10 Tips on LMS Implementation
By Steve Pena Senior Instructional Designer and Implementation Consultant SyberWorks, Inc.
“Ok, we bought an LMS, put up a course and turned it on. We can start using this thing tomorrow.” So says your manager, as you look at him half in shock, and half with that can-do serious face that has got you this far.
Of course nothing is that easy. Listed here are ten tips that you can apply to make your LMS implementation go more smoothly. If you decide on these “philosophical” issues before you start an implementation, it will progress much faster.
- Naming Conventions – Every data category needs a naming convention. Some might be very specific – for example:
- 'Smart' Class IDs — ABC-SAF-1-English-11-16-2008 — Where you have a code for your company (ABC), the category of the subject (Safety Level 1), the language it is being offered in (English, Spanish, Hindi), and the date it is offered (November 16, 2008). Or it can be a simple code like 'Safety101'
- UserIDs – employee numbers, email addresses, auto-generated?
- Passwords – email addresses, user-defined, or a fixed standard password changed by users when they log in for the first time?
- Courses – simple or complex coding structures?
- Classes – simple or complex coding conventions, or something in between?
- Course categories - subject-driven (safety, operating systems, nursing); organizational (Management, Corporate Mandatory, New Hire); something else?
- Hierarchy levels - Organizational or geographical?
- Reporting Needs – Perhaps better defined as “who needs to see what information.” Think of the different groups in your organization – students, managers, administrators, upper management, training managers – each of them probably needs different training information at different levels of detail.
For example, students might need detailed transcript reports, to let them know exactly where they stand in their training. Managers or supervisors may need to see who in their group is doing their training and who isn't – giving them a tool to remind the people who must still complete their training. Upper management probably wants total numbers, without details – such as percentages of people in their organization who are training according to plan, and percentages who are not – broken out by the separate groups they are managing.
Don't forget that these are training reports only - they aren't about job performance, pay scales, or anything outside the training realm. So be sure to investigate and understand your whole organization's training-information needs. You can then define the reports that need to be built to provide that information, including hierarchy-based reporting structures.
- Catalog Management — Think of how you want to organize your course catalog. Some organizational techniques may be:
- Offering certain classes to specific groups in the organization – A hospital group may want nurses in a specific hospital to take classes only at that hospital, and not at any another facility.
- Creating a separate pricing structure for certain large customers – They might need their own catalog.
- Management leadership programs – You may want to limit courses and classes by management structure.
- By third parties – Such as, offering different distributors different course offerings.
All such cases separate out a portion of your entire catalog for a specific group. So consider defining those groups, and make sure you are able to deliver only the training products that you want them to access.
- e-Commerce If you are going to offer your courses and classes through an e-Commerce portal, you will need to identify a merchant account that will handle all credit-card verifications and back-end banking. Authorize.net and Paypal are popular examples of such organizations.
- Competencies and learning paths – Many companies spend countless hours defining learning paths for attaining job roles, promotions, or other corporate goals. These are often scattered and loosely defined, or are adapted throughout the organization with no standardization. If you need to implement these types of plans, first spend some time understanding what is currently defined in your company and if it needs to be standardized (perhaps even streamlined) for training purposes.
- Branding – Some LMSs let you customize the look and feel or your training site. Determine what those needs are for you. Will your training portal need to parallel your company's existing Website design or its intranet's look and feel? You'll save a lot of time if you gather all company graphics (such as logos and special pictures you will need) and define the color schemes you want to use before your first LMS implementation meeting.
- User Information – There are many ways to get user information into an LMS. This will be defined by your organizational needs, for instance:
- You are an online learning provider - In this case, people will probably need to register for training through an online process.
- You have a stable employee work force - Here, you might need only an initial user-information upload, after which you can maintain the information manually through user editing screens.
- You have a very mobile work force - Maybe a nightly feed from your HR system would work best?
- Certificates – Do you want to issue certificates to students who pass courses? If so, then define upfront what the certificates will look like and which course/class information will appear on them.
- Interfaces – Will the LMS need to connect with any existing corporate systems? These may include an HR interface, or a backend link to order data on your accounting system. Define what your needs are in this area. Talk with your IT department to see how hard it will be to create such connections, and how long it will take to get your project on their active project list.
- Help Administration – Who will handle help-desk requests from students? Will the requests be centralized in the training department or de-centralized to information experts throughout the organization (IT, course subject matter, networking, and so on). Depending on the size and needs of your organization, most LMSs allow you to disperse this help-desk load. So be sure to identify the people who will fill these jobs, especially their email addresses and phone numbers.
Finally, print this article and give it to your manager. It will help them understand the size of the job you face. Some of these items can be defined and decided easily, while others may take some time and involve other organizations (like marketing, IT, accounting, and sales).
A very simple installation, where all of these items are defined ahead of time, could be done within days (or a couple weeks). But for larger organizations, an LMS installation could easily require months before all necessary decisions are made and everyone reaches accord. Either way, this list should give you a good start on that process.
About the Author:
Steve Pena is a Senior Instructional Designer and Implementation Specialist at SyberWorks, Inc., Waltham, Mass. SyberWorks is a custom e-Learning solutions company specializing in Learning Management Systems, e-Learning solutions, and custom online course development.