Tips and Tricks

Powerful Reporting in Firmwater LMS

Posted July 9, 2018 by Kinda Nehlawi

As an e-learning provider, one of the best ways to improve your business operations and efforts is by leveraging data from your LMS. With Firmwater, you can capture, organize, analyze, and save data that informs your decision-making process.

Benefits of reporting

Firmwater reports allow you to:

  • View your overall site activity such as the login and course history.
  • Gain insight to your customer’s data to monitor their usage and provide them with regular updates.
  • Analyze learner completion data to find out which courses are more popular.
  • Download learner data to report it to external stakeholders.

View and download available reports by clicking on the Reports tab and selecting one of four available categories. You can customize the default reports to your own needs. You can filter their data and select different time ranges. When you have the data you need, export your report as a simple Excel sheet, PDF file or in CSV format for further analysis in spreadsheet programs.

Report categories

Category Use this to
Activity Reports Access informative data on all course activities in the LMS
Assessments View responses and scoring for different assessments
Logins View details of your LMS’s current as well as historical login sessions
Other Reports View lists such as your clients, users and activities in the LMS site

Popular reports

The following reports are some of our customer’s favourites:

  • Starts and Completions
  • Find out how many learners have started and completed your course during any specific time range. This can help you know which of your courses are most popular.

  • Users List
  • Export a list of all users and their data (email addresses, locations etc.) that exist in your site.

  • Interaction Data
  • Find out how learners are responding to SCORM-published quizzes and assessments as this report gives you detailed questions and responses.

    Sample Report

    Sample Starts and Completions Report

    Reports are available for all LMS packages. If you have unique report requirements, we can provide you with a quote for the cost of creating one or more custom reports to meet your needs.

    Get in touch with us now if you have any questions regarding the reporting feature.


3 Tips for Organizing your Content Library in Firmwater LMS

Posted December 14, 2017 by Kinda Nehlawi

If you’re an eLearning provider, chances are your online content list can get quite messy making it difficult for you to search through. With Firmwater LMS, you can always take actions to ensure your content is well-organized. Here are our top three tips to help you save time when navigating your online content:


1. Establish a naming convention.

This makes it a lot easier for you to navigate your content library when you need to perform an action such as grant a course down to a client or make changes to the content settings. The naming can include information such as:

  • Course/Learning Activity Name or Acronym
  • Date
  • Version of the course, if applicable
  • Language, if applicable e.g. FR, EN, ES

Keeping it in the same sequence consistently will help organize it as the LMS will list activities in alphabetical order.

2. Ensure that you are specifying the type of learning content.

When loading new content or when editing existing content, it’s best to ensure that the type field is populated. Content type can be anything like a Course, Module, Lesson, Test, Video etc. Specifying the type helps makes it easy for you to filter your search in the activities list and it helps edit settings in bulk e.g. enable/disable idle timer.

To do this in Firmwater LMS, go to Content > Activities and select the learning item you’d like to edit. Once in the item summary page, click on ‘Edit’. This will open up a page that allows you to edit various settings. You’ll find the ‘type’ field listed there with a drop-down menu for options.

3. Archive unused and unneeded content.

Archiving content does not mean the content will be deleted. It’s actually good practice to archive course items or course components that are part of larger items. Archiving courses or course versions no longer in use helps you find courses that are actively being used and makes the activity list look cleaner. In the activities list, archived items can be accessed by switching either to ‘All’ or ‘Archived’ view near the search bar.

We hope that these tips help you organize your learning activities. If you need assistance with any steps, please reach out to us.


3 Reasons why you should Test your Content with Firmwater LMS

Posted November 27, 2017 by Kinda Nehlawi

Do you test your content continually as you build your course? Did you know you can use your Firmwater demo site to replicate your end user’s experience? If you already use it, then kudos to you! If not, it’s worthwhile to read up about why testing your content is helpful in the long run. To get you started, here are three reasons why we think it helps:


  1. Test to understand your learners’ experience. By interacting with the course content from a learner’s point of view, you ensure that your content looks good and is being delivered the right way. This puts everything in perspective for you and helps you in the long run if ever you need to assist your learners with support requests.
  2. Test to understand your content behaviour. Much of the learners’ experience depends on the way your content was authored. Regardless of the tool you use, you should aim to test your content as you’re building it to avoid any content-related problems in the future. Test to check if it is behaving the way you’ve published it to behave. Are quiz scores being recorded and displayed properly? Is the navigation clear and easy? Is the course status correct? Are there any audio, video or animation issues?
  3. Test to understand the LMS and better navigate its features. A big part of content delivery to your learners is course assembly in the LMS. If your course is made up of several components and you used LMS features such as prerequisites, it would be wise to double-check if the content behaviour is consistent with the enabled features. It would also be helpful to run reports and ensure that necessary data is being saved (e.g. running an interaction data report to see if quiz results are being recorded).

