Thursday, February 26, 2015

Learning Management Systems for SharePoint

A few of my clients have inquired about LMS systems for SharePoint. What I found is that most of them focus on on-premises deployments, mostly because they've been around since the WSS3.0/MOSS days. It also seems that they have their own databases and custom web parts to work with content. But over all they seem to be competent and fairly feature compatible with Moodle.

So this is list is by no means exhaustive, but I think it gives a pretty good jumping off comparison between Moodle, SharePoint LMS, and ShareKnowledge (the latter two being SharePoint integrated LMS systems).

Feature Moodle SharePoint LMS ShareKnowledge LMS
Supervisor Assigned Course Yes Yes Yes
Elecctive Courses Yes Yes Yes
Cohort Enrollment (Group Enrollment) Yes Yes Yes
Guest Access Yes Yes**** Yes****
Course Tracks Yes Yes Yes
Category Enrollment (Enroll in courses by category) Yes
External Database Yes
Flat Files Yes
IMS Enterprise Yes
LDAP Enrollment Yes
Mnet - Linked Moodle Sites Yes
PayPal Yes
User Interface      
Responsive Design Yes Yes*** Yes***
Personalised Dashboards Yes Yes Yes
Collaborative Tools Yes Yes Yes
Calendar Yes Yes Yes
Drag & Drop Files Yes Yes Yes
Web based Text Editor Yes Yes Yes
Notifications Yes Yes Yes
Progress tracking  Yes Yes Yes
Customizable Site Design Yes Yes Yes
Multilingual Capabilities Yes Yes Yes
Bulk Corse Creation Yes Yes Yes*
Social Tagging Yes Yes
Integrated Access Controls Yes Yes Yes
Course Capabilities      
Platform based Course & Quiz Yes Yes Yes
Randomized Questions Yes
Time Limits Yes
SCORM Integration Yes Yes Yes
AICC Integration Yes Yes
LTI External Web Site Integration Yes
Instructor Lead Course Yes Yes Yes
Self-paced Course Yes Yes Yes
Blended Instructor/Self-paced Yes Yes Yes
Multi Media Integration Yes Yes Yes
Peer and Self Assessment Yes
Gradebook Yes Yes Yes
Scaled Grading Yes Yes Yes
Course Privacy Yes Yes Yes
Version Control Yes
Course Certificates Yes Yes Yes
Built in Reports Yes Yes Yes
Integrated Report Builder Yes Yes Yes
External Integration Yes**
AD Synchronization Yes
HRIS Sintegration Yes
Outlook Claendar & Notifications Yes
WebEx, Lync, GoToWebinar, AdobyConnect Yes
* ShareKnowledge has a bulk question load capabilitiy as well
** Via SQL Server Reporting Services or other BI Reporting tools
*** Responsive Design must be built into the SharePoint installation
**** Guest Users must be authenticated

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pitfalls of Site Collection Consolidation

So, you're considering consolidating Site Collections in SharePoint.  I suspect that some of your reasons are:
  1. I feel like I have too many site collections.
  2. It feels like it's difficult to manage the security of all of my site collections.
  3. Publishing based navigation doesn't cross the site collection boundary.
  4. We're really only hosting a single "site" in this web application anyway.
What do you loose when you consolidate Site Collections?
  • Maximal, you can only have one Content Database per Site Collection.
    • More content databases allow for different SQL Server based backup schedules based on the site collection's use.
    • Content Databases will be at their smallest (individually) when there's only one Site Collection in each database.
    • Content Databases can be distributed across multiple SQL Server instances, distributing the SQL workload across a SQL grid.
  • Power Shell & Central Admin based backups all you to backup individual Site Collections.
    • If you have one big site collection, your backup is going to be one big file.

What do you gain by consolidating Site Collections?
  • Security will be just as difficult.
    • If you users are installing no-code solutions (i.e. site templates), they'll need to be site collection admins.  This can get complicated quickly if users become an admin of the entire web app.
    • You'll still need to audit the entire hierarchy's ACLs to ensure you're protecting information appropriately.
  • Publishing based navigation can be used to navigate everything in your site.
    • Granted that your web-sites don't get deeper than your maximum menu depth.  That's typically 2-3 levels based on what you've munged in stock Master Pages.
    • With 3rd party solutions for SP2010 and Managed Navigation for SP2013, the problem becomes how important is top-menu security trimming.

What are some gotcha's if you decide to consolidate?
  • Depending on the tool you use you need to match Site Collection Features in the Source and Target.
    • Many Collection level features install content types and list templates, if these aren't in the target you're going to run into trouble.
    • In SP2013 if your going from a Publishing Site to another site, Export-SPWeb and Import-SPWeb won't let you pass unless Publishing Infrastructure is turned on.
  • SP2013 Workflows: They may not enable after merging site collections. Scenario:
    • Source site collection has some SP2010 workflow remnants, and aren't necessarily in use.
    • Destination site didn't have Workflows enabled before the merge.
    • After the merge the Workflow feature won't enable because some of the content types are already present, and marked as non-replacable.
    • It's really a bug in the installer that it doesn't recognize that these are the same, but it sill won't go.
    • Solution: Enable Workflows prior to merging, or you're going to have to re-merge with a site collection where it is enabled, or workflows will be a no-go.

Short story, Site Collection consolidation is something that requires more than a few moments of thought.  Make sure you're doing it for the right reasons, take precautionary steps, and you'll meet with success.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Site Collection Consolidation

Site Collection consolidation is an interesting topic, and in my opinion one that bears some significant consideration before proceeding.  Why this article?  I recently worked with a client who wanted to consolidate from 50+ Site Collections to ~3.  The reason, the number of site collections seemed unmanageable at that point.  There was a only a single Content Database as well.  So since then I've been putting more and more thought in to the issue.  Here's some of the talking points:

  • Microsoft recommends limiting content databases to 200 GB.
  • Each site collection may reside in a single content database
    • Thus recommend maximum size for a site collection is also 200 GB.
  • Site Collections represent a monolithic security context, i.e. they do not inherit permissions from other objects.
    • One object may be that a Site Collection inherits the ability to provide anonymous access from the Web Application that surrounds it.
    • Site Collections inherit the authentication mechanism(s) defined by the Web App.
    • Neither of these are permissions, but rather mechanical 'illities that are granted to the Site Collection by it's parent Web App.
Content and Navigation:
  • With Publishing Infrastructure (SharePoint Enterprise), navigation can be auto-generated based on the Site-Subsite relationships
  • Automatic security trimming based user access
  • Publishing based navigation doesn't cross the Site Collection boundary
    • I'm not sure if this is good or bad.  I'm usually building single tenant intranet sites, so this isn't a plus, but recently I've had a chance to work with a client who provides SharePoint sites to multiple tenants, and this feature is a plus.
  • SharePoint 2013 brought about pinned Managed Metadata for navigation.
    • Each site collection requires a copy of the pinned data, which can clutter the metadata tree.
    • Security Trimming doesn't occur here
  • Lists that refer to other lists only occur with in a single site collection.
    • Again more of a problem for a single tenant with lots of site collections, a requirement for one collection per tenant.
  • Controls that pull resources like XSLT from inside the SharePoint Web structure can't access content from other Site Collections.
    • You'll need to duplicate those resources across collections.
  • Master Pages must be installed in each site collection.
    • Pages can't reference a master page from another collection.

So next post, more on Issues with Consolidating Site Collections.