Categories for Product News

LearningSource… in a way you can understand

February 5, 2010 10:25 am, Published by

LearningSource is a pretty complex beast – not that it’s complex to use but it replaces so many different types of system that sometimes even we find it hard to explain actually what it is.

Appreciating that a picture is worth a thousand words, and not wanting to force people to read a multi page document explaining exactly what LearningSource is, we decided to create a video to show, in cartoon form, exactly how life can be better for a training provider when they move from lots of disconnected systems to the complete package that LearningSource is.

So here, without any further fanfare, is Jim’s story, five minutes or so to explain, in a nutshell, what LearningSource is and what it can do for you.

We’d love to hear your feedback about the video – feel free to leave comments below…

Accounting Integration – What Can It Mean in Real Terms?

January 14, 2010 4:59 am, Published by

We built LearningSource to offer the core functionality for running a training business, however we realise that all organisations needs are different and that integration with other systems is essential to deliver an efficient and effective overall business software solution. Potentially users may want to integrate LearningSource with any number of different business systems, from accounting to payment gateways, from customer relationship management systems to membership databases.

We’ve got some really exciting integration work underway right now and we’ll have some announcements to make in the coming weeks – for now we thought we’d share some of our thinking about what integration actually means for users of LearningSource.

What does Integration mean?

Before reviewing the system integration options it is worth clarifying what exactly the term integration means as there are varying extents to which a system is integrated with another.  On one end of the scale it can mean fully automated transfer of information from one system to another without any manual interaction while on the other end it may just mean that it is possible to transfer information.  The process to do so may require a manual and potentially very time consuming task. For example, you may need to export the information and then add or remove information, change the format of specific content (date formats, currency formats), change column heading names, or potentially merge columns (e.g. first name and last name into full name).  So while someone may say the two systems can integrate the process may in fact be impractical.  The following is a simple list of potential integration options;

  • Export ‘edit’ then Import – Export the data, edit the content of the file as required, and then import.        
  • Export/Import –  Format of exported file exactly matches the required import format. User therefore can export the file, save a copy, and then import it directly into the second application without needing to edit it. 
  • Send using API – You are able to transfer information from one application to another at the press of a button without needing to download and then upload a file.  This is achieved through what is technically called an Application Programming Interface (API).  Basically both systems are configured in such a way that they can transfer information in a common format.  The process for developing integration functionality is usually made easier by an application provider clearly documenting the API for their application. 
  • Automated Integration using API – This is similar to ‘Sending using API’ described above, but where there is no manual task required for the transfer of information to take place. The systems are setup to automatically communicate with each other as required.  For example, instead of you having to press a button to transfer an Order from LearningSource into your Accounting System to create an Invoice, it would be possible to automate the integration so that when an Order is approved an invoice is automatically created in your Accounting System.

Exciting Possibilities with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Delivering an application as a web based service (also referred to as an online application, Software-as-a-Service or a ‘cloud’ based application), offers many advantages over the traditional approach of installing and managing the application on your own servers.  For example; fast implementation, automated upgrades, anywhere and anytime access, and automated backups.  However one significant advantage that is only now really starting to have an impact, but one which is likely to be the most significant of them all, is the inherent ease for which two web based applications can interact with one another.  For example,  the ability for LearningSource to be integrated (using an API’s) with another web based Accounting System.

This ease of integration is seen on two fronts. Firstly it is easy for the user – they will likely not need any specialist knowledge or technical expertise to setup the integration between two web based applications. No software installations, no application configurations, and no firewall settings.  It will just work.

Secondly, it is easy for the application developers.  When we develop the integration we don’t have to worry about different versions of the application, different configurations, and most importantly we don’t have to worry about how you manage and run your local network, that is your firewall settings, server configurations, and other network configurations.

So What is possible?

When you make it easier to integrate two applications you invariably open up a range of new and exciting impossibilities. Here are just a few that we will be working on in the future;

  • The ability to keep your customer’s contact details synchronised
  • The ability to display information from one system within another – eg you open a Contact in LearningSource and their current balance as seen in your Accounting System is displayed within the information.
  • The ability to automate processes – eg you make a refund and cancel a registration from within LearningSource and a Credit Note is automatically generated in your Accounting System.