Testing content can seem to be time-consuming at first, but its value will help you determine best authoring practices and lower the number of support requests from your end users. We hope that after reading this article you get in the habit of actively testing your content. Remember that we are always there to support you during this process.

Note: If you’ve never used your demo site before, please contact us and we’ll help you set up your account.


6 things to keep in mind when publishing eLearning content

Posted November 13, 2017 by Kinda Nehlawi

Our customers often come to us with issues that arise when users engage with their learning content. Maybe a video animation isn’t working as expected or they’re not sure why they can’t see a student’s quiz responses in the LMS report. Whatever the issue, we find that it is usually related to how the content was published and which tool was used to author it.

To help you avoid similar problems in the future, we decided to share some tips about what to keep in mind when you’re publishing your eLearning content. This should be helpful regardless of the authoring tool you’re using.

Publish for SCORM 2004

In order to get the most out of our LMS reporting and tracking capabilities, make sure you select to publish for SCORM 2004, 3rd edition. This option is found in the publish settings of the tool you’re using. There are several differences between SCORM 2004 and SCORM 1.2. The most important one is that SCORM 2004 allows you to track and report on student status and quiz data more efficiently.


Opt for HTML5-based Content

Make sure you’re selecting an HTML5 output option when you publish. All major browsers have completely phased out the Flash Player plugin by default and are instead opting for mobile-friendly HTML5. In fact, Adobe plans to stop distributing Flash Player by 2020. Using primarily flash-based content will risk your learners having to download additional plugins and make it a less pleasurable learning experience. Switching from Flash to HTML5 will allow your users to access their online learning from any mobile device.

Pay Close Attention to Data Reporting and Tracking

Always aim to identify the reporting and tracking options available for you in the tool and how they will translate into the LMS.

Reporting: Let’s say you want to track the learners quiz result. You would need to include a results slide and make sure that the results are being properly submitted to the LMS. Think about how you want the learner’s status to be reported. Do you want them to see that they’ve passed the course or simply completed it? Keep in mind that SCORM 2004 submits two statuses: success and completion.

Tracking: If you want to allow learners to exit your course and resume where they left off, make sure that’s also indicated within the settings. Always refer to your authoring tool guide to make sure you are publishing properly.

Regularly Check Version Updates

Keep the version of the tool you’re using to publish your content up to date. Version updates usually have bug fixes that will avoid future issues with your content. Check if the authoring tool version is compatible with major browser versions - if not, find out which one it works best with. Regularly check for updates to your authoring tool software and check the system requirements (usually found on the tool’s website). Add information about system requirements to the course description in the LMS to let students know about it prior to launching the content.

Be Mindful of Browsers

Identify the types of browsers your learners are using (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari, etc…) Is there a specific browser you’ve noticed causing issues more frequently? Is the flash player enabled for flash-based courses? Perhaps the browser needs an update or the published content is simply not compatible with this browser. Again, checking system requirements for your authoring tool is helpful. You can find out the browsers your learners use by running a Login History report in the LMS.

Test Your Content

Test your content again and again until it behaves how it should behave. We make this task easy for you by giving you access to our demo site. This site is great for testing your content before it is made available to your learners on your live site. Load and launch your content there first to make sure it works as intended.

When testing your content, ask the following questions:

  • Is the content behaving as it should be? (e.g. animations, interactions etc.)
  • Is the audio playing? Is it clear enough?
  • Is the video playing seamlessly?
  • Are the buttons and triggers working as expected? (e.g. next, submit, exit)
  • Is the status being properly reported? i.e. is it displaying “completed” or “passed/failed” when it needs to?
  • If applicable, is interaction data being saved? To verify that, run an interaction data report in the LMS.
  • Are there any errors when launching, exiting, or navigating the content?

If you’re in the process of publishing or updating your eLearning, make sure you get in touch with us for more eLearning tips and best practices.


