The TV Show Cheers and Your LMS

The TV Show Cheers and Your LMS

It’s hard to believe that the TV show, Cheers, had its last year on air in 1993, which is actually the year CommPartners was founded. People remember that Cheers, the name of the bar in the show, was a welcoming place because everyone knew your name when you walked in. People felt they belonged. They were recognized and appreciated.

So what does Cheers have to do with an LMS? It’s rather simple. When we invest our time and energy when accessing an organization’s LMS, we want to be recognized and provided relevant opportunities to our interests and education needs. Associations, as well as other types of organizations, know quite a bit about their learners. Just like people that walk into their friendly neighborhood tavern, it’s important to offer a welcoming environment that becomes the go-to place for our stakeholder’s online education needs.

So how can you create your LMS be to be the Cheers of online learning? With Elevate LMS, we strive to enable our clients to be their communities’ favorite learning destination. Here are five ways that we support the Cheers approach:

Elevate Relevancy Engine: When learners first log into Elevate, they are able to select their interests and “likes.” On future visits, Elevate recognizes the learner and presents programs of interest to them.

AMS / Community Integrations: We think of integrations as functional processes to connect two or more platforms. With Elevate, integrations provide additional value. It allows organizations to decide which content should be seen by which stakeholder. If it’s not relevant, why show it and clutter the experience? Pricing by learner type can also be automatically established.

Roles: In addition to member type, Elevate can further delineate who a learner is based on their role within the organization or other designations, such as a practice group. Roles also determine pricing and access.

Private Branding: Private branding can be unique for groups of learners from organizations. Seeing the unique design reinforces the relationship between you and your client.

Automatic Triggers: Like frequent flyer miles, automatic triggers assign credits based on rules that are established, such as a member renewing their membership.

All of these benefits provide a way of saying – I know who you are and based on your role or interests, we are providing you learning engagement opportunities that are just for you. In other words, this a place where you feel welcomed and have a relevant, individualized experience.

It’s the place where we know your name.

If you would like more information Elevate LMS, give us a call at (800) 274-9390 or fill out our online contact form to get in touch with someone.

UX Design and Your Learning Management System: Five Considerations for Providing an Exceptional User Experience

UX Design and Your Learning Management System: Five Considerations for Providing an Exceptional User Experience

When an organization begins the process of evaluating LMS options, they typically will start by developing a list of features that should be included. Confirming this list helps to identify ideal candidates. While the feature set is critical to narrow an organization’s search process, often an element that is overlooked, at least initially, is the User Experience or “UX”.

The UX as defined in Wikipedia refers to: “A person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. It includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership.”

So much of what we do today is defined by the user experience.  An impactful example is the mobile device we interact with hundreds of times a day.  UX design also applies to mundane products such as a coffee cup or the toothbrush we use.  But how about interacting with an LMS?  If we want to ensure that learners have an excellent experience when accessing education opportunities, it’s critical to make sure that every element of our learning management site is attractively designed, intuitive to navigate, is relevant and meaningful.

Here are five recommendations to ensure your Learning Management System fulfills your learners’ expectation of an exceptional user experience:

  1. Choose an LMS that provides complete control of every aspect of the design.
    You have invested in the development of your website to ensure it presents your organization in the best possible way.  You most likely do not want to implement an LMS that feels like a separate component.  Ideally your learning site will be nimble enough to incorporate your website styling, navigation, layout, imagery, fonts and taxonomy.  Having an LMS with visual congruence to your website will eliminate a disconnect of having two separately hosted online components.
  2. Ensure that your LMS works seamlessly with your ecosystem of applications including your AMS (database) and private online community.
    When a learner moves to and from your LMS, does the experience feel disjointed? It is important to provide visual congruence through your entire ecosystem of web platforms so the user experience will be not be compromised.  In addition, it is important to integrate with these systems to ensure login credentials are carried through all applications. This will create seamless navigation and enhance the overall experience.
  3. Establish a style guide to be applied throughout your site.
    It’s important to have a set style guide that addresses every design element of your LMS. This applies to both the platform and contents. Choose a platform that provides you design flexibility for all elements. Make sure that your staff or anyone that works with your LMS adheres to your guidelines. It shows when certain elements do not adhere to the standards you have set, therefore compromising the User Experience.
  4. Create a relevant and simple process for accessing content.
    Ideally the LMS experience can be personalized for each learner so when they login in, they are presented content that is relevant to their needs. This can be done in multiple ways. The first is using information you already know about a learner and presenting the right access, pricing and topics. A second way to is to allow the user to set their interests and prioritize the presentation of content based on those interests. Having customized experiences fosters loyalty and return visits to your site. To support simple access of content, avoid scrolling to find programs. Instead, provide the right amount of content per screen.
  5. Make registration and checkout clean and simple.
    Ideally, in a matter of a click or two the learner will be able to register and access their selected program. When they land on the shopping cart page, it should be clean and simple. Once the registration is completed, the learner is seamlessly directed to the content that they register for. When the User Experience is exceptional, the exposure and value of your learning programs is increased. The UX represents you in a highly public way and it’s important to ensure it positions your organization for success.