Accounting System Integration

The diagram below illustrates the functions of both LearningSource and an Accounting System with the integration between the two systems involving the potential transfer of Order, Credit Note, Payment, and Contact information.  The primary focus is to eliminate the double entry of order information from LearningSource into the accounting system to create an invoice.  This not only includes the transfer of orders items, but also Contact/Account information which is part of the order.  For example, if an Order is billed to a Contact which is not already in your Accounting System, a new Contact will be created.  Equally, if an Order is submitted which is to be billed to Contact already in your accounting system, then and invoice will be billed to the existing Contact. 

LearningSource is also able to automate invoicing within the order process by sending Invoices directly and then simply transferring the invoice into your accounting system to reconcile the payment.  Refunds by credit cards will also automatically generate and send Credit Notes to clients with the Credit Note then been transferred through to your accounting system for reconciliation.

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There’s lots more to come here – read more in our online support pages or subscribe to our blog for further posts.

Real Time Payments – No Administration

November 5, 2009 8:52 am, Published by

This week sees an exciting new feature release for LearningSource – Fully integrated, real time credit card payments.  We have invested significant time and effort creating not only the ability for your clients to pay by credit card within the website registration process, but one where the process is 100% automated.

The Automated Credit Card Payment Process is really simple, and keeps the logical flow you’d expect to see with a process like this. The steps occur in real time and are as follows:

  • Course order created and automatically approved
  • Order approval automatically sent
  • A tax invoice & receipt are sent to the attendee
  • Course instructions are sent

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This is a big release for us, it’s one of the major functions that see us round out the required feature set for training providers – beyond course scheduling and information, they can now accept and process payments online – resulting in a much lighter touch for them – increasing efficiency and allowing training establishments to focus on their core business.

People aren’t quite there yet – but that’s no barrier…

October 30, 2009 8:21 am, Published by

We’re all about making it easy to use our product – it’s the fundamental ethos behind LearningSource – here’s an example of what we mean.

When we started out, we built our system on the principle that everyone has their own email address. You’d think so wouldn’t you? I mean it’s 2009. Well unfortunately despite all the free email services outs there, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and the like, it seems the end users of LearningSource are not quite there.

We have an ulterior motive for wishing this – having a unique email address means you can easily ensure duplicate contact accounts are not inadvertently created.

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Ok, so we’ll admit that we got it wrong. It seems some people are still sharing email addresses between multiple individuals. We have therefore enhanced our authentication system to cater for this situation and allow more than one person to share the same email address. Where a user shares an email address with someone else they can choose a unique ‘Username’ as their logon instead of just using their email address.

We have still managed to keep the registration process simple and seamless, meaning users don’t need to setup accounts before they can register themselves or someone else on a course. Creating accounts just happens automatically. We have also retained the smart process where LearningSource automatically checks for duplicates before creating a new contact in your database.

Without labouring the point, it’s another example of the benefit of internet application – changes like this are automatically rolled out to all customers without them having to go through the time and hassle of installing software updates.

Product Development – Come Help Us Out

September 29, 2009 8:04 am, Published by

With Software as a Service, software updates happen much more frequently than with traditional software. This means that product improvements, driven from user requests, occur quickly.

For some time we’ve had an informal feedback channel, with users calling us or sending us emails to make suggestions and flag problems they’re having – we wanted to do this more visibly however and to allow you, the actual LearningSource users, to determine the direction we take in product development.

To this end we’ve created a site where people can make product development suggestions, vote on the suggestions of others and generally see what we’re up to when it comes to product development.

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So please feel free to visit the site, and contribute to making LearningSource an even better product going forwards.

 

Live, Online, and Interactive

September 8, 2009 7:32 am, Published by

We have just launched support for live online course delivery. By integrating with the leading web conferencing services providers, including Cisco Webex, Microsoft Live Meeting, Adobe Acrobat Connect, and Citrix GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar LearningSource now supports the delivery of live and interactive courses and presentations.

This delivery method offers exciting potential.  The results of a training programme delivered to teachers throughout New Zealand illustrate just how successful this form of training can be;

Telecom secured a contract to deliver their ICT solution for schools, SchoolZone, to schools throughout New Zealand as part of a Ministry of Education funded initiative.  SchoolZone offers a range of features including a school intranet, website filtering service, and an email system to staff and student. Telecom recognised that in order for schools to fully utilise all the features offered they needed to deliver comprehensive training to the teachers. Given the geographic spread of schools, it was simply not possible to deliver face-to-face training. Instead existing classroom based courses were converted into to a series of 90 minute live online sessions and … well, the results speak for themselves.

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Read more about our new Live Online course delivery feature.

