Episode 55

Learning Management Integrations vs. Built-In Features

As you compare platforms for building your online courses, you will need to evaluate learning management integrations vs. built-in features. This LMScast with Joshua Millage and Christopher Badgett will help you get started with the functions and benefits of integrations and features.

First, let’s define what features and integrations are:

  • Features are built into a platform and thus are immediately functional with that system.
  • Integrations are external applications and plugins that allow you to connect to other systems and applications to expand the capabilities of your platform.

For basic, necessary functionality, features provide a workable foundation, but they can also limit your scalability over time, since they are built into your platform. Integrations offer flexibility in connecting to other systems with greater capabilities as you grow.

First you must know what you want to do and decide how best to meet your requirements. The LifterLMS development team is responsive to the great ideas and requests from their users for features to build into LifterLMS and integrations to allow compatibilities for. The LifterLMS platform is designed for ease of use as well as scalability, so users can customize the system any way they want, or create basic courses that simply work with existing features.

With that in mind, we include features like a basic course syllabus hierarchy and customer engagement tools. Since integrations allow you to leverage capabilities of other systems and increase the power of your own system, LifterLMS is compatible with a wide variety of related systems like MailChimp and Infusionsoft. Plus, we actively search for new developments like Zapier to design integrations for.

The LifterLMS platform is also an open source project, which means additional development, upgrades, and support are provided by a broad, diverse, development community beyond the LifterLMS team. Input from this community is welcome and encouraged, especially for commerce options, extensions, and theme framework designs.

Like WordPress itself, our LifterLMS course development platform is designed to be accessible, flexible, and scalable as you balance your needs between learning management integrations vs. built-in features so your system can grow as your eLearning environment and course offerings expand. You can try a demo of LifterLMS and see for yourself what it can do for you.

Remember that you can post comments and also subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

And if you’re an already successful expert, teacher or entrepreneur looking to grow, check out the LifterLMS team’s signature service called Boost. It’s a complete done for you set up service where your learning platform goes live in just 5 days.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Joshua: Hello, Everyone. Welcome back to another episode of LMScast. I’m Joshua Millage, and I’m joined today with Christopher Badgett. Today we are talking about learning management system integrations versus built-in features. This is really talking about should you be more concerned with the feature set that a learning management system has to offer, or what you can connect with it and how to think about those two things. Chris, I’ll bat the question over to you first. Why is it important to think about integrations and not just features?

Chris: I think integrations and features, it’s just part of where we live everyday as people really involved in the learning management system industry, involved in the WordPress industry, the membership site industry, the eCommerce industry. A lot of our day is people talking about features that they would like or integrations that they would like, also from a product standpoint with our product LifterLMS, always thinking about this issue. Where are we going to go next? What integration do we need to add? What feature do we need to build in? If we do build that feature or that integration, should we build it into the core of LifterLMS or make it an external plugin? It’s all related.

I will say that just having spent a great deal of time here in this community, a lot of people come with … It’s a unique industry in that people are asking for very custom connections. It’s almost like a mind map bubble of what my ideal learning management system or my ideal membership site or my ideal online courses platform or my Udemy clone-type project looks like. What we hear is often very different depending upon the user.

I think that’s one of the amazing things is that never before in the history of humanity have we had such great tools at our fingertips. It can be a little overwhelming just to hear all these different ways that people want to connect this to that and have this do that. At the same time, it’s actually a beautiful moment in history and technology is unlocking this great global potential to connect things. That’s the high level.

Joshua: Yeah. No. I think the thing is it’s the ability to customize your LMS now is so much easier than it was a few years ago if you can get integrations. There’s a lot of other opportunities with integrations too, but integrations just allow you to leverage to the power of another system and their unique strength in your system.

We’re actively building out integrations. We just completed a MailChimp integration. We’ve had an Infusionsoft integration, and there’s many, many more to come. I think the key is really making sure that you balance integrations with performance. That’s why integrations, I think, trump built-in features at some point, because not everyone’s going to need a MailChimp integration. Not everyone’s going to need an Infusionsoft integration.