New: A Video Player that Creates a Consistent User Experience

Posted August 8, 2017 by Josephine Huschmann

You can now add videos in MP4 format to your course content and users will have a consistent experience across all browsers.

How it works

Load your video in the LMS with the content loader. The LMS will automatically detect the file format and assign the activity type ‘Video’. Position your video within your course content and edit it like any other asset. Change its name, give it a description, add an image for your course library, set prerequisites, and update the file anytime with a newer version. You can decide if the video launches in a new window or the existing window, add tags, or add a completion certificate.

When a user launches the video from their Training Plan, the experience will be consistent across all platforms. The player control bar shows a play button, volume control, seek bar, full screen, and exit button. It doesn’t matter which browser you use; the player will look and feel the same. Of course, the video player is responsive so that your users can watch your content on the go with their mobile or tablet device.

At this time we have enabled seeking - allowing the user to skip forward and backward to any point in the video. We understand that some clients may want to make it mandatory to watch the video in full without skipping ahead. The Firmwater team is working hard to add this option in the future.

Play:Pause round.png


  • Supported file types: mp4 and m4v
  • Consistent look between browsers & browser versions
  • Supports mobile devices
  • Volume control and full-screen mode
  • Videos will auto play upon loading
  • Video progress is saved and video resumes at current progress
  • Video goes from ‘in progress’ to ‘completed’ status once fully watched
  • Video seeking is enabled - users can skip to any part of the video as it plays

What about SCORM?

The video will be placed into a SCORM wrapper, that allows the LMS to track the current progress time, as well as when a user has completed watching a video. This is important for tracking data, attempts and completion statuses in reports.

We hope you find these improvements useful. If you have any questions, please contact us.


Managing User Roles with Firmwater LMS

Posted August 8, 2017 by Josephine Huschmann


User Roles Cheat Sheet

User Roles Cheat Sheet


Easy and simple

At Firmwater we are determined to make our LMS straightforward and easy to use. This does not just mean a simple interface, but also easy administration. You need to be able to manage your clients and users effortlessly so that you can focus on what you do best - being an expert and selling great content.

User Roles are one of the great features that allow you to save time and effort when setting up and maintaining your LMS. You have the ability to be flexible and adjust access to your clients’ needs without fighting a battle with options and settings. We have established six User Roles that make sense and help you manage your clients.


For users who should be able to…

Use this role…

…use the LMS only for accessing learning activities, modify their profile, change their password, view their certifications, and generate their own activity reports


…in addition to everything a student can do, invite participants, view invitations sent, view existing participants and generate reports for users managed

Group Manager

…add/edit/delete user accounts, create/edit assignments, and manage users for their location

Local Administrator
…add/edit/delete user accounts, create/edit assignments, and manage users for their location and any child locations
Multiple Location Administrator

…in addition to everything a Local Administrator can do, load content, edit Content Library, and adjust configuration of their LMS

Organization Administrator

…in addition to everything an Organization Administrator can do, add clients, grant content to a client, and edit or revoke content grants

Master Administrator


  • In addition to special permissions, all user roles include the Student role so that Managers and Administrators can complete learning activities.

  • Each user role (except student) allow for a ‘Reports Only’ setting that gives the user access to view reports for their location(s), organization(s) or client(s).

If you need assistance in setting up new User Roles, contact our support team.


New: Specify Completion & Scoring Rules for Course Items

Posted June 23, 2017 by Kinda Nehlawi

Along with being able to add prerequisites to a course item, you can now specify whether or not:

a. It is required for the completion of parent item

b. It should be included as part of parent item’s score

In the past, we had to work together to figure out the scoring and completion rules you wanted to have in place for your course. Now, you can do it all when administering the LMS. In the ‘Attempts and Scoring’ page of an item, we added a section titled ‘Parent Item’ where both of these options can be edited. Simply check the box near each statement and click on ‘save changes’.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 12.37.32 PM.png

This feature is particularly relevant if you’d like the course score to be reflecting a final assessment score. Another example would be if you want to exclude certain files from affecting the completion status of the course (e.g. additional resources).

We hope you find this update useful!

Please reach out to us with any questions or suggestions.

