2018 a Year in Review

December 5, 2018Firmwater, General, New Releases

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Firmwater is celebrating its 17th birthday today! Each year we like to sit down, eat some fantastic cake, and look back at our accomplishments.

First and foremost, we want to Thank You for choosing Firmwater LMS. We are grateful for all the fantastic clients we are able to partner with.

2018 has been a great year here at Firmwater. We were able to dish out some amazing new features – in case you missed any of our announcement, we have added them below.

Firmwater LMS – Top New Features 2018


February

External LMS Integration

You are now able to share your courses externally with your clients’ LMS while they are hosted in Firmwater. You can download a SCORM 1.2 pointer package that acts as a gateway between the two systems. There is no need to hand over any of your source files — keep your intellectual property safe.

March

Group Manager Role

The Group Manager role is now supported within location hierarchies. This means orders can be added at any level of the hierarchy and Group Managers at higher levels can oversee the orders at the lower levels.

Cache-busting

Each time learning content is updates are applied it is now cache-busted. Your browser will not remember and display the assets from the previous version of the course. It won’t be necessary anymore to clear your cache after updates.

April

Reports

Firmwater reports have been updated to make them more useful. Later in June, the report viewer controls were also updated – they now have a new fresh look that is easier to navigate.

Concurrent Sessions

Concurrent sessions are no longer allowed by the same user. That means when a user is already logged into their account, they can no longer log in again (e.g. in another browser tab).

May

Improved Content Loader

Updating existing e-learning course files is now much easier with the improved content loader. The LMS used to recognize file updates by matching the manifest ID’s. The new loader interface takes manifest ID’s out of the equation. The LMS now matches files by title or allows you to navigate to the exact file in your activity list.

July

Certificate Verification Service

This great new feature is especially interesting for training vendors providing compliance training. This is a brand new way to verify certificates by use of a QR code. Each certificate generated includes a code that can be scanned to view a snapshot of the learners’ name, course title, date, and score at the time of completion.

September

Add Participants Page

This update introduces the new ‘Add participants’ page that allows you to add users in one of three ways. A Group Manager can now send invitations to existing LMS users, invite new users by email, or generate and print a PDF document that includes a unique code for users where the email address is unknown.

Shopify Order Processing

This update improved the overall Shopify experience for both learners and administrators. It includes better handling of payment by invoice or PO, duplicate LMS accounts, and automatic course assignments.

October

Single Sign-On (SSO)

You can now enable Single Sign-On for your user community with SAML. SSO allows end-users (most often company employees) to access multiple services while providing only one set of credentials.

November

Set and Merge Locations

We have added two new actions that make working with locations easier and save you a lot of time.

Do you have any feature requests? Respond to this email and let us know.

Thanks for making us your trusted partner.

Visit our Release Notes or follow us on social media to learn more about exciting changes at Firmwater.

New: Set and Merge Locations

November 22, 2018New Releases

Locations are a very useful Firmwater LMS feature. You can use them to record additional user information, to set rules around assigning content, and to allow for administrators with limited scope.

Creating Locations is a super fast and simple process. Complex location hierarchies can also be added via CSV import file. Locations can be applied to many different use cases which makes them a very effective tool and one of the biggest time savers for LMS administrators.

New action for merging locations

Merge Locations

This new action found in the bulk operation menu for locations can be used to merge one or more locations. Simply select several locations and choose which of them to be the successor for the other locations. Any users or orders attached to the removed location(s) will be moved to the succeeding location automatically.

New action for setting a location on the order summary page

Set Locations

A location is created automatically for each person who purchases a course through our e-Commerce integrations. For multi-seat purchases the Group Manager and each added participant share one location.

If a purchaser selected an incorrect location during purchase, this can now be adjusted by using the set location button on the order summary page. Simply select the correct location for the user and confirm to move them.

If you believe locations could be useful for your LMS site, please do not hesitate to contact support.