Pretty much everyone who is buying LifterLMS will need just a basic course syllabus hierarchy feature. We think that everyone should be using engagement, so we have a lightweight way of accomplishing that that doesn’t require a lot of system resources, but it’s a balance between functionality and bloated code and performance. I think an integration that we’re going to start to seriously look at is a Zapier integration, because with their service …

Chris: Which opens the door to some, right?

Joshua: To everything really. Zapier is just accomplishing so much. That’s another piece of the puzzle that I think we would like to work through. It’s really cool. It’s really fun to be a part of a community that wants to push elements, and we see that by the feature requests and integrations requests that we see all the time. Chris, we are an open source project, and the purchase of our plugin is really a purchase of support and updates and premium focus from our team on someone’s project. Because we’re open source, people can participate in helping us build things. If someone wanted, a developer might be listening, and they want to build an integration with LifterLMS, what would that process look like a little bit?

Chris: I’ll just throw out what I would love to see happen with the community.

Joshua: Cool.

Chris: If there’s somebody who has a deep understanding, whether it’s Pippin Williamson himself, creator of Easy Digital Downloads, or somebody who’s very familiar with that, we’d love to create an integration with Easy Digital Downloads that people could use, because I know…we have a built-in WooCommerce Integration, because it’s so popular and also can unlock a lot of different payment gateways for people in different parts of the world that maybe can’t use Stripe or don’t like PayPal or whatever. We’d like to do the same for Easy Digital Downloads. If anybody listening to this is a developer and wants to do that, we’ll even help you build your business around that. If it’s something you want to sell, we’ll figure out a way so that it’s mutually beneficial and also provides that requested feature. That’s an example.

Another great example is we’re currently working on something called Lifter LaunchPad, which is sort of like a theme framework, so that other theme developers can come in and build themes, learning management system themes, online courses themes, online school themes.
They can use our framework. In the same way that a company like StudioPress has a Genesis framework, we’re setting it up to make it easy for other developers and development agencies can come in. You can even put it on ThemeForest or whatever, and we’ll maintain that core, so that you’re just building on top of that core.

That’s an example of where we’re very welcome and open to others coming in to help and also not just to help, but to build a real business on top of what we’ve got here, in the same way that we’re building on top of WordPress itself.

Joshua: Right. Absolutely. That opens up our community to other communities, to other ways of thinking, too. I’m excited about the theme, because the design and user experience can change a classroom completely. We’re primarily developers. We’re not hardcore designers, so that’s absolutely an important group to start interacting with. Hopefully things like the Elegant Themes group and all of these different theme shops will help to help us and participate in developing some really cool user experiences online.

Then also, if there’s any developers that want to participate in developing extensions. We don’t really have a program or anything or what that would look like, but we’re a small shop, and we can only do so much. That’s the reality of our situation. If a plugin creator wants to create an extension, or a developer wants to create an extension for LifterLMS, I know that we’d be excited about talking about what that would look like and potentially promoting it and selling it to our group and creating some sort of split with them.

We’re open, because we’re young and agile, and we really want to change the way that people learn online, and we think we’re doing a good job with that with the WordPress community and excited to continue to push forward in the WordPress community.

Yeah, Chris do you have any final thoughts for the crew?

Chris: Yeah. I would just say that a great way to think about integrations and built-in features and minimalism versus a super complex custom thing is to think about WordPress itself. When you install it at the fundamental minimalist level, you set it up on your hosting account, and then it comes with whatever the most recent, I believe it’s 2015 theme, and you can start creating a website from that. Just have a home page, an about page, a contact page, and a blog.
Then your content, if you’re writing about something really cutting edge or super valuable, that becomes a super valuable property, web property and platform for you with very little integration, or there’s really nothing fancy there. Or you can take WordPress all the way to the extreme and build web applications on top of it or super high traffic custom sites with forty plugins and all this stuff. It can scale with you.

We want LifterLMS as a learning management system core to be able to scale with you. Part of that is when you come to a situation where you need an integration, we want to make that easy for you, both through our integrations, or if you need to hire a developer to help you make it work with whatever third party technology that you want to integrate with. If it’s not something that we’re getting to right away and you need right now, there’s resources out there for you for that. I think it’s important not to fight integration and just to appreciate this moment in history we are at and transforming the education and how people learn.

Joshua: Yeah, absolutely. Right on. This has been a great episode, and until next time we’ll see you next week.

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