2018 a Year in Review

December 5, 2018Firmwater, General, New Releases


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


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.


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.


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.



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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Let’s talk GDPR ūüá™ūüáļ

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.

2017 a Year in Review

December 5, 2017Firmwater, General, New Releases

Today we are celebrating our 16th birthday and on such an occasion, we would like to take a second to show appreciation to our great clients and revisit our accomplishments.

Thank you for using Firmwater LMS for your business. It has been a pleasure and we hope you enjoy our company as much as we enjoy having you on board!

This past year has been amazing and in case you missed some of our new features – we have summarized them for you below.

Firmwater LMS – Top New Features 2017



Course Library

We added the Card View for the course library.



Automatic Redirect

We support automatic redirect to Firmwater LMS from the Shopify check-out process. The user no longer needs to wait for an email to access courses purchased.

Product Bundles

We support purchases of multiple courses as a single product bundle. Seats for courses in a bundle get assigned as a single action.



Rollup Rules

We added new ‚ÄėAttempts and Scoring‚Äô settings. Decide whether an item is included as part of its parent‚Äôs score and whether the item is required for completion of the parent item.

Idle Timeout

We now display a prompt if no user activity is detected in the LMS for a specified amount of time. Without any response, the session is terminated. We added the appropriate presentation setting to specify an idle timeout value.


We added a new ‚ÄėPrerequisites‚Äô page for items in a course. Specify the items that must be completed before the current item becomes available. We also added item prerequisites that let you set a certain amount of time that has been spent in the course before you allow access to another item.


We added an action to auto-sequence a course. It makes each item in the course a prerequisite for the next item ‚Äď we like to compare this to a daisy chain.



Video Player

We now show MP4 videos in a consistent player across all browsers. Of course, we also track progress and completion.

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

New: Group Manager Role

March 10, 2017Firmwater, New Releases

In an effort to make managing your online courses easier than ever, we have added a new user role, the Group Manager, tailored for those who sell courses online in mind.

How it works:

Once a purchase for multiple seats is made in Shopify, the purchaser automatically gets assigned the Group Manager role in the LMS.

When signed in, a Group Manager’s main page is the¬†Home¬†page.

GroupManagerHome.pngAs a Group Manager, you can:
  • Assign seats to participants via a new¬†Home page.
  • Assign seats to yourself – select¬†assign seat to me.
  • View available participants and remaining seats.
  • Manage¬†users¬†in each course using the Users tab.
  • Run and export¬†reports¬†on these specific users using the Reports.
  • View invitations sent, the date they were sent, e-mail address they were sent to and their status. Simply click on¬†View Invitations Sent.
  • Revoke or resend invitations. Simply check-off the invitation and select an action, then click on Go.

Please note: once an invitation is accepted, you can no longer revoke or re-send the invitation. You will notice that it will appear greyed out.

We sincerely hope this makes your purchased seat management easier. If you have any questions or comments about this new feature, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Firmwater: 13th Most User Friendly LMS

January 23, 2017Firmwater

We are thrilled to announce that Capterra has named Firmwater LMS one of the Top 20 Most User-Friendly LMS Software. Firmwater earned the 13th spot among almost 500 LMS solutions evaluated. As part of a series of Top 20 reports, this report evaluated the user-friendliness of various LMS software.

Scores were based on the following key considerations:

Usability: Is it intuitive to use? How easy is it to upload content,
manage users, and generate reports? Task completion times were also taken 
into account and Firmwater came in as the second fastest software with a post-training task completion time of 37 seconds.  

Customer Service: Training and support resources available. Firmwater earned a five star rating with respect to customer service.  

Customer Reviews: Customers shared their personal experience with
our LMS and support team.

At Firmwater, we pride ourselves on providing customers with a simple, easy to use LMS and offer full support to ensure that they make the most out of their experience. We are always working towards creating a more efficient and effective
LMS for our customers. 

Firmwater Joins GetApp’s Top 25 LMS List for the Second Time

January 19, 2017Firmwater

At Firmwater Inc, our priority is to ensure that our clients’ goals are being met by working hard to improve our product. In October 2016, we were excited to learn that Firmwater LMS was named a category leader by Gartner’s GetApp, a prominent IT research and advisory company.