Single Sign-On (SSO)

October 22, 2018New Releases

What is Single Sign-On?

Have you ever gotten a request for SSO from one of your prospects or clients? Were you wondering what SSO is all about and if Firmwater LMS supports it?

On a daily basis, LMS users frequently provide their credentials to the LMS to access their account. Single Sign-On eliminates this step. Large organizations like to use SSO so that their employees only have to log in once to their corporate network, and then access many different apps, platforms, and services without having to provide their username and password again.

Example: A great example is a Google account. Logging in once provides automatic access to your Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, YouTube, and Google Photos accounts.

One of our customers has a large, multinational client that they deliver their time-management courses to. SSO was a requirement for rolling the courses out globally to all of their employees. We recently worked with them to support this.

As a result, you can now offer greater value to your clients by providing not just online training courses and a solid platform, but also a more efficient way to access the system.

Benefits – Why would your client want SSO?

SSO provides a smoother user experience and efficiency for both staff and employees. SSO lowers cybersecurity risks, lowers help desk requests and makes user account management easier.

Single Sign-On and Firmwater LMS

So far, we have successfully configured SSO with environments that use Active Directory (AD) and Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) — Microsoft’s directory services for Windows networks. Our implementation is standards-based and should easily support more environments.

You may have noticed a new ‘Single Sign-On’ configuration page in the LMS. Currently, this just indicates whether SSO is enabled for a site, and for those that are, provides an indication that things are working. We plan to enhance this page so that you can configure SSO for a site yourself, but we’d like to get experience with a few more diverse environments first.

If your clients are interested in using SSO for Firmwater LMS access, contact our support team for more details.

Single Sign-On is available for our Premium and Tailor Made pricing packages.

New: Shopify Order Processing Improvements

September 30, 2018New Releases

We are excited to announce the latest enhancements to our Shopify integration.

The Shopify e-commerce solution enables you to start selling your e-learning courses online. Whether you want to set up an online store or sell right on your own website, Shopify is a robust platform when it comes to online retail.

Firmwater LMS integrates seamlessly with Shopify which is crucial for many of the training companies we work with. Shopify manages the entire e-commerce back-end, plus the option to create an appealing online store to showcase products. The platform works with apps to cover a wide range of functionality and features. To integrate with Shopify, Firmwater has built an app that handles the fulfillment of online course products. The app directs purchasers to the LMS site, creates a user account, and places the chosen course into the user’s training plan.

The following changes have been client-initiated. Some of them may also apply to your business model and can be applied to your account optionally.

1. Scenario – Payment by Invoice or PO

Client #1 is transitioning from a legacy platform to Firmwater LMS. Over time, the client has established a very large customer base. Most of these customers are used to paying by invoice or PO (purchase order) for the courses offered. Our client was looking to put any unpaid orders on hold until payment had been received. In the past, we exclusively supported credit card payments through our Shopify integration and would give LMS access to purchasers straight away.

Solution

We made changes to our order processing to support this scenario. We can configure your Shopify store to fulfill and auto-redirect orders based on financial status (pending, authorized, partially paid). An order that is not yet paid, is processed and displayed in the LMS’s Orders menu but purchaser access is put on hold. Once payment is received the order marked as paid in Shopify, fulfillment gets initiated. The purchaser invitation email gets sent out and the seats are made available to the purchaser.

2. Scenario – Duplicate LMS accounts

Client #2 offers a wide variety of compliance training. These courses often require annual or bi-annual re-certification. Client #2 is therefore handling a lot of returning customers. As the time-frame between purchases can be several months, learners often forget which email address they used for their last purchase or the email address was entered with a typo. In the past, we used to require for the email address used for the Shopify checkout to match the existing LMS user account email. If a new email address was used, a new user account was created for the return purchase and the client ended up with duplicate user accounts that needed merging.

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Solution

We solved this issue by pre-populating the email field during LMS sign up but allowing to adjust the email if necessary. We also added an option to log into an existing account if a purchaser already has one. This will lower the number of duplicate accounts and will lower support cases for merging LMS user accounts.