The Shift from Flash to HTML5

Posted June 16, 2017 by Kinda Nehlawi

As you publish your online content, it is important to remember not only who your audience is but where they will access it from. Nowadays, your end users are accessing their learning via laptops, desktops, mobile phones as well as tablets. According to KPCB, “between 2010 and 2015, daily mobile internet usage has grown from 0.4 hours to 2.8 hours”. That means that learners are seven times more likely to access their learning from their cell phone or tablet. Users access their online learning several times throughout the day using different platforms. That’s why you need to make sure that any content you publish can play seamlessly on all these different devices. As online technology evolves, it may be difficult to keep up to date with the changes taking place. A recent change is important to note here was when major companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft phased out Adobe’s Flash Player from their web browsers and opted for the open and mobile-friendly HTML5.

…So why is this shift relevant for us in the eLearning world?

The shift from flash to HTML5 in web browsers means there needs to be a similar shift from flash-based content to content published to support HTML5. Earlier on, when Adobe’s flash content dominated the e-learning content world, there were very few people who chose to access their online training through their tablets or phones. Nowadays, most learners prefer to “carry” their learning with them wherever they go. Flash’s poor mobile device performance made it weak in comparison to HTML5’s open web standards and mobility.

With that being said, now is the time to ensure that your content is mobile-friendly. Re-publishing your courses for HTML5 will save you the trouble of handling issues that can arise from users not getting the experience they need when trying to access their learning remotely. The good news is that most major authoring tools like Storyline, Captivate, and Lectora support HTML5 publishing. The latest version of Articulate’s Storyline provides users with a choice between 4 different formats: HTML5 only, HTML5 with Flash fallback, Flash with HTML5 fallback and Flash only.

We know what you’re thinking, such tasks can be quite daunting, but if you need assistance or require more info about this process, reach out to us now, we’d be happy to help you.

New: Idle Timeout

Posted June 15, 2017 by Kinda Nehlawi

We added a new feature to our LMS that ensures that your learners are actively interacting with their assigned content. There is a new presentation setting where you can specify an idle timeout value.

For content that has an idle timeout set, we’ll detect user activity in the content window after the learner launches a learning item (lesson, topic, module, etc.). If no activity is detected for a specified period of time, a warning message is displayed asking them whether they want to continue with the current session or log out. If the user does not respond to this prompt within two minutes, their session is terminated and they get logged out of the system.

idle timeout warning

If a learner’s session is terminated this way, we’ll subtract the timeout value from their session duration so that they don’t get credit for time in content when they weren’t active.

By default, all SCORM content is configured with an idle timeout of 10 minutes. The warning message will be displayed after eight minutes of inactivity and the learner will have two minutes to respond before before logged out.

If the user clicks the ‘Stay Logged In’ button, the timer resets and they won’t see the warning message until we detect another eight minutes of inactivity.

User activity

The below actions are considered user activity in the launched content browser window:

  • moving the mouse
  • clicking the mouse
  • scrolling the mouse wheel
  • using the keyboard
  • touch events

How to enable/disable idle timeout

As an administrator, you can set a timeout value from two different areas:

  1. Through the presentation settings of an individual learning item.

    Navigate to some SCORM content in the ‘Content’ tab and click ‘Edit’. In the top right drop-down edit menu, choose ‘Presentation’. Under ‘Idle Timeout’ you will find two options, either select ‘No Idle Timeout’ or specify inactivity duration (minimum 2 minutes) before a user is logged out.

    Presentations page

  2. Through the activity list page using the presentation bulk operation.

    From the ‘Activities’ page in the ‘Content’ tab, check the courses you would like to select items from. Choose ‘Presentation’ from the bottom-left drop down menu then click on ‘Go’.

    Bulk operations

    In the ‘Presentation’ window, the first step is to select the type of learning item you would like to set the timer for. This may be any launch-able SCO item. The second step is to apply the feature. Again, you will find two options under ‘Idle Timeout’. You may either select ‘No Idle Timeout’ to disable it or specify inactivity duration (minimum 2 minutes) before a user is logged out.

Supported browsers

The following browsers support the idle timeout feature:

  • Google Chrome (latest)
  • Mozilla Firefox (latest)
  • Microsoft Edge (latest)
  • Safari (latest)
  • Internet Explorer 9+

We hope you can benefit from this feature. If you have any questions or comments, please contact us.

New: Adding Prerequisites to Modules Within a Course

Posted June 13, 2017 by Stefan Leyhane

You can now add sequencing to the modules within your courses through the user interface. Previously, you had to load a SCORM package to do this or get us to help you to do so.

