SumTotal vs. Moodle vs. Inquisiq: One Non-Profit's Quest for the Best LMS

Posted by Ed Gipple on Jan 9, 2014 3:38:32 PM

Getting a new Learning Management System (LMS) or migrating to a new one? If so, you’ll enjoy this case study.

You’re no doubt finding that there is no shortage of different types of Learning Management Systems to choose from. Add in a plethora of technological and organizational factors to consider and the decision can be quite daunting.

The most popular systems like SumTotal and Moodle may seem like a safe bet (nobody’s ever been fired for hiring IBM, right?), but that’s not always the case, as HP Freeman discovered shortly after deciding to move from SumTotal to Moodle. By the time they realized the mistake, it was too late to avoid an inevitable LMS migration. This case study is meant to help you avoid a potentially costly mistake and hopefully make your LMS decision a little easier.

Enjoy this step-by-step review of the process a large non-profit organization undertook when it migrated from one system to another.

The Client (and a Bit of General Background)

Harold P Freeman Patient Navigation Institute is a non-profit organization located in New York City. The institute pioneered the Patient Navigation program to reduce disparities in access to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

A large part of their mission includes an intensive training program that teaches the Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Model to new patient navigators. The program also provides certification; successful completion of the training results in the award and subsequent tracking of certificates.

HP Freeman had been using the SumTotal Learning Management System to deliver and manage the training program.

In mid-2013 they had decided to leave the SumTotal system and move to another LMS. After a lot of consideration they had narrowed their choices down to two solutions, Moodle (an open source LMS) vs. the Inquisiq LMS from ICS Learning Group.

After testing the two systems, the institute decided to go with the Inquisiq LMS - primarily because the courses that were developed in SumTotal did not work correctly in Moodle, but also because it became apparent that the setup costs, configuration costs, and administration costs of Moodle were sizable, despite it being an open source LMS.

This case study takes a look at the process of migrating an entire training program from the SumTotal LMS to the Inquisiq LMS.

General Challenges Involved with an LMS Migration

Moving an organization to a new Learning Management System is complex, including the migration of critical information and processes. There are many important questions to consider and a solid LMS migration plan is useful to find a system with the proper capabilities to facilitate this process.

Specific challenges associated with this transfer included:

  • Identifying and documenting feature and technology requirements
  • Evaluating and testing applicable systems to narrow the field of options
  • Exporting all of the SumTotal-authored courses and moving them to the new LMS
  • Migrating all existing user accounts and potentially sensitive user data
  • Establishing a complex self-registration process for new users
  • Applying the HP Freeman branding to the new LMS
  • Establishing an approval process for new registrants and subsequent workflow processes
  • From start to end – the new LMS was to launch in 2 weeks

Step 1: Moving the courses from SumTotal to the new LMS
For HP Freeman, one of the most critical aspects of this move was to be able to successfully transfer the courses that they had created in SumTotal to the new LMS. HP freeman had invested a large amount of time and money into the development of this course content and did not want to start over. The risk for such a situation is good justification to author courses using tools outside of the LMS – but regardless, it was a challenge that HP Freeman faced.

The desired approach was to export the courses from SumTotal in a format that would allow them to be transportable and still track and communicate properly with the new LMS.

SCORM packages were the obvious choice and both SumTotal and Inquisiq supported this method. However, in practice, there can be problems with SCORM packages depending on idiosyncrasies of both the authoring tools (SumTotal in this case) and the receiving system or LMS.

It turned out that during HP Freeman’s evaluation of Moodle, the SCORM packages exported from SumTotal did not work properly. Fortunately, the same SCORM packages did import into Inquisiq and functioned correctly - all tracking and communication with the LMS behaved as expected.

Step 2: Moving all user accounts and data from SumTotal to Inquisiq

Moving the user accounts and all associated data from SumTotal to Inquisiq involved a two-step process. The first step was to export all of the information out of SumTotal to an external file (i.e. such as a comma separated value (CSV) text file, spreadsheet, or database file).

SumTotal’s exporting options were limited, so ICS simply generated a report that included all of the usernames along with their basic profile information and course completion histories. This report was then saved as a CSV file.

Normally, this exported file could be directly imported into Inquisiq using the Batch Import function.  However, in this case where SumTotal did provide the user’s first and last name, it was not able to include a unique username in the export file – which is a obvious requirement if the file is to be used to create new user accounts.

