A while back, COLA decided that deploying an LMS would provide them with much-needed flexibility with the delivery of their online learning programs, while simultaneously offering them increased efficiencies and cost savings.
It was decided that the company would best achieve their goals by implementing an open-source LMS solution with the help of third-party consultants and developers. The belief was that a free LMS solution could be configured to meet all of their business requirements at a much lower cost than a commercial-off-the-shelf system, even when factoring in the consulting costs associated with having the system built to their specifications.
Working with the consultants the COLA team was able to define their list of LMS functional requirements which included the ability to sell and deliver online courses to a global audience using an e-commerce model.
What was supposed to be a money saver turned out to be the exact opposite; the open-source platform was never able to support the full list of initial requirements and developing and supporting this platform required far more resources than expected.
Their problems included:
- Clients were able to bypass the shopping cart and complete online training programs without ever paying. COLA staff now had to spend extra time pursuing customers for payment, after the clients had already completed their courses and received their training program certificates.
- COLA staff were spending more of their time supporting clients and maintaining/repairing the open-source LMS and less time on their core job functions.
- Clients were increasingly dissatisfied, with support incidents increasing and sales decreasing.
The longer the system was in place, the more money, time, and people it required to try and make it run properly. At one point, COLA was spending an additional $500-$1,000 per week on LMS maintenance – and this did not include the cost of internal staff time which had become a major problem. Also, finding people to develop content for the system was difficult and it could take up to one week to load a course into the open-source system and configure it to work properly.
Despite recognizing the warning signs early on, walking away from the open-source platform was difficult and could not be rushed. COLA had limited resources, and their customers needed continued access to their compliance courses; shutting the system down for several months, while they looked for and implemented a new LMS was simply not an option.
Despite the fact that the open-source platform was a complete failure it had become a core business platform. COLA had no choice but to continue to throw resources at the system until they were able to find and implement a suitable replacement solution. It took five to six years to extract themselves from their situation and to roll out a commercial replacement solution that met their needs.
After a lengthy search, COLA selected Absorb LMS. Absorb was selected for several reasons including cost, reliability and its robust feature set including built-in e-commerce support.
Since switching to the Absorb LMS, COLA has seen a significant increase in many key business indicators:
- Using the Absorb LMS e-commerce module, COLA is achieving higher course sales revenue than in the previous 6 years.
- They are experiencing a record low number of support incidents, resulting in the highest customer satisfaction they have seen since launching their online learning offerings.
- They are attracting more new customers and more repeat customers than ever before.
- They are selling more courses overall than in previous years, with more courses being purchased per customer than ever before.
- New courses are developed and available from the Absorb LMS within hours, not days.
- COLA staff are spending far less time managing the LMS platform, and have far more time available to spend on value-add business functions such as the creation of new, revenue generating education programs.
The efficiency gains, increased sales, and increased customer satisfaction have provided COLA with a tremendous return on investment from their Absorb LMS platform, proving to them that “free” can come with a hefty price. COLA continues to grow their position as the world’s largest provider of laboratory compliance and certification programs.