaking, refers to the compatibility of your learning management system with the other systems that your learning business uses for operations. When your LMS and another solution are integrated, data is able to flow seamlessly between them.
Consider the example of an LMS and association management software (AMS) integration. If executed effectively, the data from your LMS can be transferred to your AMS seamlessly (and vice-versa). Then, you can use the data from one solution to enhance the information in another– for example, using learning engagement data from your LMS to inform your overall engagement metrics in your AMS. Or, using past event registrations tracked in your AMS to inform a member’s course recommendations within your LMS.
There are a variety of benefits that come from integrating your LMS with other solutions in your tech stack, including but not limited to:
- Reduced redundancies and likelihood of human errors. When you only need to input information one time, into one system, you’re less likely to make simple errors due to a missed keystroke.
- Saved time on learning and development tasks. You’ll certainly reduce time spent hunting down data across systems and manually combining information in two systems into one.
- Improved business analytics and insights. When you can compare data from two aspects of your operations side-by-side, you can discover insights that wouldn’t have been clear if the datasets were analyzed independently of one another.
- Streamlined team collaboration. When there are open lines of communication between your software, the various teams at your organization can communicate more effectively as well.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention one final benefit: elevated team satisfaction. Effective integrations make your team members’ jobs easier, as they’ll have access to all of the information they need, where and when they need it. They’ll have all of the data needed to be successful in their roles, which will make their efforts more satisfactory overall.
How do LMS integrations work?
There are three main components to keep in mind at every step of the process when building an LMS integration:
- Content: Your LMS delivers content, including courses and PDF certifications, to members. When integrated with other systems, in which solution will that content be stored? Will courses be uploaded directly to your LMS or hosted on another solution? For example, you could integrate and embed content from a course authoring solution and simply deliver it through your LMS (but not host it on the system).
- Users: How will users access both solutions involved in an integration– your LMS and whichever solution it is integrated with? Will login credentials be shared across solutions? Will one log-in process provide access to all integrated solutions? Do you need to restrict access to any information transferred across the integration, so only certain members can access it?
- Data: What data should be transferred through the integration? Will all of the data in your LMS be available in the integrated solution, and vice versa? Will you choose specific data points to share across solutions? How will that data be transferred across the two solutions?
When it comes to how LMS integrations function from a technical standpoint, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the following three terms:
- Application Programming Interface (API) Key: API is a term that describes the connection between two software systems. An API key allows you to build this connection yourself. With this type of integration, two software solutions can share data with one another via one solution “pulling” data from the other. For example, if you have an API integration between your AMS and LMS, your AMS will “call” (or “pull”) desired records from your LMS. This “pull” of records happens on a periodic basis.
- Webhooks: On the opposite spectrum of APIs are Webhooks. These solutions “push” data across an integration– so, if data within one solution is updated, Webhooks “pushes” data about the update to the other solution as the update occurs. An example of this is if you publish a new course in your LMS, and that course is automatically recorded in your AMS.
When you purchase a new LMS, the state of integrations in the system can vary greatly. For example, the solution can have built-in integrations that are ready-to-use out of the box, or the LMS vendor may simply provide your organization with an API key to build the integration yourself. Regardless of which side a prospective LMS falls on, it’s helpful to understand how data flows from one solution to another from a general standpoint to ensure the solution aligns with your learning business goals.
7+ Essential LMS Integrations for Your Learning Business
Whether you’re a mid-sized or enterprise-sized association, you likely have a variety of association software solutions that you use for daily operations. Of those solutions, which will elevate your learning business when integrated with your LMS?
The following seven tools are essential LMS integrations for your learning business.
Association Management Software (AMS)
Your association management software (AMS) functions as your organization’s most comprehensive database. It hosts member profiles, contact and dues information, organization-wide financial information, and data about your various outreach efforts and offerings (events, courses, and certifications).
In the ideal scenario, this database should paint a full picture of all of your association’s operations– this includes your eLearning programming. An AMS-LMS integration allows you to view your learning business data in the context of your association’s efforts as a whole, to make informed decisions about your eLearning offerings. For example, you can use information from member profiles in your AMS to guide course recommendations shared with members.
Because this is such a crucial connection, it’s also one of the most common solutions for an LMS to integrate with. Some solutions come ready-made to integrate with top solutions– for example, CourseStage by Web Courseworks integrates directly with Salesforce for Associations.
There are a number of considerations involved with running a successful learning business like creating content that your members will see value in, marketing that content so members know which opportunities are available to them, and keeping up with the latest innovations in your field. Of course, none of those considerations matter if your learning business isn’t profitable. It doesn’t matter if you create impactful content, if that content isn’t generating the revenue your business needs to function.
Much of this comes down to how you price your eLearning courses, which you can learn more about in our guide to eLearning pricing models. However, to actually collect those funds, you’ll want an LMS that integrates with your eCommerce or payment processing solution of choice.
