With SharePoint Modern, Microsoft provided a clear recommendation to use a flat hierarchy and employ hub sites to connect sites, instead of using subsites to organize sites in an intranet.
This strategy has prompted Microsoft to roll out updates that have made it more difficult for subsites to be created. As of today, a SharePoint subsite is created for every course and training plan in LMS365, this has been a challenge to some customers.
The direction of the LMS365 product is closely aligned with Microsoft’s strategy. Because of this, and along with our intention to best prepare for potential future changes away from subsites, we have made the decision that, going forward, courses and training plans will no longer be dependent on subsites. Instead, courses and training plans will be created as pages in the root of the SharePoint course catalog site.
The change will be introduced with the January 2022 release of LMS365 scheduled to January 25, 2022.
In this article, we will introduce this coming change of structure and how it will affect customers.
In this article:
- How will the solution work?
- How will the change affect the user interface for learners and admins?
- How will the change affect flows created with LMS365 APIs?
- What impact does the change have on security?
- What happens to all current courses and training plans?
- What are the future plans?
How will the solution work?
Today, when a course or training plan is created in LMS365, a SharePoint subsite is also created and SharePoint permissions ensure only relevant people and roles have access to view and modify materials used in the training. The training home page is created as the home page of the subsite.
With the coming change of the structure, each new course and training plan will get an individual SharePoint page, much as they currently do. However, with the new update, this page will be placed in the root of the SharePoint course catalog site.
For courses with learning module documents or other file assets, a folder associated with the course—on the course catalog site level—will store the files. This folder will be security trimmed, meaning that only relevant people and roles will have permissions to view and modify the content. In this way, the folder, and not the site, will control access to the course materials.
How will the change affect the user interface for learners and admins?
The change will primarily be noticeable behind the scenes and the learner experience will remain almost entirely the same.
However, there will be slight changes to the navigation of course and training plan pages and the way some course and training plan home page elements are managed. Below, you can see a list of these changes:
Permissions of the course administrator
When courses and training plans do not have their own dedicated subsite, course administrators will not have access to SharePoint’s page editing options for course and training plan home pages and will, therefore, not be able to edit course and training plan home pages from SharePoint.
Because of this, we will change the course and training plan configuration in LMS365 to allow course admins to still manage central elements displayed on course and training plan home pages.
The banner and thumbnail image of course and training plan home pages
To enable course admins to still manage the banner and thumbnail image on course and training plan home pages, we will no longer rely on the thumbnail image of the subsite and banner image of the SharePoint page.
Instead, the banner image will be placed in the LMS365 Course Home Page web part and will be managed from the LMS365 course and training plan create/edit interface.
The thumbnail image of the course or training plan will be managed the same way as currently—from the create/edit course interface—and will be displayed at the top-left corner of the banner image.
Catalog admins will be able to define a default banner image on course catalog-level. This image can be changed for the specific course and training plan by the course admin.
The Home and Back to Learning Portal links serve as the default SharePoint subsite navigation. Therefore, these links will disappear on course and training plan pages. Instead, the general SharePoint navigation from the course catalog will be the sole navigation when viewing a course or training plan home page.
The URL of new courses and training plans will change from:
https://<tenantname>.sharepoint.com/sites/<course catalog name>/<training name>/SitePages/Course.aspx
https://<tenantname>.sharepoint.com/sites/<course catalog name>/SitePages/<training name>.aspx
This will mirror their new place in the SharePoint hierarchy.
To enable course admins to still edit regional settings of individual courses and training plans, these settings will be moved to the course and training plan create/edit interface.
As SharePoint themes are applied per subsite or site collection, individual SharePoint themes will not be available for different courses or training plans in the same catalog. With the new architecture, all course and training plan pages in a course catalog will have the same SharePoint theme—the theme which is selected on the level of the SharePoint site of the course catalog.
How will the change affect flows created with LMS365 APIs?
In general, flows created with LMS365 APIs will continue to work as they currently do.
Flows will only be affected in cases where SharePoint APIs are used to change training settings and the flow assumes page or learning module items are stored in a subsite.
What impact does the change have on security?
From a security perspective, most things will remain the same.
Files such as images or documents, that are used in learning modules, are still stored in the customer’s Microsoft 365 tenant in a structure via SharePoint Online, and SharePoint access management is still used to secure these structures. Security permissions on such files will also be the same.
There will be a slight change, however, to the possibility of accessing course and training plan pages.
Even if targeting is enabled, a user who is not part of the target group, will be able to navigate via a deep link to a course or training plan page. However, no information or content will be visible, and the page will display a message letting the user know that the course or training plan is not available.
The name of the course or training plan will also be possible to find for people outside of the target audience with some extra attention. The URL may provide some clue about the course or training plan title, and the savvy SharePoint user can navigate to the SharePoint Site Pages library and look at the name property of the page from here. Again, the user will have to be knowledgeable about SharePoint, and also possess at least SharePoint Read permissions for the course catalog site, to perform this action.
What happens to all current courses and training plans?
When this change becomes available with the January 2022 release, all new courses and training plans will be created using the new approach.
Courses and training plans that already exist will not be changed. This means that all current courses and training plans will preserve their URL, structure, navigation, appearance, and course and training plan edit interface.
What are the future plans?
In the future, we will offer a way to migrate courses and training plans that were created prior to the change. This will include moving the home page of these courses and training plans to the root of the course catalog, moving any learning module files to a security trimmed folder on the course catalog level, and deleting the subsite of these courses and training plans.
We will provide information about the timing and options for migration at a future date.