It is a long weekend for us here in Canada (Happy Thanksgiving!) and also for those lucky enough in the U.S. to get Columbus Day off on Monday. Perfect time for a new release of our LMS — so we deployed Version 2.12 last night.
This one took a little longer than usual to get out the door, but hopefully, it will prove to be worth the wait. We upgraded some of our infrastructure in the process, so we needed to be extra careful to make sure that everything works smoothly. Along with several bug fixes, there are over 20 new features. Here are the highlights:
We offer our service as a white-label solution. When you offer our LMS to your clients, we want it to appear as if you made it. You control the branding and the terminology used. Your clients see your contact support information and the system can be customized so that emails are sent from your organization.
The final step to completely hide Firmwater from view was to allow you to use your own custom domain. We had done this for a few of our larger clients but it wasn’t easy for us to manage this across a large number of clients. Now we can offer it to everybody.
You can now choose to use your own domain. So, instead of sending out addresses to your clients with ‘`lms.firmwater.com`’, you can use a URL such as:
‘`lms.yourcompany.com`’ or ‘`portal.yourcompany.com`’ (or whatever you’d like).
Note that there is an additional monthly charge to make use of a custom domain. This requires some setup on our part and we incur additional costs to purchase an SSL certificate for your domain and for dedicated IP addresses.
If you’re interested, or for more details, please contact us.
Simpler login URLs
Upgrading our infrastructure has given us some additional capabilities that we didn’t have before. We’ve now been able to simplify the addresses of your login page and those of your clients (the old addresses still work too). You can now just tack on your client ID to the domain used.
If your client’s ID is ‘`yourclient`’, their login page can now be accessed at ‘`lms.firmwater.com/yourclient`’. (Previously, you would have to use ‘`https://lms.firmwater.com/lms/?cid=yourclient`’.)
This works if you’re using a custom domain as well. Your client’s login page would be accessed at ‘`lms.yourcompany.com/yourclient`’.
Reporting now uses an updated platform, allowing for better support from all browsers and, in many cases, improved report execution times. Users will no longer experience application time outs while interacting with reports for long periods of time. We’ve also organized the list of reports into menus to make it easier to find similar reports.
Along with making improvements to several of the existing reports, we also added two new reports:
Interaction Data Report: Export of the SCORM interaction data saved per user attempt. Some content saves question response data to the LMS through this mechanism.
Location List: Lists all locations and the number of users for each.
Other new features and enhancements
A few more of the new features and enhancements include:
- Support for taxes when making purchases through the LMS.
- Importing of locations, departments, job titles.
- An improved file upload interface.
We hope you enjoy all the new features.
Articulate is one of the more popular content authoring tools used by our clients. Their tools are easy to use and they have a helpful support team and a great community behind them.
I don’t use Articulate regularly but I’m often asked how to do a specific task with their products. I’ve already found a couple of videos online that I could have used in the past. Definitely worth checking out, if you use Articulate!
See the article »
Tonight we released Version 2.11 of our LMS. This release adds a couple of features to our built-in assessment engine. While the features were added to meet the requirements of a new client of ours, they are features that were on our list of things to do and ones that benefit everyone.
Assessments can now have time limits. You can specify how long a user has to complete the assessment. The current time remaining is displayed to the user on every screen. When the time exceeds 5 minutes, it is updated once per minute. This approach is taken so the user can focus on responding to the questions and to minimize the distraction provided by the countdown clock.
When the time remaining is less than 5 minutes, it is updated once per second.
If the user doesn’t complete the assessment within the allotted time, the assessment is automatically submitted (after notifying the user appropriately).
Our assessment engine natively supports the IMS [Question and Test Interoperability QTI Version 1.2.1 standard. QTI allows durations to be specified at the assessment level. When authoring in QTI, you just need to add a ‘duration’ element as a child of the ‘assessment’ element. The format follows [ISO 8601](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_8601) for durations. As an example, 30 minutes would be represented as:
Shuffling of responses
We also added support for shuffling of responses within an assessment. We’ve had the ability to shuffle questions — so that the order of questions is randomized for each attempt — since our first release but we weren’t able to randomize the responses within a question.
Now we can, and as QTI allows, you can choose which questions you want the responses shuffled for. Within each question, you can specify whether to shuffle all responses or only some of the responses. This is useful for when you may want to shuffle all the responses except the last “All of the above” type response.
Need help? Just ask!
If you have any questions about how to take advantage of these new capabilities, please don’t hesitate to ask us.
We released Version 2.10 of our LMS last night. Here’s an overview of the new features included.
This feature has come up quite a few times when talking to prospects. We’ve also heard that it would be useful to some of our existing clients so we decided to add support for it. Firmwater LMS can now generate a completion certificate for a user who has successfully completed an activity. The certificate can be customized for an organization.
