How to build Learning Management System in Umbraco - our experience and results
Content of the article
What is a Learning Management System?
To be short — LMS is a platform for online education. In other words, it is software designed for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation, and delivery of educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs. A bit of a long list of features, am I right? But that is totally true because such platforms contain a huge amount of functionality inside.
Let’s discover how LMS abbreviature can be explained:
L means Learning. Definitely, it is the place where students or somebody else can learn something. They will take courses, pass the exams, take quizzes, get diplomas and certificates — any option can be available.
M means Management. The great news here is all the stuff like your courses, questions inside, learning flow can be easy managed within the system. It doesn’t require coding skills or to be a “programming” guru — everybody can manage the system. E.g. As a company admin, I can create the course with 20 questions and invite the users. Just sit down, think about the questions and their structure, combine them into the course, and send the invitations. That’s it!
S means System. And finally, The System, which is actually a computer system, to be perfect. The main function is it automates a huge list of routine and repetitive activities. Generally, it can be data storage, reports generating, scheduling, and so on. And do not forget how easy you can to copy, update, and duplicate any entity in the system.
Namely, LMS is considered as your own online academy. The system provides the possibility to create and store online courses, share access for the students, and, finally, assess their results.
The LMS can be applicable as a stand-alone application hosted on the owner server or as a cloud-based solution. At the time, cloud hosting is a more popular option.
You can imagine the Learning Management System as automation that can advance learning, simplify information management, and access to it. Besides, all the progress and activities inside can be tracked and reported.
The most simple LMS consists of:
- Admin area: the core of the platform where administrators manage the settings, develop the content, create lessons
- Students area: UI part for students where they take education.
We leave for now such examples as complex third-party integrations (2 or more LMS synchronizations), payments integrations, special reporting, and email providers, etc.
An LMS usually runs within a web-browser where every student or admin has to login inside the system. They will see the relevant content based on the assigned permissions or other available stuff without any additional software.
What Types of LMS You Should Know
Now, when we know a bit more about the LMS it’s time to define what types we can face too.
Individual vs. Enterprise
Individual solutions generally tend to small organizations or individuals. They usually have limited functionality to cover the particular needs.
Enterprise solutions are usually used by large companies with 500 employees. It is a must to be reliable and scalable to serve a big quantity of users. Besides, 90% of such solutions will require customizations based on the company's business needs — hence, it should require less effort to do that as possible.
Commercial vs. Free
Commercial systems are designed to sell the products as separate courses, subscriptions, or per-time access to the platform. They usually have quality user interfaces and 24h support for the students.
Free solutions, in most cases, assume open-source products that can be downloaded and integrated by individuals. Of course, it will require developers' skills to set it up. Another thing to be mentioned, definitely you will not get quality and quick support for this option.
On-premise vs. Cloud-based
On-premise solutions are the platform that is installed on your server and you take all the responsibility behind the scene. This option might be a must for big companies because of corporate security policies.
Cloud-based solutions are hosted somewhere on external servers and users can access the platform from any device. The good thing to know is that it is a vendor's responsibility zone to maintain the platform (server, uptime, security). Besides, cloud-based solutions are good enough, scalable, and updated often to deliver new features. That is our choice to use cloud-based LMS!
Utilization of LMS: Key Benefits and Disadvantages
Talking about the Learning Management System you have to keep in mind the many benefits it might provide.
The benefits of LMS for both students and business are:
Secure training processes. That is a crucial requirement for the business to keep it safe and secured. An example of the application is when the users with relevant permissions can get access only.
Cost-effective. Obviously, it will not require physical materials (books, sheets, etc), no payments outside trainers, no room lease expenses, and so on. Thus, the costs are reduced in most cases.
Equal conditions for learners. The main idea that all the students might have the same materials and learning concepts across the sites and organizations.
Reduce the time for training/onboarding. It's easy to onboard any quantity of employers using a special onboarding course online.
Create personal learning plans. Aside from the unified learning process, it is doable to arrange a custom education as well.
Measure training effectiveness. Because of various reports and tracking, it is easy to understand where we are, although it can be a group of students or one person.