3. Scenario – Assign courses to users straight away

Our Shopify integration supports single and multi-seat scenarios. We give purchasers the option to either assign the course to themselves or to become a Group Manager and invite others to take the course. We initiate this option with a pop-up window when accessing the courses in the LMS. This course of action has been working great for a lot of our customers. For client #3, a textbook publisher, this behavior was not ideal. For their business model, each student is supposed to purchase a single book – the option to invite others would confuse the user.

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Solution

In a case where the pop-up is inappropriate, we can now disable it for the site. This is especially useful for businesses that focus on selling B2C rather than B2B. The option to invite others is not possible and the course, or in client #3’s case, the textbook is assigned to the user straight away.

If you believe that your business could benefit from using any of these features, let us know.

New: Certificate Verification Service

September 26, 2018New Releases

This new feature is especially interesting for training vendors that work together with an accredited certification body.

We now have the option to add a uniquely generated Quick Response (QR) code to completion certificates. We can generate a certificate specific code that carries distinct link information. The link allows anyone to access our Certificate Verification Service. A web page accessible without credentials that display the learner’s completion details.

Sample CompletionCertificate with QR code

Sample Completion Certificate with QR code

Sample CompletionCertificate with QR code

Verification Service

How can I verify learner information?

To confirm the authenticity of a certificate the QR code can be scanned with a smartphone. The QR code link will open our Firmwater Certificate Verification Service page. Here you can view the learner’s name, course title, score and date/time of course completion. This means external entities can easily verify the accuracy of the information that is displayed on a digital or printed completion certificate.

Who benefits from this service?

Our client offers court-mandated training courses. Learners will have to complete the online course and present a completion certificate to the court during their hearing. A judge can now easily verify the authenticity of the certificate by scanning the QR code and comparing the details on the certificate with the LMS details that are displayed by the Certificate Verification Service.

What else is new?

We record a user’s profile name at the time of course completion. The name that gets displayed on the certificate can therefore not be changed. This guards against learners changing their profile name after completing a course to generate a certificate with someone else’s name on it.

Would you benefit from this feature? Want to learn more? Contact our Customer Success Team.

New: Major Updates To The ‘Add Participants’ Page

September 10, 2018New Releases

We want to introduce you to our brand new ‘Add participants’ page that allows you to add users in one of three ways:

  • by adding existing users,
  • by inviting users by email, or
  • by inviting with a code.

The new page has been thoughtfully designed to make the process more intuitive and cohesive, regardless of the approach.

Who uses the ‘Add participants’ page?

This page is used by Group Managers – learners with admin privileges. A Group Manager is anyone that purchases more than one course seat through your e-commerce store. A multi-seat purchaser can invite others to the course, oversee their learning progress, and generate reports. Another scenario where we encounter Group Managers is when LMS orders are used – orders that are added manually to the platform.

add participants page

1. Add participants

Add Existing Users

A learner with an existing LMS account can be selected from a user list. Start typing the user’s name or click ‘Browse’ to select an existing learner to add to the course.

Invite By Email

If you are looking to invite a new user to the LMS, you can invite them by email. The learner will be able to create their account and access the course.

Invite With Code

This is a brand new feature that allows you to invite learners even if you don’t know their email address. A PDF invite that includes a registration link can be downloaded and distributed to the learners. The link allows the student to set up their account and access the course.

Approach1 Approach1 Approach1

Add Existing User Invite By Email Invite With Code

2. View invitations sent

Regardless of the approach used to invite a user, any invitation can be revoked before it is accepted by the learner. Invitations can also be resent in case the learner deleted the invite or cannot find it in their email inbox. The PDF paper invite used for invitations by code can be re-downloaded in case the file/paper was lost.

If you have any questions regarding the new page, or simply would like to get in touch with our Customer Success Team to discuss your training needs – get in touch.