You can pick and choose which of your activities that you’d like completion certificates to be available for. We’ve made this easy by allowing you to specify this individually or as a bulk operation on a group of activities.
Some organizations allow their students to print their own certificates, while others only allow administrators to print them. We let you decide who has access.
See the documentation for more details.
Individual Response Report
Administrators can now see a report that shows a user’s attempt at an assessment. The report is generated as a PDF and shows score information along with all the questions and responses with correct answers highlighted. This is accessible to administrators when drilling into a user’s training plan.
Other new reports
We also added a few new reports that might come in handy. Much of this information is available through the user interface too but it’s useful to be able to generate a report and be able to export the data to different formats.
The new reports are:
- Clients List: Available to master administrators, this lists all clients and the number of users for each.
- Users List: Lists all users. When exported to CSV or XML, all user fields are included. This is a good way to get a CSV file to use to import back into the system.
- Activities List: Lists all activities, can be filtered by tag.
We hope you enjoy the changes.
We released Version 2.9 of our LMS yesterday. The elusive 3.0 release is not far away but we wanted to get out some of the improvements we’ve made.
Importing users much improved
One major change in this release is with the process of importing users. We’ve turned it into a three-step wizard, giving much more control and feedback over the changes that will be made.
Improvements with the new process:
- allows any column headings in the CSV file, try to match to fields in the system
- full control on the field matching, ability to ignore columns
- much better error reporting, ability to download error file
- ability to download file with the passwords generated for new users
- control over whether the data of existing users is updated or not
- ability to see the number of changes before confirming the operation
Other notable enhancements in this release include:
- Changed ordering of training plans to give greater importance to assignments. Activities from the same assignment are now grouped together and are listed in the order that they were added to the assignment.
- Enhancements to Web Services API
- Resolved error loading content generated using Articulate Studio ’09
We released Version 2.8 of our LMS last night. We’ve been hard on work on some more major changes that will be coming in the next release, but we thought it was time to get out some of the improvements we’ve made.
The major change in this release relates to the handling of assignments. We’ve restricted the list of assignments to only those that affect users within your scope. Some of our clients have hundreds of locations and thousands of assignments. In the past, local administrators could see all assignments within their organization but only edit those that included their users. Now, their view has been simplified greatly.
We also improved on the creation and editing of assignments:
- user no longer needs to page through all pages in the wizard when editing an assignment
- better handling of long content/users lists in summaries
- indicate assignments that are automatically created by the system
- Allowing local administrators ability to manage list of participants within their scope for content and view content details
- Improved immediate question feedback support in our assessment engine
- Support for payment information when editing a user’s membership details
- HTTP AICC/CMI Protocol: increase flexibility to provide support for more external LMSs
- Web Services API improvements
We released Version 2.7 of our LMS tonight. It’s been four months between releases, which is longer than usual for us, however, this release is jam-packed with improvements, new features, and fixes. We feel it is worth the wait!
Better student view:
We’ve made big changes to the student’s view of the top level of their training plan. We’ve separated active items from completed activities and now present a simpler, better-prioritized presentation.
The changes will be especially appreciated by your students who have very large training plans. While most students from our clients have relatively focused training plans, we do have some organizations who assign large portions of their content libraries at some students. The new presentation significantly speeds up the display of the training plan for these students and makes it easier for them to find specific activities:
- students can now search for activities and their plan gets filtered as they type
- plans are presented in pages (typically 10 activities per page)
We significantly improved the performance of searching throughout the system. Many people love how simple and consistent searching is in our system. At times, however, searching could be slow if dealing with large data sets — thousands of people or activities.
That is now fixed. We spent a lot of time optimizing things so that search is snappy and filters the data as you type, even when dealing with lots of data. We’ve also added feedback to indicate that search is working in the cases when it takes longer than half a second to return.
More good stuff
Other notable new features in this release include:
- Bulk deletion of activities and events
- Reports can now be targeted at a single organization or a specific role within an organization
- Better handling of SCORM 1.2 content, both when loading and for status roll-up
- The ability for an administrator to specify the resource navigation to display (useful especially for SCORM 1.2 content that does not embed exit navigation)
- Activity Detail Report which improves upon and replaces the old Group Activity Report
We hope you enjoy the improvements made.
We released Version 2.6 of our LMS tonight. This release includes a number of enhancements to the Response Analysis Report, allows Local Administrators to edit participant data within their scope, and allows training results data to be retrieved using our Web Services API.
We released Version 2.5 of our LMS tonight. This release adds multilingual support to our assessment engine and includes a few bug fixes.
We released Version 2.4 of our LMS today. This release is mainly to upgrade the infrastructure of our application. For those technically minded, we’re now running on ASP.NET 2.0 and SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services. This upgrade should resolve most of the rendering and export issues that some people were experiencing with reports.