Selling the courses. And, of course, you can do business with LMS — just find the niche, create courses and sell it.
Learning on the go. Students can apply their education at any time, country, and even offline if they have access.
Repetitive access. In most cases, users can do and re-do their learnings again and again. As a result, more skills and knowledge gains.
Learning Automation. No doubt, scheduling, student support, and other processes automation help students get the progress more smoothly.
Learning materials variety. LMS can fit a large quantity of learning material in one place: simply combine it from other resources.
To be aligned with modern trends. Online learning is the type that moves within the latest trends. So, learners will get new, relevant, and timely courses and knowledge accordingly.
Some disadvantages of the LMS
Though there is a huge list of benefits regarding LMS usage let’s discover some disadvantages as well.
- Obviously, it will require some investments to purchase, integrate, and set up the LMS system. Besides, you have to train your administrative personnel on how to use the system. And believe us, it will take you the first months to stabilize the platform and acquaint all the stuff to work with it properly.
- Online education will not replace face-to-face training. Hence, it does not apply to some types of education.
- LMS might require technical and security support which can lead to additional expenses.
- Students can “hack” and game the system to pass the education though they didn't do it in reality.
- It might be not a trivial deal to force the employees to use the platform if it is not required.
- Technical problems can also happen, such as slow internet connection, old browser usage, no electricity in the end.
To summarize the above, the choice of LMS depends on your business requirements, goals, and budget, of course. It is on your own to consider which one solution will bring more benefits.
Sure, if you need any help to choose the appropriate LMS solution we are glad to help you — contact us!
Those were theoretical aspects of the LMS. Let’s dig deeper into the technical details based on two of our recent projects.
Read further about:
- Learning Platform for fitness instructors and coaches
- Simulation and Training Tool for Cognitive Testing
Learning Platform for fitness instructors and coaches
Learning Platform for fitness instructors and coaches
Learning Platform for Fitness Instructors and Coaches
Project Background - From Offline to Online
Could you imagine moving your familiar offline business to the Internet? That was the major goal to provide with the online solution for fitness instructors education. Last but not least push was COVID-19 situation in the world. The main question was how to easily adopt most of the guys who tend to face-to-face communications to online education. So, the business background for this case is: people who want to become certified instructors or coaches must complete the special courses and get the certificate/diploma.
The list of high-level functional requirements included:
- possibility to manage courses
- various content moderation
- multi-step educational flow
- users accounts and their personal area
- sending emails
- diplomas and certificates assignment.
Let’s get back to the technical solution of the platform:
- Umbraco 7 as Content management system
- Internal API
- Uskinned theme for public site
- Online payments integration.
Major Functionality Aspects
Actually, our solution tends to be as user-friendly as possible to be easy for non-techniques users. Let’s dive into the main areas of the implemented functionality.
In a nutshell, most of the courses consist of two parts:
- Online education;
- Examination section.
The basic flow is described as: a student takes online education and passes the exam after that.
Another important section is the questions management inside the course. In most cases, they have a hierarchical structure and are combined into chapters. Each question contains any content: text, video, text transcription for the video, images. Besides, content managers can easily apply various styling using Rich Text Editor: headings, bold and colored texts, alignment, and so on.
No doubt, each course requires the certificates — that is done as well. It is enough to upload a PDF template into the system, and that’s it. When a student completes the course, it generates automatically.
LMS provides a clear understanding of what is the progress of each student. Basically, you can open a student profile and see all the related information. And what’s more, there is a possibility to manage some extra stuff manually. It's easy to organize students in classes, subscriptions, assign custom courses, and so on.
As you know, emails are considered an important part of users' engagement. So, administrators can create various templates and assign them to the event. For instance, there is an event 'User completes the course' — it will be enough to create a custom email template and connect to this event. And, finally, when a student finishes the course he or she will get an email notification with the results.
This extended functionality assumes that you can do some customization per the company's level. Say, if you want a custom design, email templates, company offers, etc. This is a great possibility to sell the courses or the entire access to the platform to other companies or businesses. We will explain in detail how it works very soon.