3 Reasons To Stop Using Free Sites For Training

September 6, 2018General

Let’s face it. You spent valuable time and money creating high quality training videos and are excited to share them. Are you loading your videos to a free hosting site like YouTube or Vimeo? Is that a great experience for your audience? Stop! We have a better solution – don’t miss out!


Reason #1 — You want to showcase the quality of your training

Your company sells high quality equipment so why skimp on the product training program? A free hosting site does not portray the intrinsic value of your training to your customers. The platform you use to deliver your training should match your high quality videos.


Reason #2 — You want your online videos to stand out

By placing your training videos on a public streaming site, you have no control over access, promoted site advertising or suggested videos. Your learners may stumble upon your competitor’s video tutorials. You want a training delivery platform to make your videos the focal point and give you full control.


Reason #3 — You want to capture Big Data

Who is watching your videos? Are your online learners able to assimilate the key facts and figures? Using a free hosting site, you have limited access to the data behind your online training. Collecting data can help you analyze and improve your training program over time.


So How Do You Make a Successful Video Training Program?

The best option is to use a cloud-based platform that can be tailored to your company’s branding. An LMS (Learning Management System) is the best software to deliver your training online to your resellers, customers, partners and your own employees.

Some Features to Look For in an LMS:

  • Centralized Video Library – A platform to store and manage all of your training videos and manuals in one place.
  • Personalized Experience- A training platform that can have the look and feel of your organization.
  • Intuitive Interface – A clean, clear interface for your learners to make training easy to find and to complete.
  • Easy To Scale – A solution that provides each of your resellers/ clients their own branded LMS site to take your online product training.

Ready to take your online training videos to the next level?

Contact Firmwater today to see how your training videos look on a professional LMS (You can thank us later when you get that promotion).

New: External LMS integration

June 19, 2018General, New Releases

We added a new external LMS integration feature that solves the challenges that come with distributing content as a training vendor. You are now able to host your training courses and share them externally with your clients’ LMS. Handing over any of your source files is out of the question.

Sounds great! Can you give an example?

Sure. Bruce Wayne is the owner of Wayne Enterprises, a medium size training vendor that specializes in compliance training. He has managed and delivered his Health and Safety courses with Firmwater LMS for a few years. Bruce recently met with a prospective client that already uses an LMS. They are not interested in creating yet another account for each of their employees to take the training. Bruce and his team would really like to work with this new client, however, he is not willing to hand over any of his in-house designed course files.

Solution: External LMS integration allows you to load and manage your training courses in Firmwater LMS and provide a zip package to your client to load to their own LMS. This zip file is a SCORM 1.2 package that simply points to the content that is loaded in Firmwater LMS. A learner can launch and access the course from within the external LMS. Meanwhile, you stay in control and can manage access from your Firmwater LMS account.

What about reporting?

A local administrator is able to see all learner data pushed to Firmwater LMS reports as usual. The external LMS will be able to display:

  • Status
  • Score
  • Duration

What are the benefits for me as a training vendor?

  • Updating made simple: Looking to make an update to your online course? Update your files in Firmwater LMS and your client will automatically launch the updated version. No need to provide them with a new file to load to their system, as the integration has already been established. Your instructional designer will be happy to hear that course updates only needs to be applied to one site.
  • Sales, sales, sales: Expand into new markets by selling licenses to businesses that already use their own LMS. This opens up a wider playing field for your business development or sales team.
  • Share access – keep control: The customer has access to your courses on your terms and under your control.
  • Keep ownership of your content: Your e-learning courses are your intellectual property – keep it safe!

How do I get started?

  1. Enable Content as a Service 
    Configurations > Integrations > Edit: External LMS > Yes, allow content to be launched > SCORM 1.2 > Save Changes
  2. Download a package to provide to your client
    Content > Activities > click Activity > More actions > External LMS package
    You can download several course packages at once (provided as a compressed zip file)
  3. Manage your external LMS integration
    To manage SCORM 1.2 packages: Content > Edit: External LMS
    To manage external host domains: Configuration > Integrations > External LMS
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The external integration feature is available for our Growth, Premium and Tailor Made pricing packages.

