System configuration within Absorb includes a wide range of options and portal functionality within the LMS. While our Knowledge Base articles and Absorb Academy offer a detailed look at specific functionality available for setup, this article focuses on the decisions required to bring those elements of functionality together to achieve your training objectives.
The system configurations that we’ll cover are your system-wide portal defaults, message templates, departments, enrollments, reporting, and roles. Depending on your organization’s preferences, you will want to set them each up accordingly. Much of Absorb’s functionality can be set up to behave in an automated manner. However, there are some options that may be better suited for manual administration, or have a level of oversight by supervisors. .
Starting within Portal Settings, you will find most of your portal’s system-wide defaults here. The Info tab mostly contains information that your end-users will never see, although there are a couple of exceptions to this. The LMS Name is visible to learners and admins while navigating the user interface. To ensure that your branding standards are met, you will want to ensure that the name or text entered here reflects properly. The company name and email, while not immediately visible to users of your portal, becomes evident in messages received by learners and admins. Variables used in message templates allows system admins to include the details entered into the company name and email address fields.
For organizations that need to segregate their users to a higher degree than others, these variables may need to be removed from message templates altogether. If still in use, being mindful of what is entered here will be key to providing a consistent experience. We’ll cover message templates shortly in better detail, however this serves as a good reminder to keep this information updated to provide the best workflow for your admins.
Planning on making use of Absorb’s Offline Player App for iPad? Then you will want to enable the toggle available here accordingly. This, in no way, makes your learning content available offline in any other capacity. It simply allows learners to utilize the app for their own convenience, and take training on the go when they don’t have a steady, reliable internet connection. Or, if they want to take training in a location – like out in the field - where being online is not an option. There are some restrictions to what is available for offline learning with regards to learning content itself. You may want to keep this option disabled dependent on how your learning content is formatted. Otherwise, it may cause more confusion for learners if your organization prefers to roll out training that is not compatible with the offline app.
This area contains options that will determine what happens when a user first logs in, directly impacting the user’s initial experience when accessing Absorb LMS.
Like many others, your organization is likely security-minded, and may require that users reset their password upon their first login. An option exists to force learners to do just this if your security requirements ask that this be completed. While this may not apply to those using SSO to have users authenticate into the LMS, it may be crucial for portals where users log in directly to the portal rather than with third-party authentication.
It is also possible to force learners to take a specific course prior to gaining access to the rest of your portal here. Thought behind whether the course selected here will apply to all users will be important for a good first experience when logging in. The course should be applicable to all users, and if not, may be better suited as a course that a learner is automatically enrolled into once added to the LMS. This way, they can dive into other training first as their role may require, and come back to it later. With a mandatory course enabled here, this would not be possible, and might delay the learner from taking more pertinent training first.
User Profile Tab
There are three mandatory fields required to be filled out by default in Absorb: Username, First Name, and Last Name. While it isn’t possible to change these to optional, hidden, or read only, the rest of the fields available here can be updated according to your needs. If your organization requires as much information as possible about your users, you may consider setting every field to required. Keep in mind though, whether you want your learners to have the ability to see or update their own profile. It may be preferable in some cases to allow this so that system admins do not have to manually input or update information. In cases where and HRIS system is used to keep information accurate, and up-to-date, you may want to keep all the fields set to hidden or read only. This will keep learners from tampering with their profile information, and keep your records accurate in all areas.
Custom Fields Tab
Custom Fields can be very powerful tools when used in conjunction with surveys, HRIS software, or organization of your users. They can be added to augment fields that already exist within the LMS, and provide additional details that your organization feels is crucial to your user management or reporting needs. Like the user profile fields, these can be made optional, required, hidden or read only as well. In addition to this, they offer added functionality to system admins who wish to retain additional information about their users. During setup, details that don’t otherwise fit into the standard LMS fields should be considered a good candidate for a custom field. These can be used to report on, and organize your users. Custom fields can be used to further filter your reports, and can also be relied upon to create groups automatically with availability rules. Depending on the amount and type of information you require on your Users, it may be essential to have these fields and their format determined prior to user import.
The language that your portal defaults to is an important piece of setup that should be considered, and updated, dependent on the locale that most of your learners will be logging in from, or the language they are expected to speak. This will allow users to get started quickly, and in their native language. Of course, to ensure accessibility, system admins can opt to support many languages of which users can update in both the admin and learner user interfaces. It’s good to remember that while a default language may be selected here, the default language in a user’s profile can override this setting here. It is simply a jump-off point for users getting into the LMS for the first time.