Beyond that, the solution has many other functionalities to cover as many business needs as possible. And what’s more, it has a great possibility to be extended and supported.
Simulation and Training Tool for Cognitive Testing
Project Background - cognitive abilities checking
The business background of this solution focuses on job interview preparation for potential employees. You’ve probably heard that many market leaders like Ikea, Maersk, Nestle, and so forth use cognitive testing in their recruitment process. Here’s why you have to pass their tests to get the job.
Simulation and Training Tool provides for users the possibility to check their capability to plan, solve the problems, interpret symbols and analyze complex information. Anyone can register in the system and take the tests on a free or paid basis. Summarizing, this product assumes huge help for everybody to succeed in job interviews — to pass cognitive tests, at least.
Project Challenges and Solutions
The client came with very strict requirements for the platform including designs, calculations logic and various sets of reports. In fact, the major action points were:
- Multi-language support and their easy management
- Online payments providers integration
- On-the-go possibility to create tests for the users
- The plain flow of the testing procedure
- User-friendly reports
- Good and stable platform performance.
Let’s jump in the technical part of the LMS
- Umbraco 8 as Content management system;
- Internal API
- Nets payments integration
- Azure as a hosting platform.
Primary Functional Artifacts
Moving on, the system contains a set of various test types and categories. It is super easy to create the new test from scratch or based on the existing test. Thus, we have a huge number of entries here: near 300 tests with 25-50 questions inside. And, of course, it's easy to create tests using any available language.
Let’s talk about the questions inside the tests. So, each one has a set of different properties which is used in further tests analysis.
Besides, the question has the settings to attach text or image sub questions and answers options accordingly.
The UI result for the user while taking the test will be displayed this way:
That is an important part of the application to have products to be sold. Basically, each product has flexible settings e.g.: currency, price, tests quantity inside the product, etc. The major goal we received is to provide the possibility to create any combination of settings inside the product.
Here it is:
Umbraco 8 has an excellent support of multi-language functionality out of the box. The best part is, the content manager can translate any property independently — no development skills are required. It can be done in the same window step by step:
To be aware of the students' activities there are special reports for administrators. They show the most important stuff like student's registrations and last login dates, their purchases, etc. Another kind of insight is “Purchases analytics” where admins can find various reports regarding the product commerce.
That was a great experience to build a LMS based on solid requirements. Beyond that, the system shows excellent performance results though it stores near 20K test results. That’s why I like it!
Ecommerce Business Models based on LMS
No doubt you want to ask how to monetize the Learning Management System and return your investments?
Based on the latest trends, all ecommerce business models are growing. That is a great chance to integrate your offline business area with online. Let’s jump into the models our recent projects are related to.
Business to Consumer (B2C)
The B2C model is considered the most common among all the types. It means when the individuals (you or me) buys something online for our own needs. And it doesn’t matter what it is: goods or services.
In most cases, you open the browser, search for the goods and buy it online — that’s it.
The same things are applicable for LMS as well. Let’s imagine I want to get my fitness trainer certificate. Then I will find the appropriate courses on the internet and buy them. In the final step, I will pass my course and the company will send me a certificate. End of story — business sold the course to consumers.
Business to Business (B2B)
For B2B, it focuses on selling goods or services to another business.
This model opens a huge opportunity to extend your business presence on the market. Here’s the deal: Learning Management System can help you in this direction.
Our recent case of LMS usage for B2B is when a company buys the entire access to the platform. This company can get mostly full access to content management of their part. After that, all the students of this 3-rd company can take education, of course. The great thing is our platform can be customized based on other companies' themes. Hence, their students will see their usual color scheme.
In the meantime, LMS can be used for B2C and B2B simultaneously too. Could you imagine selling the courses for individuals and businesses simultaneously — that is a great opportunity.
Now you know what the Learning Management System and their types are, that is the next level for your business. No matter what business model you have, both B2B and B2C can be utilized.
Here’s what it means — your ideas, Umbraco CMS, and our experience is the great mixture to start right now!