Prerequisites page

We’ve added a new ‘Prerequisites’ page for items in courses.

Prerequisites page

From the page, you can indicate which other items in the course need to be completed before the current item can be accessed. One or more items can be selected.

You can also indicate the amount of time that the learner must spend in the course (across all modules) before the current item can be accessed. This is useful for courses that mandate that the learner spends a certain number of hours in training before starting the final exam.

Auto-sequence a course

The most common scenario for sequencing in courses is to require the learner to complete the modules in the order that they appear. We’ve made it really easy to do this.

From the course summary page, use the ‘Auto-sequence’ action. This will make each item in the course a prerequisite for the next item.

Auto-sequence a course

Of course, you can edit an item and remove its prerequisite, if needed.

Learner experience

As a learner, items that have prerequisites will be disabled until the requirements are met. A tool tip with information about what needs to be completed before the item is available is shown. We also suggest making any such requirements clear in an item’s description, along with other pertinent information to set the learner’s expectations.

Learner experience for prerequisite

We hope you find these changes useful!

Streamline Your SCORM Content using Storyline 2

Posted April 19, 2017 by Kinda Nehlawi

Welcome to our first post in this series! This post will guide you through the step-by-step process to streamline publish your content using Articulate Storyline 2 and get the most insight on your learner’s experience.

Who will benefit from this article?

Scenario A: you’re in the process of assessing authoring tools and started a free trial to see if Storyline meets your needs.

Scenario B: you’ve already purchased a license for Articulate Storyline, you need to figure out how you can publish content successfully.

Scenario C: you’re now in charge of authoring/updating/maintaining training courses for your company using Storyline, but have no solid experience with the tool.

Scenario D: you’ve used authoring tools before, maybe even this one, but need a refresher or simply more Firmwater-specific instructions.

If you relate with any of the above-mentioned scenarios, then this guide is for you.

Here are the steps you can take to ensure it runs smoothly and communicates all the right things to the Firmwater LMS…

Configuring the settings to publish for an LMS

  1. Once you’ve finished authoring your course, go to the Home tab and click Publish. A Publish window should pop up on your screen. Here’s where you can make all the necessary configurations.

  2. On your left-hand side, you’ll see a tab that says LMS, click on it as that is what you are going to publish for.

  3. Give your course a relevant Title and Description that you would like your users to see when logged into their LMS portal. A description can be very helpful in providing your learners with a brief overview of what the course is about and what its structure will be.

  4. In the Folder field, ensure that you are using the correct location you would like to store your package file in.

  5. Next, you will find the option to publish for HTML5 and Mobile devices. If you expect your learners to launch your course from devices beside their PC or laptop, you should check “Include HTML5 output”.

    Note: Browsers are starting to drop default support for Flash, so it’s always best to enable HTML5 output.

  6. We normally recommend that you leave the settings Properties as default, however, if you want to change the quality of the video or images in your course, you can do so here.

  7. Now, let’s move on to Output Options.This part is essential when publishing as this is where you’ll be able to track as well as view reports on your learner’s progress. Here, you’ll need to select SCORM 2004 from the drop-down menu.

    Next, click on Reporting and Tracking to further edit how the Firmwater LMS and your content will communicate.


    Again, ensure that SCORM 2004 is selected from the drop-down menu to the right of LMS. Your title and description can correspond to that of your main menu title and description. Giving your learners more information or tips about the course is always helpful.

    The Identifier is a unique combination of characters to help the LMS recognize your content. Whenever you re-publish or want to update a course in the LMS, ensure that this Identifier code remains the same. This will allow the LMS to determine that you’re updating the content and not loading in new content.

    Now, we move on to LMS Reporting. The LMS tracks both a completion status and a success status. You will find that you may choose from four different options. We recommend that you select either Passed/Incomplete or Passed/Failed for optimal results.


    For proper tracking to take place, you need to ensure this section is properly configured. You have two options: either track your learners progress based on how many slides they view, or track them based on their quiz results.

    For Track using quiz result to be an available option, you will need have at least one quiz slide, or if you have multiple, a quiz result slide that determines the total score of quiz questions throughout the course should be created.

  8. You’re now ready to publish your content for the LMS. To do that, Click the Publish button and wait for the Publish Successful dialog box to appear. Under View Project, you’ll see the option to create a ZIP file for your course. Click on it. Now you have your course package available in ZIP format.