To resolve this limitation, the Inquisiq Support Team wrote custom scripts to automatically generate unique usernames, create new user accounts, and then import all user profile data and course histories into Inquisiq.

As it turns out, SumTotal offered limited options for user profiles. HP Freeman wanted more extensive and customizable user profile information. Luckily, this capability is one of Inquisiq’s sweet spots.

Step 3: Establishing a complex user self-registration process

One of the attractive features HP Freeman found with Inquisiq was the ability to expand the information stored as part of each user’s profile.

Doing so required two things; the first part was a simple matter of expanding the user profile data fields. The second part of the solution required a mechanism to capture all of this new data during the user self-registration process.

Once the new accounts were created, the HP Freeman staff completed the user's profiles more thoroughly, expanding the types of information through standard and custom data fields.

Typically, a custom self-registration form would then be created with those data fields for users to complete when signing into the LMS for the first time.

However, HP Freeman had an additional challenge – they needed a ‘gated’ registration form, one where the questions being asked of the user would change depending on the how other fields were completed.

To accomplish this we used a feature in Inquisiq, which allows the built-in self-registration process to be replaced with an external custom registration form. ICS Learning Group created a relatively simple custom web application that contained all of the logic for the gated profile questions. On completion of the registration process, the registration application created a new user account and populated it with all of the captured user data through the Inquisiq API.

Step 4: Branding the new LMS

Branding the system was the most straight forward part of the LMS migration process. Inquisiq enables the administrator to configure five different branding elements:

  • A top banner including a left side image or logo, a background color or image, and a right-justified image
  • A Welcome page that can be completely customized
  • Footer information
  • Customizable Main Menu navigation (allows for additional menu navigation options)
  • Access to site Style Sheets (rarely required but is an option allowing more control over the “look and feel” of the site)

In HP Freeman’s case, as with most clients, a custom banner was configured to match their organization’s branding, including their logo and corporate colors. A custom home page was created that included a welcome message and photograph of Harold P Freeman. The footer information provided a link to their corporate website along with a contact email for help. And finally, the main menu navigation was configured to include new options for FAQ and Help pages.

Step 5: Establishing an approval process for new registrants (and subsequent workflow)

An approval process and workflow was then configured so that HP Freeman staff could approve new users who were registering for the training. Once approved, users would automatically be enrolled in the correct series of courses.

Here’s how we did it:

  1. Users would visit the site and self-register. As noted above, the self-registration process contained a fairly complex process of conditional questions.
  2. Once the self-registration form was submitted, a user account was created.  However the user was put in a special holding mode and not yet given access to the course catalog or courses. When the self-registration form was submitted, it automatically generated emails to both the users (as a confirmation and welcome email) as well as the HP Freeman staff notifying them that a new user account had been created and was awaiting approval.
  3. The HP Freeman staff would then review the application and if everything was in order they would mark the “approved” check box that was part of the user’s profile. Approving a new user triggered rules that put the user into a specific user group that has access to the course catalog and automatically enrolls the user into the appropriate courses. This in turn also triggers automatic emails to let the user know in which courses they were now enrolled.

The above workflow was created by using a few different Inquisiq features. Specifically:

  • Configurable User Profile – allowed for the addition of the “Approval” setting to be added to the user profile.
  • Grouping Rules – based on the setting of the approval flag, allowed the user to be moved into a specified set of user groups.
  • User Groups – once a user is in a user group they automatically inherit the properties of that group. For example, they can be given access to restricted catalogs, enrolled in specific courses, and given certain permissions.
  • Email Notifications – almost every event in the system (user account creation, course enrollments, etc.) can trigger email notifications to the user and/or an administrator.

And that's a wrap! HP Freeman is ecstatic with the new LMS and relieved that all of the SumTotal courses migrated over successfully and that many of the SumTotal limitations had been overcome by moving to Inquisiq.

If you’re in the process of evaluating SumTotal vs. Moodle vs. Inquisiq vs. some other LMS, we hope you found this case study useful.

We know choosing an LMS and migrating over to it can be stressful and we’re here to help.

If you’d like a more comprehensive checklist to guide your LMS selection process, drop us a quick note (no need to be shy). We’re passionate about helping you solve your hardest training challenges and would love to explore your LMS requirements and find a solution that makes sense.

Click here to send us a message  (or call 410-975-9440 during normal business hours) and speak with a consultant for free. We can help you avoid costly mistakes and help find the best LMS for your training needs.

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