Any Browser, Anywhere

July 8, 2009 3:43 am, Published by

One of the core tenets of Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery method is that SaaS applications should be able to be used regardless of what operating system or browser is being used. The browser is the application within you view webpages – while this might sound obvious enough, have a look at this video recently shot in New York city which shows just how many people are confused about what a browser is;

Anyway – making an application, especially one so feature-rich as ours, to work in all browsers is way more complicated than it sounds. There’s a huge number of browsers out there – different versions from the same company, different sorts from different companies – you get the drift. While saying that a website “should just work” in any browser is easy, actually getting there isn’t.

We’ll be the first to confess that we’ve been a little bit late getting cross-browser support into LearningSource – there’s just so much to do that it dropped a little down the list. However we’re please to announce that this weeks roll out will support the following browsers (with a “watch-out for those not excited by the technical side of things);

  • Firefox v3
  • Safari v4
  • Internet Explorer v7
  • Internet Explorer v8
  • Google Chrome

Of course LearningSource is also operating system agnostic – working equally well on Apple machines, PCs or even Linux machines.

Happy (cross platform, cross browser) days – thanks for reading!

Tracking communication

April 2, 2009 10:04 pm, Published by

We do a lot of work behind the scenes to make LearningSource robust and scalable so that it will work for large numbers of training providers. Every once in a while we create a piece of functionality primarily to make our life easier, and then realise that it’s also a real boon to our customers. Our new "communication log" is a good example of this.

When internally testing software updates, and believe us when we say that internal testing is a massive component of what we do, we have to send lots of different emails to test various parts of the system. Previously there was no way of tracking all of these emails – the new communication log records all emails being sent from LearningSource.

Beyond making life easier for our internal testers however, the real purpose of the feature is to provide end-users with a simple list of all the emails being sent so that they can easily see when an email was sent and what information the email contained.  You can also also use the feature to resend an email – for example, resend Course Instructions if a customer missed the original email.

We’ve got a number of added features that will leverage off the Communication Log, we’ll be rolling them out in the months ahead – watch this space as we complete the remaining functionality.

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Keeping everyone informed when details change

March 21, 2009 11:36 pm, Published by

Customer feedback has time and again highlighted areas where automating services can make a big difference to training providers. In a nice case of the user being involved in the design of a product, LearningSource customers identify problem areas and then we use our design and technical knowledge to come up with the most user friendly solution.

A key ‘pain point’ highlighted to us by training organisations is keeping everyone informed when details of a course change. For example, updating the presenters, attendees, and venue contacts when the course venue is changes. In most cases this involves manually creating and sending emails to each individual involved which can be a significant inefficiency.  A new feature just released addresses this ‘pain point’. Now when an administrator changes the details of a course, the venue, the presenter, or the date, LearningSource automatically sends an email to everyone involved informing them of the change.

We thought hard about the best way to ensure the changes were obvious and that they’d be noticed by the recipient – to this end we’ve designed the notifications so that they clearly illustrates the specific details which have changed. Check out the images below as an example. See how the old information is crossed out and the new details highlighted in red.

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We’ve had some really positive feedback about this new feature from existing customers, what previously took them a significant amount of time writing and sending emails, making phone calls etc, is now just a click of a button.

Automatically builds your client database

March 10, 2009 10:18 pm, Published by

One of the benefit of web-based software, when compared to old fashioned installed software, is the ability for us to roll out new features quickly without worrying about users having to install new versions or update multiple machines. This benefit results in us being very nimble when it comes to responding to customer feedback and requests and helps in our aim to make the lives of training providers as easily as we possibly can.

A good example of this in action is with a new feature we have recently released. This feature sees all information entered during the registration process on the website automatically used to populate the LearningSource client database. For example, a new organisation record is created with the details provided during the registration process. Likewise, a new contact is created from the details provided from each course attendee registration. From there, any future purchases are tracked against the same organisation, and all future course registrations are tracked against the respective contact.  

The functionality is proving to be a success with our current customers. What used to be a time consuming process of manually entering new client information into their database is now fully automated. LearningSource is also capturing more information than they previously recorded, such as capturing and storing a record of courses each individual has completed.

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The information about past clients is a valuable asset for all businesses.  LearningSource is committed to giving training providers all the tools they need to not only capture of this information, but also use it to better manage and develop client relationships.  It’s all part of our focus to integrate important Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functionality training providers require within the LearningSource solution.