Tip: Our team highly recommends that you test your new content using your demo account before making it live for your learners to launch. This will help you determine areas that need improvement in your content and recognize if you missed a step during the configuration.

If you need more details about how you can access your demo account, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.


New: Card View of Course Library

Posted March 22, 2017 by Kinda Nehlawi

For those of you who offer their users a self-registration option, we recently added a new option for viewing the Firmwater LMS course library - Cards with Images. We’re very excited to introduce this new feature as it will enhance your end users’ experience making it easier for them to select their courses.

Here is what your course library can now look like:


Add an image to a course

Looks much better, right? In order to enable this feature, first, you will need to upload images for each of the courses in your library, here’s how:

Select the course from the activities list and click on Edit. At the bottom of that page, you should see the option to upload an image.


Enable the Course Library

Now, to make that visible in the course library:

  1. Go to your Configuration tab. Select Course Library from the right-hand side menu.
  2. Under Layout > Show Library As > select Cards with images.

Tip: You can go one step further and categorize your courses based on the type of item they are. You can do so by indicating which tags you would like to use to filter them.

Add my course to the Course Library

You can add your courses to your Library by navigating to the course > edit > Self-Registration > Yes, allow students to self-register > Save Changes.

If you have any questions or comments about this new feature, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

New: Customize Email Templates

Posted June 9, 2016 by Branagh O' Shaughnessy

One of the highlights of using Firmwater LMS is the freedom and flexibility to customize yours and your clients’ sites. Our customizations include tailored email notifications triggered by the LMS. We have developed this new feature to put you in control of email content for yours and your client sites. In one place, you can easily edit, and update the email templates for all sites.

If you need to edit the text in the welcome message, or add information to the due date reminder, this is now possible through the Email Configuration interface. If you make any changes to the existing email template you can send a test email to the email address of your choice, and see the changes made.

If changes are made at the master level, the update will automatically carry through for any client sites that are inheriting the master email templates. Your client administrators can also edit the email notifications for their organization. This allows you to more efficiently oversee multiple clients with Firmwater LMS.

The next time you need to update the master email template, or make a change for a client, follow these steps:

  1. In the relevant organization, go to the ‘Configuration’ tab and select ‘Emails’ from the grey sub-menu. The next page is the list of all email templates available for editing.
  2. Scroll to the email template you wish to edit and click on ‘Edit template’. Next you will see the email template broken down into the subject and body sections.
  3. Edit email template

  4. Two tabs are available to you for editing. These offer the email template in plain text and HTML formats.
  5. Make any edits required and click ‘Save Changes’.
  6. To see your changes in effect, select ‘Send test email’ to the email address of your choice.
  7. For more detailed instructions please see this guide on how to customize email templates.

    We hope you enjoy the new release. If you have any questions or comments about this new feature, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Customer Success Story: Learning Partner

Posted May 12, 2016 by Branagh O' Shaughnessy

Learning Partner

About Learning Partner

Since its inception in 2008, Learning Partner’s goal is to provide on-demand Continuing Education (CE) training to certified financial planner (CFP®) professionals and insurance advisors. Learning Partner’s course offerings make it easy for CFP professionals and insurance advisors to accumulate annual CE credits. Courses range from 2 to 12 hours in length, allowing users to focus on the most relevant topics. Learners complete the course and post-test to gain a certificate of completion confirming their continuing education hours.

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions about the success of Learning Partner. You recently saw a huge increase in traffic to your ecommerce store, what do you attribute this to?
Last year, the FPSC (Financial Planning Standards Council) implemented a new continuing education requirement for a professional responsibility or ethics CE credit. Prior to that, they informed continuing education providers of the new requirement and encouraged them to develop suitable training programs. We saw that as a good opportunity to increase our exposure, and we were one of the first companies to market. There are about 25,000 people who need this credit annually, and we were able to capture a significant number of new customers as a result. As a result of their positive experience, many of them returned to take additional courses with us.

Can you tell me about the certifying bodies you are accredited with?
There’s lots of free content out there, but most of it isn’t accredited. The accreditation gives our content value that most of the free content can’t deliver. We put all of our courses through FPSC’s CE Approval Program. There are also a number of provincial insurance regulators that either accredit individual courses, or approve us as a CE provider.

