How to use webhooks in eLearning
The potential of webhooks to create more efficient eLearning processes has yet to be fully realized. For some users, that’s fine. Standard features are all they need from an LMS. But for others, tools like SSO, API and webhooks could be used to customize and automate a more effective system. Yet webhooks, in particular, are little understood. While they’re underused in eLearning, they’re also often suggested as a solution for problems they’re not really relevant to. If you’d like to access real-time information about learners and courses, here’s why webhooks should matter to you.
What are webhooks?
In a previous post, I compared SSO and API to a knife and fork. While the tools work well together, they also serve different purposes. To extend that analogy further, webhooks are like a dessert spoon. While a webhook can act as an effective supplement to SSO and API, it can also be used on its own.
You should consider implementing webhooks if you’d like to be notified about an event as soon as it happens in your LMS. Your developer will create a “module” (that module can be a simple script or piece of code on your own website) that allows you to “listen” for the event: when a course is completed, or a learner fails an exam, for example. When the event occurs, the LMS will use the webhook to notify you in real time. You can then use information forwarded with the webhook to update or create further actions in a separate website or application.
How you already use webhooks
Most of us already use the concept of webhooks on a daily basis, even if we aren’t aware of it. Every time you receive a text message on your mobile phone, you receive a kind of webhook. That’s because your phone is an application that receives a piece of information from a given source. While the word “webhook” might seem to suggest a method or action, mostly it’s used to describe the “information” that’s transferred between sending and receiving parties.
In this example:
- The person who sent the message is the sending party
- You are the receiving party
- The text message is the webhook.
Once you receive the message, you’re free to use it as you please – respond to or delete the message if it doesn’t interest you! That also applies to eLearning. You can receive a webhook, use the information you need about learners and courses, and simply discard the rest.
Using webhooks in eLearning
There are as many ways to use webhooks as there are pieces of information you would like to pull from your LMS. If you’re using an LMS to deliver courses, you could benefit from receiving information like completion data as it happens in real time, for example. There are, of course, alternative ways to do so. You could use a tool or LMS feature to generate or schedule a report. Or you could ask your developer to use our API to extract the information you need from your LMS. But webhooks have the potential to be more efficient than all of these alternatives.
All of these other options involve what I call “intent”. You must do something to get the information you need from your LMS. Can you imagine if you had to constantly call your loved ones to ask if they had a new text message for you? It wouldn’t be very efficient, or much fun!
The webhook movement solves these problems. If you want to know when a user completes a course, LearnUpon can use a webhook to tell you as soon as it happens. All you need to do is listen out for the webhook, just as your phone listens out for new text messages. While your phone has been programmed to listen, implementing a webhook involves one extra step. You need to code a small site or service. We’ll then deliver the data in a neat webhook package, saving you from the need to look for it. The information will be available to you in real time whenever you need it and however you’d like to use it.
Examples of webhooks in eLearning
Like a text message, the webhook contains chunks of information that pass on important details to your application. Examples of such data include:
- Who completed a course
- Which course was completed
- When the course was completed
- What score they achieved.
And like a text message, you can choose to ignore some messages and to read and act on others. You can choose to take the information received and store it in other applications. Or you can use information from the webhook to:
- Build reports, dashboards or leaderboards
- Update a learner’s status in your database
- Email a customer
- Log an accounting entry.
Once you’ve defined the kinds of information that are most important to you, your developer can build a corresponding “listener”, waiting patiently for the next webhook to arrive from your LMS! And you’ll never need to look for the data again. The webhook will deliver it to you.
For more information on how LearnUpon uses webhooks, contact our support team for access to our detailed documentation