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LMS Integration: Six Methods to Consider

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LMS Integration: Six Methods to Consider

Modern Learning Management Systems are designed to fit seamlessly into an ecosystem of software solutions. Accord offers six different integration approaches to help you fit the Accord LMS into your computing environment.  This article will discuss each available solution and offer suggestions which may help you decide which approach will work best. Our Solution Engineers can also help you during any step of the process.

For those less detail minded, please scroll near the bottom for a brief summary of available options. For those who prefer more in-depth information, continue reading to learn about 6 methods to consider for LMS integration.


Bulk Learner Import

Bulk Import is a generic term referring to a process of bringing an external data file into the Accord LMS.  The Accord LMS can import several different types of data.  For the purposes of this article, we will consider the Bulk Learner Import.

The Bulk Learner Import file is created as an export from a master data source, such as a Human Resources Information System (HRIS) or Data Warehouse.  The file is then transported to a secure FTP site where it will wait for its scheduled upload.  Upon upload, the LMS will use the file to create new LMS users and update existing users.  Such a Bulk Learner Import file can assign learning roles, team membership, Team Access Codes and update user profiles.


Example Use Cases:

Sue has accepted a job within the Sales department and will be leaving her position as a Customer Support Rep.  Human Resources staff changes Sue’s Job Title in the HRIS system.  The HRIS will export the Bulk Import file, with the changes to Sue's title, and deliver it to the sFTP folder.  The LMS will then import the data on schedule.  The Job Title will update in the LMS and automatically remove any training no longer necessary, assign any newly relevant training and move her from the Support team to the Sales Team.

Juan is hired to replace Sue.  Human Resources staff enters Juan’s record into the HRIS.  On the next scheduled Bulk Learner Import, Juan will be created in the LMS and automatically assigned to the appropriate team and appropriate Learning Roles.


Things to consider:

  • Bulk Import is a standard feature of the Accord LMS and can generally be configured as part of our standard implementation process.
  • Bulk Learner Import is usually the simplest technique for synchronizing learner records from a master data source.
  • Bulk Learner Import is generally a reporting function from the master data source and will not require any programming or complicated customization.
  • Bulk Learner import can be automated to occur on a regular schedule or executed manually at any time.
  • The Bulk Learner import file is a CSV file which can be edited with Excel.  This file must meet certain requirements.
  • You can download a sample Bulk Learner Import file from the Product Documentation page.
  • You can learn more details about Importing Data in our bulk learner import guide.


Accord Web API

The accord Web API provides secure access to many functions within the Accord LMS.  Client’s Programmers can create custom features in third party software to interact with the Accord LMS.  These interactions can include the ability to process a Team Access Code, Enroll or Drop Learners from specific content, get attempt and completion records, review learner access information and more.


Example Use Case:

Corporate wants to enable HR staffers to assign and review training progress without leaving their HRIS user interface.  Software developers build a custom user interface in the corporate HRIS which display’s the training assignments and transcripts for each employee.


Things to Consider

  • The Web API is available free of charge to all Accord LMS clients; however the client must undertake the development effort required to use the API in their unique environment.
  • The Web API is based on a request/response architectural style.
  • The Series of REST Web methods exposed by the API are designed to be accessed via HTTP Requests.
  • Requests must contain authorized user credentials along with specific web method parameters.
  • Server Response is returned as a JSON object.
  • The Web API integration allows a third-party application to directly access select data within the Accord LMS.


Accord Single Sign-On (SSO)

SSO is a process by which a user logs in with a single ID and Password in order to gain access to more than one related system.  The Accord LMS authentication process is managed by the DNN Content Management System provided with the Accord LMS.  The Accord Single Sign-On application installs in a DNN Software portal framework and provides User account management and auto-login/single sign-on (SSO) services from a remote website to the host LMS portal.

In practical terms, the SSO module allows clients to create a link or button on a remote website which will automatically redirect and authenticate users to the Accord LMS.  Optionally, if the user does not exist, then providing a Username, Password, Firstname, Lastname and Email will create a new user in the LMS.  The SSO Module provides many methods which developers can utilize to create a highly customized login process.


Example Use Case:

Sue logs into her corporate employee dashboard.  By clicking on the ‘My Courses’ button on her dashboard, she will be automatically granted access to her ‘My Courses’ page on the LMS without needing to re-provide her username or password.