Depending on your organization’s locale and reporting preferences, you may opt to update the report date format. This will consistently present the date anywhere it appears in the LMS, or on certificates, in the same format as chosen here. It is not possible to have multiple date formats for different reports or set up separately for certificates. Be mindful with this setting as the data can easily be misinterpreted if your admins or learners are not aware.
If you’re looking to save some time on course setup, system admins can upload course images that will appear for any learning content that doesn’t have images uploaded during the creation of each. Given that the New Learner Experience relies heavily on course artwork, it may be desirable to have artwork auto-appear for courses where it was missed. You’ll want to ensure that the imagery used is adaptable enough to be used on any topic or course type.
How you communicate with your users will mainly be determined and managed by your Message Templates. These customizable, and automated system emails can be found under Setup, and cover many events for users in your portal. You’ll find templates for account creation, course enrollment, and course completion to name only a few of many. These emails can be sent to users, department admins, supervisors, or any combination of the three.
It is important to note here that courses, curricula, and ILC’s can have their own email templates. When enabled, they override the message templates found in the Setup menu which otherwise establish the message to be sent. In configuring your portal, you can choose which templates you want to use by default, and then edit and enable them accordingly. The templates that exist are all accurate and ready to be received by users as they contain the basic details necessary. To have them appear more in line with your own branding and languaging needs, they may need to be updated to suit you or your organization’s preferences.
Message templates are also language-specific, so it is worthwhile to specify a user’s language in their profile if they are using any language other than English. Just as important, you will want to update message templates in all languages where necessary so that all users receive the same, consistent message.
Beyond this, there are options to send each message template to the learner, department admin, supervisor, or any combination thereof. Enabling the department admin option will only send a copy of the email to the administrator that manages the department the learner belongs to. If your organization would prefer that each department admin receives this message, it may be preferable to have the user profile set up to include them as a supervisor. Alternatively, the learner’s profile could be updated to include the department admin’s email in the CC Email Addresses field. This will copy them on all automated system messages if the user in question requires further oversight. Depending on how many users each admin is set up to receive a copy of mail for, this may become too great a task to review each message. Keep this in mind when assigning any sort of message copying to your admins to prevent them from receiving what could otherwise be a flood of email.
Departments & Groups
Choosing between the use of Departments and Groups, or using a combination of the two, will be something to take into consideration prior to adding your Users into Absorb. When setting up users within your portal, they are the two methods of organization available. Departments are ideal if you are looking to create a different appearance learner user interface for specific sets of users. It is also the more robust option for reporting within the LMS for administrators, and determining management of users by assigning specific departments to admins.
As the primary, and recommended means of organizing users, departments use a hierarchical structure. This is like the structure of most typical organizations where certain groups of people or employees will work below one or more other employees that fall into a in a manager or supervisor role. It’s easy to nest departments, and there can be as many departments created as necessary to properly organize your users. It’s important to point out, however, that users cannot belong to more than one department at a time.
If your organization structure requires a little more flexibility in this respect, Absorb also has groups. This is an alternative method for organizing your Users that offers the ability for admins to have users belong to more than one set of users. Groups can be created manually by adding Users individually, or through an automated filter based on any number of rules and refinements as needed. And, unlike departments, a user can be a member of multiple groups at the same time. Filtering options based on group-focused data in reports are not as robust as those for departments, but can still be widely found.
There are several ways that users can be enrolled into learning content within the LMS. If the preferred method is having learners enroll themselves, this can be achieved with self-enrollment enabled in the course-level availability settings. With self-enrollment, admins can opt to allow only specific users the permission to enroll in certain course content, making it invisible to any other learners accessing the catalog.
On the other hand, if you want an automated process to have learners enrolled into course content immediately after being added to the portal, this can be achieved by automatic enrollment. Admins can set up availability rules – like self enrollment – that have learners enrolled after the course settings have been saved. This can be a good workflow for mandatory courses new employees are required to take. Whatever your use case is, automatic enrollment provides a simple method for admins to have learners enrolled based on their profile information. The LMS considers these rules every time a new user is added, or their profile information is updated, so you can be sure that users are enrolled, and kept up-to-date as necessary without adding unnecessary workload on your admins.
If your organization has opted to use e-commerce, this can be used in conjunction with self-enrollment availability rules. Course content can be made available for purchase only to existing users. This is useful for those who are looking to limit what learners have access to the purchasable content. Course content can also be made available publicly for users to purchase as well. Enabling this option overrides the self-enrollment rules, and allows anyone to buy your course content. This is a great way to increase sales of your content, and make it easier for potential learners to find new courses. Of course, this is only possible if you have chosen to allow users to view your portal’s course catalog without being logged in. Making the course available for purchase to the public will be overridden by this option, but can be easily managed by a system admin in the E-Commerce Settings found in Portal Settings.