Is it an intense evaluation process to become an accredited CE provider?
It’s not necessarily intense, but it can get expensive. Most of our courses would apply to a number of different subgroups within the financial industry. But each subgroup requires its own review and charges an accreditation fee, and some of those fees are substantial. We’ve sought accreditation in those areas that most closely match our history and that we can easily market to. Often our learners will ask “why isn’t it also accredited for this, or for that?” and it’s because we would have to substantially increase the prices of our courses to obtain these additional accreditations.

How do financial planners who need this credit find you?
We see a lot of traffic through FPSC’s online search tool. Their website has a searchable database of all courses they have accredited, and they actively market that search tool to their members. They also highlight new continuing education opportunities in their email blasts to members. So they do a fair amount of marketing for us indirectly. We also have an extensive email database, but we restrict our emails once a month - we don’t flood our customers with a constant stream of emails.

Have you tried any A/B testing to analyze your email marketing?
Yes, we’ve done some A/B testing in terms of the best time of day or best day of the week to get the best conversion rates. We’ve also experimented a bit with language, particularly what the subject line says.

In the financial sector, are most training providers going online, or is it still mostly traditional instructor-lead training?
There is a fair amount of online training for financial planners, but the majority of training providers don’t go through the accreditation process so that gives Learning Partner an edge. Also, many of the online offerings are in the form of bigger certificate courses or programs that can take 100 hours or more to complete, when students only need 25 credits. So learners are less tempted to choose them because it’s more onerous.

Would you recommend that training providers get accredited by a certifying body?
Yes, it gives them legitimacy and, depending on the certifying body, they may be listed on that organization’s website as an accredited provider - which is where a lot of people go to find out where to get these credits.

Do you think there’s a benefit using Shopify as your ecommerce platform?
It is definitely better than our previous system. Before we used Shopify, order processing was much more cumbersome and it wasn’t reliable. Our ecommerce platform relied on PayPal as the payment gateway, and payments were often getting rejected and we found a lot of people abandoning their orders part way through. With Shopify, very few people abandon the order and they have more confidence in the system.

Do you use Shopify reports?
We do review the free reports to see where the bulk of our traffic is coming from (referrals, email campaigns, searches). We’ve used these reports to map our traffic and sales from one year to the next, and the pattern has been fairly consistent. In our business, the bulk of our sales come in the last quarter of the year, because the CE deadlines are December 31st. Even though we saw a significant increase in sales last year, the distribution pattern was the same, percentage wise, as the year before. The percentage of annual sales on a month-to-month basis, and even on a week-to-week basis at the end of the year, were similar to the year before.

Did you carry out any course feedback surveys?
We’ve done a number of surveys, focusing both on courses students have already taken, and on topics they would like to see developed. The latter is perhaps more important for us because it helps us know what new content we should focus on.

We also did an important survey on course format. When Learning Partner first started, we developed fully interactive and narrated e-learning courses, which are costly and time consuming to develop. One year, we had the content for a new course ready, but hadn’t yet found the time to convert it into e-learning. We decided to put it out there as course notes in PDF format, with an online quiz. Then we did a survey of customers who had done at least one of our earlier interactive e-learning courses as well as the new PDF course, and 95% preferred the PDF course! Of the few people who thought the interactive eLearning format was neat, no one put a value on it - in other words, they weren’t willing to pay any extra for it. From then on, we’ve only developed courses that include course notes in PDF format, and an online quiz.

Did you encounter any roadblocks while launching your e-learning initiative?
We’ve always been content developers, but prior to 2008 it was all paper-based and it was always for other education providers. When we decided to develop content to sell ourselves, it seemed like everyone was going to e-learning, so we figured that was where we needed to be. There was a huge learning curve behind that technology, and the first couple of years were pretty rough to be honest, but that’s behind us now.

How did you gather e-learning resources to help with course development?
We had been developing paper based curriculum for over 20 years, so we had a fairly good grasp of instructional design, but when we decided to do online training, we joined the e-learning Guild, went to conferences, asked questions on the community forums associated with our e-learning software (Lectora), and read a lot of books!

Finally, do you have any advice for e-learning professionals who are starting out?
The hardest part for us is creating quality content - make sure your content is solid. You don’t want to put out rubbish, but you also need to know when to stop fine tuning it as well. You have to find that balance of when it’s good enough - it may not be perfect but time-wise perfection is not always feasible.

If you have any questions about the topics discussed, or just want to find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact us. For more information on third party accreditation options, check out this free resource on Accreditation Options for Training Providers.Free Resource