It’s an unfortunate truth that at some point you’ll probably find yourself dealing with a less-than-ideal vendor. In these situations it’s not uncommon for some sort of horror story to arise out of your dealings with said vendor.
This exact scenario is true of a very frustrated company we recently heard from while in the midst of trying to switch to a new LMS provider. You see, the LMS provider they were currently using had a proprietary authoring tool built into the system. This is all fine and good until it comes time to try and take all the content you created somewhere else.
Here’s their horror story (that we’ve heard many, many times before) and how you can avoid it…
The Authoring Tool Fine Print
When looking for an LMS (which is already meant to help save your business time and money through increased productivity, more efficient training processes, and so on) wouldn’t it be great to also find a system with a built-in authoring tool? That way, you don’t have to go back and forth between multiple applications, deal with downloading and uploading, etc. You would be 100% correct, but this is definitely a statement deserving of one of those pesky asterisks that indicate there’s some fine print.
You see, there are essentially two main ways an authoring tool can be built-in to an LMS:
Integrated Authoring Tools
Some LMS providers (like eLogic) choose to integrate with an existing third party authoring tool. These out-of-the-box integrations allow information to be passed back and forth from the learning management system to the authoring tool itself. In these instances, courses can automatically be uploaded to the LMS right from within the authoring tool. This means you get to skip a couple of steps by not having to download it from the authoring tool, go to the LMS and upload it there. It also makes updating existing courses a breeze!
But, you know what the best part about creating content this way is? You’re technically using a third-party authoring tool (or LCMS) so YOU control your content. If you switch LMS vendors then you get to take all of that content with you! A novel concept, right? Well, unfortunately this isn’t the case for all authoring tools and LMSs.
Proprietary Authoring Tools
We mentioned above that we’d recently heard a horror story from the client of another LMS provider. Here’s what happened: Their current LMS provider had a proprietary authoring tool built into their system that allowed for course creation without having to leave the LMS. This seems great until the client tried to move to a new LMS.
When this particular client tried to get all the content they had created (over 100 courses, actually) they were told that they wouldn’t be able to get any of their content since the courses had been created using the LMS provider’s proprietary software.
Now, yes, we understand proprietary means that LMS provider owns their particular authoring tool, but who would have thought you’d never be able to get the content you created in it out of the system? It makes you wonder if there was ever a discussion about the fact that this would eventually be the case if a client chose another LMS provider or if it was never brought up. Like we said, that pesky asterisk definitely came into play here.
So, what can you do to avoid these and other similar issues (like the ones our Solution Architect, Brad, ran into during his LMS admin career) from happening?
Always, always, ALWAYS have a separate authoring tool or LCMS. This will save you from so many headaches in the long run, including:
- Not being able to retrieve the content you created
- Having to move all assets, re-tag and categorize, and rebuild all the content if switching from one authoring tool (maybe a proprietary one that actually allows you to take content with you) to another
- Keeping valuable exams and surveys hosted in the authoring tool so you don’t have to recreate them in each new LMS
- And more!
Again, if you want to read more about this then check out Brad’s post on the LMS vs. LCMS. But basically you have everything to gain from having a separate authoring tool, and little if nothing to lose.
It’s never good to hear that a company’s content is being held hostage by another LMS provider but it does in fact happen. This is a very immoral way of trying to keep clients from leaving because- let’s face it- who would ever want to rebuild over 100 courses? When it can take multiple hours (or days, weeks, months) to create each course you’re talking about another large investment in time and money.
Just avoid the issue altogether and make sure to keep your LMS and authoring tool separate yet integrated.