If you would like more information on UX Design for your LMS or the CommPartners Elevate LMS, give us a call at (800) 274-9390 or fill out our online contact form to get in touch with someone.

Insights From Our Initial Peak User Conference

Insights From Our Initial Peak User Conference

A year ago we made the decision to host our first User Conference.  Since this was our initial event, we had some trepidation about whether our community would embrace the opportunity to join us for several days of education, training and networking.  Our decision to move forward was quickly validated as we reached the maximum number of attendees we could accommodate in the venue.

When the first day of the conference arrived, we were excited to see in-person the people we interact with on a daily basis.  As I began the initial welcome, I mentioned to the group that this felt more like a social function as opposed to a business event.  There was a warm feeling that comes when relationships evolve over time and there is continuity of working with the same team to share opportunities and solve problems.  For our team, this conference was an important barometer of where we stand.  It’s one thing to have one on one interactions, however it’s an entirely different situation to see many of your clients in one setting. We feel extremely blessed to have had this opportunity.

There are three insights that we walked away with from the event:

Click to view photos from Peak 2018.

  • We have a vibrant community that has evolved organically with us over a long period of time. There are no shortcuts in getting to this point. CommPartners has an average employee tenure of 8 years with many staff being with us for 12 to 15 years.  At times, we don’t think about how important a factor this is in building close client relationships that lead to greater continuity and trust.  You could witness this in real time during the conference.
  • Peak served an important purpose of facilitating ideas and proving attendees practical applications they can implement today. One of the greatest benefits was the sharing of best practices and hearing how people in the same position overcome day to day challenges of managing professional development within their organizations. We realized we need to keep this conversation going and not wait until we meet again. Therefore, we launched a number of initiatives to give voice to our clients and allow for ongoing engagement. They include:
  • Elevate Advisory Board: This is a 13 member panel group made up of mostly clients to provide guidance and feedback on Elevate’s development, provide feedback on our services and share ideas with other Board members.
  • CommPartners Mastermind Groups: These groups bring clients together for 4 sessions to engage around topics of leadership, creative thinking and professional growth.
  • CP Connect Community: CP Connect is an online community. It will be launching shortly to continue the conversations and sharing of ideas that occurred at Peak.
  • CP Cares: We are expanding our altruistic initiatives to support those in need. We are hoping to involve our clients in these efforts.
  • We need to continuously come through for our community. You depend on us. This was evident through the passionate conversations that occurred at the conference.  We understand this responsibility.  In the coming year we have aggressive plans to bring innovation, additional resources and service enhancements to our clients. We’re excited about growing with you and helping you succeed.

If you have any additional feedback or thoughts about Peak or any other items, please contact me.

All the Best,

Rich Finstein

Is Bigger Always the Best Option for Associations? The Zips Dry Cleaners Example

Is Bigger Always the Best Option for Associations? The Zips Dry Cleaners Example

Last year was a period of great movement with technology providers within our community. There was an increase in merger and acquisition activity as organizations sought to extend their presence and gain strategic advantages and market share. While some may tout that bigger is always better when it comes to technology, there is a flipside to the equation.  Some mergers or acquisitions do in fact work out very well for the customer however there are others that primarily benefit the company.