Things to Consider

  • The Accord LMS SSO module requires a one-time implementation fee.
  • Client programmers will need to develop functionality in the remote system to properly access the Accord LMS through Single Sign-On.
  • The SSO Module access can be designed to Create New Users and update User Profile Fields.
  • The Accord LMS SSO Security model was drawn from the Amazon S3 REST Web Services.

SAML 2.0

Security Assertion Markup Language 2.0 is an industry standard for exchanging the authentication and authorization data between security domains.  SAML 2.0 is an XML based protocol that uses security tokens to pass information about a user between an Identity Provider and a Service Provider such as the Accord LMS.  Clients must already have a SAML 2.0 Identity Provider to use this method for SSO and User Synchronization.  If a client is already using SAML 2.0 in their environment, this solution will provide a standardized solution which does not require additional software development.


Things to Consider

  • Accord SAML 2.0 support requires a one-time Implementation fee but should not require any additional development by our client.
  • SAML 2.0 is a current industry standard.  Many software applications support SAML 2.0 integrations.
  • Clients using SAML 2.0 for authentication find this to be an efficient solution.


Microsoft Active Directory (AD)

This is a directory service developed for Windows domain networks.  A Windows server running the Active Directory service is considered a domain controller.  The domain controller authenticates and authorizes all users in the Windows Domain.  This solution can provide SSO for self-hosted LMS installations.  If Accord is hosting the LMS (SaaS model), this solution will synchronize user data at login but will require a manual sign-in to the LMS.


Example Use Case:

IT Pros is an Accord LMS client with DNN familiarity.  Their Accord LMS is hosted on a DNN Server which is part of their Windows Intranet.  IT Pros uses Active Directory Services as their domain controller.  Accord provides an Active Directory module for their LMS which synchronizes their LMS users with their Active Directory users while providing SSO functionality.


Things to consider

  • There is a one-time configuration fee for Active Directory support.  Accord Portal Masters can help clients configure their self-hosted LMS for Active Directory.
  • There is no development required for this solution.  This is a complete solution supervised by the Accord Support Team.
  • SaaS Clients will only benefit from user synchronization, not SSO.  Whenever possible, SaaS clients using Active Directory should consider AD FS for a true SSO solution.


Active Directory Federated Services (AD FS)

AD FS is part of Active Directory Services designed for Windows servers.  AD FS uses the Active Directory Domain Services as an identity provider but can send a token to an external organization with whom trust has been established.  This allows for Single Sign On as well as user account synchronization.  AD FS also provides multi-factor authentication.


Example Use Case:

Pillow-Soft uses a SaaS LMS hosted by Accord LMS.  Pillow-Soft uses Active Directory Federated Services.  Accord provides an Active Directory FS module for their LMS which will synchronize their LMS users with Pillow-Soft's Active Directory users and provide SSO functionality.


Things to Consider

  • There is a one-time configuration fee for Active Directory FS support.  Accord Portal Masters can help clients configure their SaaS or Self-Hosted LMS for AD FS Single Sign-on.
  • There is no development required for this solution.  This is a complete solution supervised by the Accord Support Team.
  • Clients must be using Active Directory Federated Services in order to be able to take advantage of the AD FS SSO module.


In Conclusion

There are currently six options available to help you integrate the Accord LMS with your other computing systems.  The following chart gives a partial overview of each solution’s features.


Accord LMS Integration Comparison Grid


Bulk Import is our most popular choice.  This standard feature of the Accord LMS is simple and powerful.  Although it does not provide SSO capabilities, it can manage LMS user profiles, Learning Role Membership, Team Assignments, Supervisory permissions and more; all within an automated system requiring minimal effort to properly configure.

SAML 2.0 is a sensible choice for clients currently operating in an environment with a SAML 2.0 Identity Provider.

Active Directory and Active Directory FS support is ideal for clients using a Microsoft server environment.  These solutions are generally easy to implement, requiring no additional development.

The Accord SSO module and API integration offer flexible solutions; empowering programmers to create custom solutions.

For further information on Accord LMS integration options, please contact the Accord sales team for a free LMS demo and consultation.

| Categories: Feature Focus, Single Sign-On, Tech Talk

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