Published On: June 22, 2023By
How are no-code integrations connecting the learning systems world? Find out which LMS APIs are most popular in this market analysis summary by John Leh.

“Is there really any difference between learning management systems?” As an independent learning systems analyst and consultant, I constantly hear this question. You might think that after reviewing hundreds of LMS solutions, they all look alike to me. Not so. Actually, the level of innovation I see is astonishing. Vendors everywhere continue to push new functional boundaries. And lately, it’s particularly easy to spot one hotbed of LMS innovation — integrations. Specifically, no-code integrations.

Many LMS buyers now consider the ability to connect and share data between various systems a must-have requirement. In fact, it’s often why organizations choose one vendor over another.

For example, a business may say it needs a learning platform that integrates with Salesforce. One vendor confidently replies, “Our API can integrate with anything.” But another says, “We provide a pre-built Salesforce integration that can help you do x, y, and z.” These responses may seem similar, but to an LMS buying team, the difference is clear. Which vendor would you choose?

Most learning systems provide highly sophisticated capabilities, but they rarely stand alone. In modern organizations, they must fit in with a spectrum of systems — HR, CRM, ERP, e-commerce, SSO, virtual meetings, and much more. Every buyer has a different ecosystem, and those ecosystems are always in flux. That’s why it’s essential for LMS solutions to be as flexible as possible. It’s also why vendors are actively working to make integrations faster, easier, less costly, more reliable, and less technically challenging to manage.

The answer? No-code LMS integrations.

What Are No-Code Integrations?

No-code integrations make it possible to connect and drive data flow between software applications or services without requiring traditional programming. With a no-code approach, teams and individuals who lack technical expertise can use visual interfaces and simple configuration tools to quickly build integrations that synchronize data across multiple systems. As a result, they can automate workflows, eliminate repetitive manual tasks and streamline business processes without writing custom code. This means organizations benefit from faster development processes, less reliance on IT departments, and lower technical costs.

Typically, LMS providers build and productize these integrations one by one, giving priority to systems and applications their clients need and use the most. Ultimately, no-code integrations bring the power of sophisticated big-company systems integration to the masses. And now, some LMS solutions are kicking it up a few more notches.

 


Do you want more information and analysis on the top 40 learning systems in the world? Buy our 2023 Corporate Learning Systems Market Update report – now available through the 2nd half of this year at a 50% discount!


 

Which LMS Vendors Leverage No-Code Integration Platforms?

Leading no-code integration platforms like Workato and Zapier provide a range of pre-built connectors or adapters that enable interaction with popular software applications, databases, APIs, or services. Their intuitive interfaces make it easy to select desired connectors and configure them by specifying relevant data maps, triggers, actions and conditions. Throughout the process, these integration platforms handle all the underlying complexity involved with connecting different systems and orchestrating the data flow.

How does this work in concert with an LMS? Here’s an example: You could create a workflow that automatically enrolls a learner in a CRM marketing campaign after the individual completes a specific training activity in the LMS. You could also create an automated task that notifies the appropriate salesperson to follow up with the learner one week later.

No-code integration platforms have become widely popular, thanks to their simplicity and their ability to provide access to hundreds of diverse applications. Now, they’re gaining momentum among LMS vendors and their users, as well.

Currently, LMS vendors leverage these systems in two ways: Either they loosely integrate by sending and accepting predefined data, with workflows created in the integration platform. Or they integrate an OEM version of the platform directly in their LMS for even more power and ease. Notable LMS vendors that embrace this direct integration model include Docebo, D2L, Cypher Learning and Absorb who can all support hundreds vs. dozens of integrations.

Now that you’ve been introduced to no-code integrations, are you ready to dig deeper? Read on for details from our 2023 Commercial Learning Systems Market Research Report

 


Traditional LMS API Integrations

Traditional application programming interfaces (APIs) are the heavyweights of LMS integration. For decades, LMS vendors have provided API integration capabilities. And given the continued strong demand for advanced custom integrations, 90% of the LMS award winners covered in our annual report still do. There are a variety of standard protocols LMS vendors standardize to reduce integration friction. The most popular protocols deployed by vendors are included in the chart below:

Most Popular LMS API Protocols

This integration method involves using APIs to connect and exchange data between different software systems. APIs provide a set of predefined rules, protocols and tools that enable communication and interaction between applications. API integration facilitates connections between an LMS and external systems, such as content management systems, CRM, SSO, or HR systems.

The traditional LMS API integration approach requires technical programming skills on both sides. It is more time-consuming and costly, but it offers more customization and flexibility. This means it can be tailored to any given use case.

Benefits of LMS No-Code Integrations

The more tightly an LMS is integrated into the broader business ecosystem, the more value an organization receives from that connection. Low-code integrations provide a variety of benefits:

  • Time-to-Value — Standard integrations take time, money and technical resources to set up on both sides. No-code integrations can just be turned on and configured.
  • Cost — Many LMS vendors provide a growing library of no-code integrations they include with a standard license. Some vendors do charge extra for premium integrations.
  • Maintenance — Since a no-code integration is a productized functional component of the LMS, the vendor maintains it, just like any other part of the product. This virtually eliminates the need for organizations to manage ongoing updates.
  • Reduced Administration — Lack of integration = increased manual administration.
  • Measurement — Combining training data with business data is the only way to provide insight into the value of learning in a language that executives speak.

