A review of the Firmwater LMS, which is designed to help training companies to provide elearning courses to their clients with minimum of fuss and distraction, while maximising engagement and effectiveness.
I am not sure where the name Firmwater came from for a learning management system. However, the phrase ‘still waters run deep‘ (a proverb of Latin origin now commonly taken to mean that a placid exterior hides a passionate or subtle nature) actually came to mind, and in many ways is a very accurate description of the Firmwater LMS.
Why? Well, Firmwater prides itself on being a very clean and clear LMS to use for training companies and that is absolutely true, but in its clarity of purpose there is considerable depth to this product.
So what are the in-depth features that make the Firmwater LMS so interesting and useful for training organisations all over the world?
Let’s begin with the interface, or the UI and UX from a learner perspective. Ease of use with a real “2 click” to the course is delivered seemingly effortlessly with the minimum of clutter and distraction by a clean and clear interface.
Yes, the interface can be branded and some really good layers of polish and presentation added, but the overall principles of ease of access are never forgotten. This is important as this LMS is designed to deliver training (SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004 and other materials) not manage complex schedules of meeting room availability or make the tea as too many corpulent corporate LMS now do. The Firmwater LMS is about purpose.
However, Fimwater has some pretty smart features that really enhances it on its purpose of delivering training for training organisations.
Content management is simple and all the content is held at the “master portal” level. This is important as many training organisations need to provide client portals (clones or multi-tenancy solutions) for their customers. In using Firmwater it is not necessary to have multiple iterations of content copied and licensed down to each client portal. Instead, the content resides at the top and is simply made available to use. This saves time and makes life simple for the LMS administrator (the heroes of our industry).
The Client Portal or Site is a breeze to create and configure in Firmwater: simple and elegant, but comes fully loaded with all the features needed, including full branding, automated customisable emails for each client site, the ability to assign roles and responsibilities to users that reflect the organisational hierarchy, and of course full reporting.
One particular feature of Firmwater I like is that learners can be enrolled only into the specific portal, at the portal level. This is important to understand in the context of confidentiality and GDPR. I raise this as I am aware of several enterprise portals (and training focused portals) that have experienced learner overlap, with learners from different companies when enrolled in the same course having their comments on the course shared to all course users. Imagine if 2 competing companies have learners on the same course with a training provider and they overlap…. it has happened!
The Firmwater architecture prevents this happening. Important to bear in mind.
Firmwater has a deep integration with Shopify to manage e-commerce, a step up from a simple payment gateway, as Shopify will allow a range of dynamic integrations (to Salesforce for example) and allows the training organisation to offer ancillary products and services.
Communications and learner management
There are a full range of pre-prepared very easy to use and personalise e-mail communication messages to add a level of professionalism and purpose to clients’ trainees. Overall the administrative back end is easy to use, with an intuitive design, so client portals can be quickly created and clients can manage their own portal if so desired.
The reporting suite is comprehensive and again easy to use and the client portal is flexible and impeccable levels of data privacy are maintained within a client portal (driven by setting up of the roles and responsibilities) and that no overlap or leak of learner records can take place in the carefully designed Firmwater architecture.
Content management and distribution
Firmwater is unusual that as a training focused LMS it supports SCORM 1.2 and 2004. It also has a neat trick that the platform will automatically encode into SCORM 1.2 for any video uploaded to the LMS. This has benefits for the learner as they can pause and return to the video as they choose and naturally to the LMS administrator the time spent and completion metrics are recorded.
Firmwater will also allow and manage the distribution of SCORM files into third party LMS. So a training provider can supply courses to MegaCorp’s LMS. Useful indeed.
Firmwater also enables enhanced video distribution delivery performance by allowing videos to be hosted on global video sharing sites, such as YouTube or Vimeo, which much improves the streaming experience.
Support and development pathway
Support is swift and friendly and not prescribed or time limited (though there is fair use clause) and Firmwater has a really good approach to engaging with its users to inform the development pathway.
Certificate verification service
Evidence of a user led development pathway is the certificate authentication service launched in Q3 2018 by Firmwater at the request of Firmwater clients. The certificate verification service has a QR code that is embedded in each certificate issued from the Firmwater LMS to learners.
An employee arriving for a job hands the original to the prospective employer who using a mobile phone and the QR code is able to validate the certificate to the individuals name and when it was completed. The QR code opening the Firmwater certificate verification service to allow the employer to verify…. very useful indeed.
Firmwater offers quite transparent pricing… something I like in this type of product, but much more interestingly the pricing model is very well aligned to the needs of training organisations, indicating that the Firmwater team really do understand the requirements of their customers at all levels.
So to summarise our Firmwater LMS review – it’s a platform with a clear purpose: for training companies to deliver elearning courses to their clients with the minimum of distraction and with the maximum of engagement and efficiency.
Visit the Firmwater website at www.firmwater.com to learn more about this impressive LMS.
Lead eLearning Consultant
Our lead elearning consultant David Patterson is an expert in training technologies such as learning management systems, and in elearning best practices.
He has helped many public and private sector organisations across the UK, Europe and worldwide to create and deliver engaging, effective elearning.
David is joint author of several research papers including the highly acclaimed Learning Light reports on the UK elearning market.