Common eCommerce solutions include:
The LMS you choose may only integrate with one of the above solutions, or another popular provider in the market. That’s why it’s important to investigate this before investing, as you’ll likely need to work within whichever solution (and the accompanying security protocols that the solution follows) the provider already integrates with.
Content Management System (CMS)
Your association’s content management system (CMS) is what empowers you to host and organize content on your learning business’s website.
If your CMS can integrate directly with your LMS, you can use information from your website (such as which pages are most commonly visited) to inform your course and learning event offerings. For example, if you see that an educational blog post about innovations in your industry is highly-trafficked, that may be a sign that it would be beneficial to create a course on the topics in the post.
Video Conferencing Software
During the COVID-19 pandemic, associations everywhere faced the decision to pivot their learning events to the virtual sphere or cancel them outright. When this pivot happened, many LMS providers built integrations with popular video conferencing solutions to empower associations to host virtual events using their LMS (rather than investing in separate virtual event software).
Popular video conferencing solutions include:
- Adobe Connect
Integration with video conferencing software has benefits beyond hosting full-scale virtual events, as well. For example, you can feature a guest lecturer via the video conferencing tools integrated with your LMS.
Social media is ingrained in daily life — from sharing updates to friends and family members afar to donating to our favorite causes, social networks are a key tool for staying connected.
When your LMS is integrated with your social networks, you can use the data collected by your networks to inform your learning business decisions. For example, you can monitor what your association members are frequently discussing, such as trending topics, to come up with ideas for future course offerings. LinkedIn and Twitter are both popular social networks that can provide valuable context for your learning business.
Course Authoring Software
While some LMSs include built-in course authoring tools, that’s not true for all solutions. In the latter case, it’s valuable if those solutions integrate with your course authoring software of choice as this allows for the seamless delivery of learning content to your LMS.
Some LMSs, like CourseStage, have both functionalities– built-in course authoring tools and the ability to integrate with your authoring software of choice. This is the ideal solution, as you’re able to create courses within the LMS itself as well as transfer in courses created externally (such as if you partnered with an instructional designer who employed their software of choice) with ease.
Single Sign On (SSO)
Single sign on or SSO tools give your association’s members the ability to log-in to multiple applications using one set of credentials. For example, users could use the same credentials to access your membership website and LMS, and only need to log-in to one of the two to access both solutions.
If your organization equips members or staff members with SSO capabilities, you’ll want to make sure your LMS is compatible with that solution. That way, individuals won’t need to generate credentials for your LMS in addition to the set they already use for your SSO tools.
Event Management Software
Your association likely hosts a variety of events, including networking events, conferences, and of course, learning events. While some of your learning events may be in-person, you may also host fully virtual learning events via your LMS.
When your LMS integrates with your event management software, you can use information (such as event registrations) to inform the courses and course recommendations you offer. For example, if an event had high registration, you might consider creating a course on that topic. Or, if a member attended an event, you might recommend a follow-up course that would complement that event well.
On the other hand, you can track information about your fully virtual events (held in your LMS) in your event management software, ensuring that your event tool has a full picture of your operations.
Membership or Community Platform
Your membership or community platform is an online location where members can connect with and network with one another. When that platform integrates with your LMS, members can reflect their eLearning accomplishments in their profiles– such as listing badges and certifications earned and courses completed.
Then, they can see which other members have similar continuing education interests as them and connect accordingly. Or, they can follow the educational path of other members who have reached goals that they aspire toward.
Wrapping Up: The Many Integrations of CourseStage by Web Courseworks
The easiest way to ensure your LMS integrates with all of your association’s software is to seek out a solution that has built-in, ready-to-use integrations with your organization’s key tools. For example, CourseStage by Web Courseworks includes a plethora of integrations, such as those with:
- Association management software
- CRM software
- Event management software
- Membership or community platforms
- Webinar platforms
- Curriculum development tools
- Marketing tools (such as Google Analytics)
- eCommerce software
Further, CourseStage has built-in tools that can eliminate the need for further integrations– such as built-in course authoring tools.
Investing in a solution such as this, which puts integrations at the forefront, will prevent significant hardship for your team. To learn more about CourseStage and its many integrations, contact the Web Courseworks team today.
In the meantime, continue exploring tips to elevate your learning business on the Managing eLearning blog:
- What Does an eLearning Consultant Do? The Complete Guide. An eLearning consultant can help you choose the right LMS for your association, among other tasks. Check out our complete guide to eLearning consultants to learn more about how these partners can help.
- eLearning Pricing Models: 5 Ways to Price Your Courses. Having trouble pricing your eLearning courses effectively? You’re not alone! Explore this comprehensive guide to eLearning pricing for tips.
- 10+ Best eLearning Course Authoring Software Platforms. If you’re ready to venture into the world of course authoring, check out this guide to course authoring software.