The More LMS No-Code Integrations the Better

Because every organization has a different mix of business systems, use cases, learning audiences, training content, regulations and business goals, required integrations are often unique, mission-critical and directly tied to the budget. Learning systems with a large, diverse mix of integrations give buyers more reason to say yes.

Whether it’s integrations implemented one-by-one, or through an integration platform, there is a demand for more. Want to see some of the diversity in available LMS integrations and approaches? Check out the integration pages on these market leaders’ websites:

 


Do you want more information and analysis on the top 40 learning systems in the world? Buy our 2023 Corporate Learning Systems Market Update report – now available through the 2nd half of this year at a 50% discount!


 

Most Popular LMS No-Code Integrations

HR, SSO, CRM, virtual meetings, data analytics, credentialing, social, and in-the-flow-of-work applications are just a few no-code integration categories. The most popular types of categories and solution-specific integrations we found in researching our 2023 Commercial Learning Systems Market Research Report are outlined in the chart below:

Most Popular LMS Integrations

To learn more about the most popular LMS integration categories, read details from our research report in the sections below:

1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Integration with a customer relationship management platform is essential for all customer and partner/channel learning system deployments, and many employee LMS deployments as well. A CRM manages all the data associated with an organization’s customers or potential customers. It is used for sales, marketing, and business management purposes.

Data from a CRM is shared with an integrated learning system to drive personalization, adaptability, functionality, content assignments, pricing, promotions and much more. CRM integration often is deployed via two strategies — either pulling LMS data into the CRM for users who are primarily in the CRM, or the reverse.

Top CRM-LMS Integrations

2. e-Commerce

Many learning systems include native e-commerce capabilities for pricing, discounts, shopping carts and surrounding workflows for administration, notifications, and reports. Typically, the integration ties into an e-commerce gateway like Stripe or PayPal that can securely perform credit card processing and deposit payment funds into an LMS owner’s bank account. Alternatively, an LMS can integrate into an e-commerce storefront like Shopify or Magento, or a custom front-end that can be used for selling content, instead of using similar tools built into the LMS.

For advanced global learning businesses, it’s advantageous to integrate an LMS with a tax management system like Avalara or TaxJar to manage complex, diverse global tax collection needs.

3. Human Resource Management (HRM) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

HR/ERP integration is mandatory in most employee learning scenarios. A corporation typically has a human resources system or enterprise resource system in place that keeps track of all employees, their HR status, payroll and other HR and business functions. These are the upstream core systems that manage the business and feed user, manager, organization and role data into the LMS.

HR/ERP integrations are usually one-way. However, they can be two-way when the HR/ERP system is also the master record keeper of learning data.

4. Third-Party Content Providers

Almost all employee LMS deployments include off-the-shelf content from one or more content providers. 80% of employee learning systems content is sourced from third-party content providers, aggregators or LMS vendors themselves. This third-party content typically covers topics most organizations need including IT, sales, leadership, OSHA, HR, continuing education and much more.

Most learning systems vendors form integration and reseller relationships with third-party providers so it’s easier for their clients to get started quickly.

Top Content-LMS Integrations

5. Virtual Meetings

79% of the top LMS platforms we researched support some level of integration with popular third-party virtual classroom tools like Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Adobe Connect or WebEx. Virtual meeting functionality is like instructor-led management functionality, except the event location is online.

This integration lets administrators schedule events in the LMS while automatically scheduling them in the third-party virtual tool, as well. At the time of a session, learners enter the live event via the LMS without ever knowing they’re using a separate virtual tool. The virtual meeting tool tracks and reports attendance, attention, notes, chat and other data back to the LMS administrator. One-way integrations also exist and are sometimes sufficient, but most buyers want two-way data flow.

Top Virtual Meeting - LMS Integrations

6. Association Management Systems (AMS)

Association management systems are the core business system of most professional and trade associations. Among many other duties, an AMS manages membership and profile data of organizations and individuals. This data is then shared with the learning system. Training progress data is typically shared from an LMS back to the AMS, which is the official point of record.

AMS integration is a key differentiator among the top learning systems included in our 2023 research report, with nearly 30% of vendors providing some level of support.

Most Popular AMS-LMS Integrations

 

Closing Notes

As learning systems become increasingly mission-critical, the need for fast, diverse, affordable integration is mandatory. The tremendous diversity of integration categories and the almost infinite number of vendor solutions in each category makes every LMS deployment unique. It also means LMS vendors need to prioritize and support more and more no-code integrations, complete with automated workflow steps. The LMS world is an exciting place as we evolve from cost-based learning use cases to profit-driven scenarios. And no-code integrations are demonstrating the business value of embracing next-generation solutions.

Thanks for reading!

 


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About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is Founder, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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