Joining the list for the second time with a total of 43 ratings, 100% of reviewers would recommend us to a friend or colleague. As mentioned by GetApp’s researcher:

“Firmwater LMS has done a great job of making it into GetApp’s Category Leader ranking of the top 25 LMS solutions, in large part thanks to its user reviews. An average rating of 4.85/5 for its reviews has contributed 18 points to its overall score of 34, as well as a notable 11 points for its security features, helping place Firmwater LMS firmly in the 21st spot.”

Out of GetApp’s 120+ listed LMS systems, 25 of them are chosen and ranked based on calculations of four major data points, as highlighted by the report:

  • Integrations 
  • Mobile app availability 
  • Market presence (social media presence) 
  • Security features

These data points were determined by previous industry research results as well as trends to highlight different category leaders.

We are immensely grateful for the support we’ve received as we start the new year and we look forward to continuing to equip our clients with the tools they need in order to succeed.

Built-in Vs. Third Party Course Authoring Tools

June 16, 2016Firmwater, General

The average LMS shopper spends approximately 2.5 months searching for the right LMS, with companies spending $1,870 per vendor evaluation. It makes sense trying to make your LMS search more efficient, and less costly. However, you should ensure that you are not cutting corners that will end up costing you more in the long run.

One such short cut may be the decision to select a built-in authoring tool rather than buying both an LMS, and third-party authoring tool. Built-in authoring tools allow you to create e-learning content directly within an LMS. Third-party authoring tools are standalone software, such as Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate, with which you can create interactive e-learning content.

Having built-in authoring software may seem less complex than taking the time to choose a suitable authoring software to pair with your LMS. It’s important to know the impact of this decision ahead of time. Using these types of authoring software has both advantages and disadvantages. This article aims to outline these, to help you make an informed decision.

Advantages of a built-in authoring tool

Built-in authoring tools offer limited course authoring functionality, which means they are easy to learn.

Using a built-in authoring tool allows you to build and publish directly within your LMS, usually via drag and drop functionality, so you can quickly build a basic course.

A built-in authoring tool allows you to avoid purchasing software licenses that require specialized training and expertise to use. There may also be an extra charge for inclusion of this feature in an LMS.

Most third-party authoring tools have a development team working on continuously improving the tool, which means they are regularly updated with new releases and patches. Certain tools will even accept feature requests if it is missing a function you need.

Advantages of a third-party authoring tool

Third-party authoring tools allow you to create SCORM compliant courseware. SCORM makes your courseware portable, and having copies of your SCORM files means you can load your courseware to another SCORM compliant LMS. Not having a copy of your project files ties your courseware to the vendor.

Third-party authoring tools offer a host of features and powerful interaction functionality that allow you to create beautiful and engaging e-learning courses.

Most major authoring tool providers have online forums to exchange knowledge with other users, as well as local user groups and conventions to help with your course development.


  • In some cases, using a packaged LMS/authoring tool solution can work out, e.g. if you want a quick and basic solution.
  • Using a built-in authoring software can result in you missing out on the benefits of using a third party authoring tool.
  • The general consensus of the e-learning community is that courses developed in a built-in authoring tool are unattractive and difficult to use, compared to those created in a third party authoring tool.
  • When using a built-in authoring tool, always make sure you retain your project files so that the continuity of your e-learning course does not rely on that of your LMS vendor.
  • Based on the above points, we would recommend using a third party authoring tool if you need to develop e-learning that is rich in interactivity.

If you have any questions about the topics discussed, or want to find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact us, or tweet us @Firmwater.

For more information on choosing the best third party authoring tool, check out this free resource on how to choose the best authoring tool.

Authoring Tools Article

Customer Success Story: Learning Partner

May 12, 2016Firmwater, General, Learning eLearning, Tips and Tricks

Learning PartnerAbout 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¬ģ) 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 the 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.

