Interoperability – The Double Premise for a LMS/LCMS
You can take any course from one system pull it out and then upload it into another system and it will work without any problems whatsoever. No issues, perfect. So, if the course is SCORM 1.2 and the LMS/LCMS is SCORM 1.2 everything works fine. SURE IT WILL!
What about in your current system? If you create a SCORM whatever course or AICC course by a developer (and they are not using a rapid e-learning software that your vendor accepts) OR you are purchasing off the shelf courses it will work, without a hitch. REALLY? NOT!
Again, 100% interoperability without any problems. So, you buy some courses from Brainworks to go into your system and it should work without any problems..A quick upload, and whalla..ready to go — OR Sally your 3rd party developer builds an amazing sim in 100% flash and you are going to upload that course into your system and it should work without any problems — no issues.. YEAH, RIGHT!
Yeah, where did I put that deed to the Brooklyn Bridge?
My soon to be vendor says…
If your potential vendor tells you they never have any interoperability issues with 3rd party off the shelf content or developer content (i.e. built by another party – developer for you or your company) and that it integrates without a hitch, I seriously doubt it.
Anyone in this industry knows that interoperability sounds fantastic, but you will face challenges, regardless of your LMS/LCMS vendor – small, medium or large. Doesn’t matter.
Bring in the Moving Truck
If you are moving your courses (excluding your rapid e-learning software courses, such as those built in Articulate or Captivate or whatever – and your new LCMS/LMS vendor accepts them) from your current LMS/LCMS vendor into your new LMS/LCMS vendor, 99% of the time you will face interoperability issues.
Can it be fixed?
Don’t worry though. They can be fixed. And who is going to fix them? Your 3rd party developer or the 3rd party off the shelf vendor (example: Element K courses or Rosetta Stone) to go into the new system. BTW, they should do this for FREE. Especially in this economy. I never paid for this service. If you are worried about it, stick it in your contract with them as a “just in case scenario”.
Again, they will work with your new LMS/LCMS vendor to get this done!
Tweaking the Code – Integrating into your LMS/LCMS
It is going to happen, especially if you have a third party develop your courses. The first time, they try to integrate your course into your LMS, they probably will have to tweak some code in the course so that it integrates completely. Even, if the course is SCORM whatever, it doesn’t matter.
Your LCMS/LMS vendor will need to work with your 3rd party developer. However, after the first time the tweak is made and the course now works, if you use that same developer again, they will know what coding is needed for your LMS and will have it already in place, so no additional tweaking is needed. Thus going forward, the course is easily integrated and ready to work.
What about hiring a firm to build my courses?
Even if you are hiring a company to create your courses, and it is not the LMS/LCMS vendor (some vendors offer this option – personally, I never use them – too expensive for what you get), you will need to have the company’s project manager or whomever you are working with connect with the LMS/LCMS contact person you are working with – they typically hand it off to someone in IT – to identify what is needed, so that tweaks in the code can be made and the course or courses will work in the LMS/LCMS.
Again, it only happens the first time – assuming you plan to use that company again to build courses for you and implement/integrate into your LMS/LCMS. Going forward, they should know what code is needed, so that the course can talk to the LMS/LCMS and vice versa and information, and data, etc. can be tracked.
3rd party Off the Shelf Courses
I purchased Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish courses for a company I worked at, to go into my LMS. The courses and my LMS were SCORM 1.2 compliant. However, when the courses were integrated, they did not function correctly. Code tweaking had to be made on the Rosetta Stone side, to go into my LMS. After the tweaks were made, and in conjunction in working with my vendor, everything worked. Again, had I purchased other courses from RS, the tweaks needed would have been made prior to the course being uploaded/integrated into my LMS.
I have found that interoperability issues do not exist if you are using any of the rapid e-learning software vendors and the LMS/LCMS accepts those specific rapid e-learning software vendors – i.e. Articulate, Captivate, etc. Even, if you are switching LMS systems. One caveat though: if your new LMS/LCMS vendor does not accept courses built in XYZ e-learning software, which just happens to be what you built yours in, then you will need to work with them to tweak it, so that it does work.
However, if they do accept it, you won’t have a problem. You simply move the course – i.e. the course, course files – it might be zipped already or however you initially uploaded it into your previous LMS/LCMS vendor – and upload it into your new vendor.
Always have your LMS/LCMS vendor test the courses to make sure they work in the system, and you test them as well. Create a dummy student or two. Take the course, play around in it. Generate a report or a few, make sure everything works. If everything works, then you can sign off with your 3rd party developer or 3rd party off the shelf course vendor. If it does not work, have them – i.e. your LMS vendor and course developer or 3rd party off the shelf course vendor (whatever you are trying to upload) work together until it does integrate properly.
My rule of thumb
You do not get paid, until everything works 100%. I tell all 3rd party developers this is my rule, non-negotiable. A good developer will agree to this without question, and many in the field will include it anyway in their discussions with you, but if not, be firm and require it.
And if something breaks down at a later point within our contract agreement (typically with off the shelf course 3rd party vendors) you will fix it for free.
Remember the Golden Rule
When dealing with interoperability issues, you never want to be the in-between from the standpoint of talking to the vendor then the developer or 3rd party off the shelf course vendor and back and forth to get the tweaks done, so uploading/integrating can be done.
Yes, you want to be kept informed. Yes, you may have to do some follow through. But the onus is on your LMS vendor and your developer or off the shelf vendor to make it happen. Never become the in-between. It serves no purpose, but only headaches for you. You will spend a lot of time tracking people down, dealing with technical issues that you shouldn’t have to. If your LMS vendor’s IT person or whomever is dealing with the other party is not responding – then go to your point of contact with your LMS vendor and explain the issue. Trust me, it will be resolved.