I began thinking about all the examples of where bigger or well-funded is not better. One service I and many others use on a weekly basis is dry cleaning.  Several years ago Zips, the well-funded, national cleaners came up with a new pricing plan where they were going to charge the same low fee for every garment and promise same day service.  Hearing this, I left my local cleaners, the one I went to for years, whose name literally is “Cleaners” to try this new concept. After all, Zips had a big presence; they were growing and seemed to offer great value.

After being with Zips for six months, I just recently returned to my local option. Zips always had long lines, they damaged some of my clothes, and the staff changed often. I never got to know them or build trust. In the end, it cost me more and I was treated like a number, not a loyal, valued customer. Returning to “Cleaners” I now get in and out quickly and my clothes are nicely cared for and returned in great condition. Not to mention, I am greeted with the same friendly face each time I return.

So what does dry cleaning have to do with technology? Not much really… except that for associations, trust, understanding, and continuity are significant factors when choosing a strategic partner. The best technology option is the company that allows you to successfully meet your objectives.

When considering a new LMS technology partner, be sure to ask meaningful questions such as:

  1. What percentage of your budget goes into the development of your software or services vs sales, marketing or distribution to shareholders?
  2. How would you define your company culture? Will the people I am speaking with today, who are making promises, be here tomorrow?
  3. What challenges are you currently addressing? How does your solution make my organization better?
  4. Have you recently been involved in a merger or acquisition? Can you describe how this will affect your current product or service offerings?

We have seen examples when mergers occur, the people you built trust with are gone and the platform or solutions you are invested in are no longer evolving. At CommPartners we have grown organically and with a shared purpose with our staff and extended community.  We believe strongly in a culture of responsiveness, centered on the client.

Yes, many mergers or acquisitions, when handled well can greatly benefit the client and simply makes sense. However to say in all cases that bigger is better is just not true.  Thank you “Cleaners” for always being there.  Sorry I was swayed by bigger is always better.

Webinars, Community and Engagement: 5 Reasons to Integrate Live, Online Events Into Your Online Community

Webinars, Community and Engagement: 5 Reasons to Integrate Live, Online Events Into Your Online Community

At the 2017 Higher Logic Super Forum, I along with an association colleague, facilitated a session on the virtues of developing an integrated approach for bringing together online community engagement and an LMS in a single offering. During the session, we discussed how associations typically have these areas configured as unique components. In reality, both provide opportunities for learning. Since an online community engagement strategy is usually focused on facilitating peer collaboration, and the learning management system (LMS) provides expert content, it’s natural they come together to support the stakeholder experience in a synergistic way.

A key connector in this relationship are live online events and webinars. Traditionally, live events and webinars have been positioned on their own through a registration and authentication page provided by the webinar vendor or a separate catalog of programs. A better, more engaging approach is to promote and provide access to these events within a private community.

Here are 5 considerations for using live, online events and webcasts to increase the impact of your online community engagement strategy:

  1. Registration will feel like a continuum of existing collaboration. Participants who have already been invested in the topic can now be encouraged, in an intuitive way, to take the step to register and participate in online discussions.
  2.  Participation from new and non-engaged members is encouraged with an integrated approach. Live, online events and webinars are tangible ways to draw participants to specific areas of your Web presence. Offering them through a dedicated part of your LMS gives users a reason to create a profile and begin to participate in other social learning and online community engagement opportunities.
  3. Leverage interaction before and after an online event or webcast. Participants should be able to see who is attending, exchange ideas, and engage the presenters before the event. Afterward, users can continue any conversations that may have been cut short (which happens often!) during an hour program.
  4. Integrate results from live event and webinar attendance with other participation metrics, providing a complete picture of online community engagement. Host organizations will appreciate having a central repository to evaluate participation outcomes.
  5. Award badges or ribbons for participation or achievement from webinars in the same area where recognition is provided for other activities. Providing recognition will further encourage participation in future live, online events.

We see webinars and live events becoming much more collaborative and transparent. Bringing them into your online community is a natural way to build participation and provide synergy with your other educational objectives.

If you have interest in learning more about integrating events and webinars with your community contact us online, or email Meghan Gowen at mgowen@commpartners.com.