How to Choose the Best Course Authoring Tool

February 2, 2016Firmwater, General, Learning eLearning

Course authoring tools are software programs used for developing e-learning content. These tools usually include the capabilities to build, edit and review e-learning content for deployment on an LMS. Often they have extended functionality that allows you to integrate multimedia, create responsive projects, and record simulations. Authoring tools have the ability to create a packaged output for uploading to an LMS. These tools were built with the specific purpose of content authoring in mind, meaning they are your best option when it comes to e-learning development. Choosing an authoring tool depends on what you want to achieve with your e-learning. Many factors should be considered; think about the functionality you need, the time you have available to implement development, and your budgetary limitations. The following are the most widely used authoring tools on the market today.

Adobe Captivate (Price: US$1,099)

Adobe Captivate Logo

Adobe Captivate is known for its broad functionality, with a reputation for being less user-friendly compared to other authoring tools. Being borne out of the Adobe suite means it is easier for veteran Adobe users to pick up and learn. Captivate allows for access to system variables, which gives you access to manipulate almost all features of your content. Captivate is currently leading the way when it comes to responsive mobile design. It allows you to preview tablet and mobile versions of content, and edit accordingly. It is currently the only authoring tool offering geolocation services, allowing you to deliver timely, location-aware content. Its screen recording functionality makes it a winner for creating software simulations. If you are a Mac user, this is the only authoring tool listed that works natively on mac – Lectora and Storyline require windows. If you are considering Captivate, take out a free trial first to come to grips with its (extensive) interface.

Articulate Storyline (Price: US$1,398)

Articulate Storyline Logo

If you are comfortable using MS PowerPoint, and you wish to minimize the time spent learning a tool, then Storyline is for you. In addition to its user-friendly reputation, Articulate E-learning Heroes community offers a wealth of knowledge exchange and support. It is super easy to add interactions and control variables – making e-learning look appealing with minimal effort. If you need complex branching of content, then JavaScript can be integrated to achieve this. There is a trade-off between ease of use and ability to manipulate the finer aspects of content. Unlike Captivate there is no available access to system variables. This can prove difficult when trying to manipulate the finer aspects of course material. Storyline is somewhat behind when it comes to responsive mobile design. Sure, if you include the HTML output it will shrink to fit smaller screens. Unlike Captivate you won’t be able to preview mobile versions of slides, nor will you be able to edit the appearance of rescaled slides. If you want a rapid authoring tool that is easy to use, and you don’t foresee yourself requiring complex functionality, then this is the tool for you.

Lectora Inspire (Price: US$2,374 full package)

Lectora Logo

Lectora has a reputation for being similar to PowerPoint while having a host of powerful functions and quiz options. Unlike Storyline, every element of the player is customizable. It surpasses the competition when it comes to quizzing. Quiz questions are automatically added as variables, giving you many options for your answer-types. Its community is in its infancy stages, but growing fast. The latest version now offers responsive design for mobile and tablet devices. Like Storyline, HTML output allows for mobile viewing. Lectora is middle of the road when it comes to usability, and offers a wide range of powerful functionality. This tool is pricier than its competitors; the full package is $2,374 with maintenance and support. Lectora also has a cloud authoring option, Lectora online, which is more competitively priced, offers Mac compatibility and the ability for online collaboration. This may be a more suitable option if you will not miss the offline capabilities of desktop installed software.


When choosing a course authoring software, take out a free trial to assess its usability and functionality. Assess whether the authoring tool is able to meet your needs. Query whether the provider offers output files in a common file format, such as HTML5. You will also need to know if available outputs (e.g. SCORM 2004) are compatible with your LMS. Check out the templates, animation and graphics capabilities. Note how easy or difficult it is to learn. If your learners are using mobile or tablets to take training, check if it allows for scalability and responsive design. Investigate what kind of support is available if you have a question or run into an error. Take a look at the online forums to see what issues are frequently reported and whether community managers offer sufficient help. You may have other factors that are important for achieving your e-learning objectives. The key is to establish these early in the development process so that selecting an authoring tool is as straightforward as possible.

What experiences have you had with these course authoring tools? Is there a useful tool you think we should review? What advice would you give to a first-timer searching for the right course authoring software? Leave a comment below or tweet us @Firmwater.