As an additional step to provide admins additional oversight on a course’s enrollments, admins can choose to have a specific user approve enrollments for each course. Depending on your use case, this may be necessary for a complicated set of availability rules, or information that cannot be determined by the LMS alone. Approval can be completed by the course editor, supervisor, administrator, or someone hand-picked by the admin. Regardless of who is chosen here, they will be able to approve each enrollment prior to the learner gaining access to the content. This provides a manual method to see if the learner meets the requirements necessary to access the learning content. To ensure that the process reduces work for admins, Absorb does still provide the option to enable approval request emails under the Messages tab in course settings. This will automatically inform the chosen user that they have a pending enrollment, and will also send a notification to the learner once they have been successfully enrolled, if approved. Learners gain immediate access to the content at this point, so the admin again, does not have to do any further steps to their workflow.
If self-serve enrollment isn’t an option for your specific use case using the above-mentioned options, admins still can manually enroll users into course content. This can be completed on a user-by-user basis, or by completing a mass enrollment. While this adds some additional work, the workflow itself is simple, and can be achieved with minimal effort.
Overall, availability rules for self- and automatic enrollment can be refined in such a way that it is easy to target specific users in your organization at a granular level. Whether you want them enrolling on their own, being automatically registered for a course, or choosing to offer the course for purchase, there are many ways to get your content to your learners on time. How your organization requires this to be rolled out will be the primary influence on admin workload and enrollment numbers.
You’ll discover that the more you use reports in Absorb, that many of the decisions you make over your system configuration will affect them. Most reports are run principally against all users or specific departments, although it is possible to filter for specific groups.
As an example of this, the Department Progress report directly pulls data dependent on your user structure alone. In the data displayed, it’s one of the few reports where it isn’t possible to filter for a specific group.
The Learner Progress report on the other hand, does allow admins to filter for a specific group, and can provide progress data. Your reporting needs are a significant consideration in your user organization, and whether you use groups instead of departments.
Further to that, reports containing any data from user profiles can also be filtered by their user fields, including the custom fields that you choose to set up. Be sure to review the reports available within Absorb LMS, prior to user organization as this can inform your decisions on how best to do so. Typically, relying on a department structure will work for most, but you may look to groups instead if you have multiple users that don’t fit into a traditional, hierarchical structure.
Absorb LMS comes with four standard roles: Admin, Instructor, Reporter, and System Admin. These roles cannot be edited or deleted to ensure that there is at least a baseline set for admins to have access to. It also eliminates the opportunity for a user to accidentally lose their log in privileges. Further to this though, they can be used as a starting point to create new custom roles through duplication, followed by editing the assigned permissions as needed.
While you can create custom roles with your desired sets of permissions, it should be noted that some permissions will be dependent on others in order to be fully realized. Careful thought (as well as some follow-up testing) should be given to your custom roles to ensure you have accounted for all necessary permissions. A few considerations: To modify anything in the LMS, you must also be able to view it. Several reports rely on basic view access for users or certain course types. For example, enabling access to the Course Activity report will get you as far as navigating to the report itself. To see any records on this report you would also need to enable view access for online courses. The same goes for something like view access for users when granting access to the Learner Activity report.
In the Pre-Built Admin Roles section above, an Instructor role was mentioned. As explained, this role allows a user to manage ALL ILC Sessions within the LMS. However, there is also the option to have an Instructor role that enables a user to manage only the ILC Sessions for which they are a designated instructor. To achieve this sort of restricted access, you simply need to enable the instructor toggle, rather than enabling the admin toggle. This toggle comes with a specific pre-built set of permissions so it is not necessary to select a role.
Administrative roles are assigned within a user’s profile under the Account tab, and by enabling the Admin toggle. Here you can choose either a standard or custom role, as well as what kind of user management the admin has. The All option is self explanatory, however you want to take caution here if you do not want the admin to see a specific set of users. Department management will present the option to select one or more departments to manage, as well as whether they include the sub-departments or not. Groups provides a similar option, however users cannot manage more than one group at a time. This is, again, where deciding how your users are organized will impact the management of them as well.
Using administrative roles will ensure that admins only see the Users you want them to. When used in concert with customized roles, or simply on their own, you can provide tailored Administrative access. Again, it cannot be overstated that your user hierarchy is very important when determining your department structure. It informs many aspects of the LMS, and when set up with these considerations in mind, makes for simplified administration.