Future Proof Your Current E-Learning Program

Pencil Associations Now March/April 2016 Issue

It's important to invest in your e-learning program so that it's ready for the future. Here's how to leverage new education technologies without the complete disruption—or replacement—of the current infrastructure. Deb McMahon, CEO of Scietent, explains.

Associations Now: What's a good framework for assessing how well a new e-learning tool, app, or approach can integrate into an association's current infrastructure?

McMahon: First, consider compliance with common single-sign-on (SSO) standards such as SAML, JWT, or OAuth. Can the new tool or app leverage the standards and systems you already have in place? Then, make sure your platforms provide APIs to manage users and enrollments in e-learning courses. Finally, you'll want to be able to extract and share e-learning data in a standard way through compatibility with Experience API (Tin Can) or webhooks.

How can associations minimize the business risks and costs of implementing new e-learning technologies?

Don't start looking for a solution until you've identified your exact requirements and conducted a gap analysis. This is key to organizing needs in a request for proposal. Before you decide to build a solution, vet existing options, including open-source platforms. But, if you decide to build, be sure to build the right thing. If possible, avoid data migration—especially if your data set is large. These projects are often over budget, never finish on schedule, and require a long stabilization period.

How can associations evaluate the maturity level of their learning systems to determine if they are equipped for the future?

Make sure to rate the maturity level of your APIs for each main e-learning system. A modern API is lightweight, highly scalable, and has maintainable architecture. If you really want to prep for the future, I recommend planning for a learning record system (LRS). If not, you lose out on flexibility to easily integrate future learning tools and systems based on learner data. Again, check which SSO standards you support.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Seamless Integration."]