Contact our support team if you have any further questions about external LMS integration.

New: Improved Content Loader

May 29, 2018General, New Releases

The move from Flash to HTML5 and constant browser updates make regular content updates a crucial part of LMS administration. We want to make this process as easy as possible so that you can focus on what you do best – being an expert and selling your great content.

Background

When we built our platform we put a lot of weight on SCORM compliance to allow launching any compliant content. With this in mind, we used the manifest identifier to match updated content files to existing content. But not all industry players were following SCORM specifications as strictly as we were. Lately, we had clients run into issues when updating content that was published with certain authoring tools.

For example, iSpring started creating a new manifest identifier value each time a package was published. Articulate Rise, on the other hand, is publishing each SCORM package with the exact same manifest identifier. Unlike other authoring tools, iSpring and Articulate Rise do not allow to set manifest identifiers in publish settings. A workaround was required which lead to users unzipping published SCORM packages to edit the imsmanifest.xml file. Editing this file takes some technical know-how and is rather tedious when dealing with many course files.

What’s new?

To solve this issue, we decided to concentrate less on the manifest identifier and more on course titles. Now, LMS administers can pick and choose which file gets updated right from the new loader interface.

The loader offers two alternatives: loading a file as new content and loading a file to update existing content. In case of an update, the LMS will match the file with existing content by use of the file’s title. However, the file can be changed by navigating to the correct course folder and learning item.

Voilà! We have taken manifest identifiers out of the equation. No more workarounds required and the loader interface is more user-friendly. Updating course files is now a simple and easy process.

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We hope this new feature will save you time and effort when administering your LMS.

Please reach out to us with any questions or suggestions.

Related Post:

6 things to keep in mind when publishing eLearning content

Let’s talk GDPR 🇪🇺

February 21, 2018Firmwater, General

Firmwater is getting ready for the GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is quite a mouthful and is also a fair bit of work for many businesses that deal with the personal information of EU residents.

You wonder what the buzz is all about? The EU has decided to strengthen and regulate the privacy policy across the European Union. Take a look at this animated infographic by the European Commission which explains the GDPR and all the necessary changes in layman’s terms.

European businesses or any business that deals with the personal information of EU citizens will have to comply with the regulation. May 25th, 2018 has been circled on many calendars as the deadline for the GDPR which is considered the strictest regulation of its kind in the world. Policies need to be adjusted and business processes changed to comply with this new standard.

As a cloud-based LMS provider with clients and users from all around the world, Firmwater has been busy to get ready for the May 25th.

Let’s get serious. How is Firmwater preparing for the GDPR?

Firmwater hired TrustArc to assess and evaluate Firmwater’s fitness level when it comes to data protection. With the results, we have put together an action plan that will put us on the path to GDPR compliance.

Our team has been and is working hard to implement the following measures:

  • Updating our privacy policy
  • Implementing a process that allows clients or users of our application to have access to their data if requested.
  • Reviewing our website and learning platform to ensure we manage and process personal data to GDPR standards.
  • Keeping data protection in mind when developing new functionality in Firmwater LMS (privacy by design framework).
  • Preparing records of processing activities as both a Controller and a Processor of client data (GDPR requirement).
  • Updating contractual terms (data protection addendum) with our service providers.
  • Enhancing our company policies for data portability and data management.
  • Training all Firmwater staff on GDPR privacy legislation and new company policies.

In short, we respect the privacy and security of our clients and users. We will stay privacy aware and will make our clients conscious of any privacy concerns if necessary.

In order to stay current, we encourage you to check for our regular updates in our newsletters and review our new privacy policy.

Please contact our team if you have any questions or concerns regarding GDPR compliance.