Editor’s Note: We would like to thank our friend and client, Kevin Grolton, Education Technology Specialist at the Endocrine Society, for contributing this article.
Many education providers turn to a pre-built learning management system with the hope that it will support all their needs without any customization. However, every provider has some business practices which require adaptations to support their CME initiatives. Partnering with the right technology team and an open-source platform can allow you to create almost any customizations you can imagine. But is it always the right choice to customize each time?
When the Endocrine Society implemented a new learning management system with EthosCE, we began a thorough discovery process to document our business requirements and identify the appropriate solutions for each. Many times, we would encounter a difference in the independent, product-by-product business rules we were accustomed to, and the larger interconnected system we were implementing. We realized quickly that a product or event-centric approach to documenting and addressing requirements wouldn’t work in a new system where everything would come together. We took a closer look at our business requirements to transition them from single-product thinking to be more flexible and holistic:
- Is our current method the best way to approach this function?
- This approach may have worked before (when it was a stand-alone program on a dedicated system), but does it still work now in the context of other programs and events all in the same system?
- Would changing our method to better fit the new system negatively impact the program or our users?
- Is there a less-drastic customization that would help preserve the learning design and method, but cause less technical disruption in the new system?
Together with the DLC team, we were able to answer these questions and identify solutions which moved us toward our development goals to support our core educational formats; allow for future new educational formats to be developed without impacting existing functions; create new features which have multiple uses which might support future, undeveloped activities; and develop customizations in the simplest way possible, reducing future unforeseen issues (and costs).
Building a learning management system with EthosCE, you can add on new functions and customize existing ones to make it fit you perfectly. But making too many changes or building overly-complicated additions can make a jumbled mess when your customizations interact with each other. It’s critical for the education provider and technology partner to have a clear and focused conversation about customizations, and identify when it’s appropriate for a customization to be made, and when it’s better for the business requirement to be modified (or removed). It can be difficult, in a traditional client-services relationship, to say “no” to a client, or resist saying “yes, we can do that.” An honest, frank discussion about feasibility, with recommendations of best practices and alternative solutions from both parties, benefits both in the long-run and results in a more stable, more usable, and more easily-upgraded system for the future. Anything is possible in technology, with enough time and resources.