After much deliberation, your organization has made the critical decision to replace your old LMS with a new system. Or you’ve finally decided to implement an LMS for the first time. In either case, the issue now becomes: How do we plan for the LMS implementation?
For starters, you should prepare to outline an LMS implementation process. The rest of this post will walk you through how to do just that.
Not all LMS implementations are created equal. They will vary from one vendor to the next. And it will hinge on a lot of the strategic work you did earlier in your selection and planning for the LMS.
For example, as we discussed in an earlier article, LMS implementation success will depend on answering questions like these:
- Why do I need an LMS?
- Where in the user lifecycle will the LMS/training make the most impact?
- What success metrics do I want to measure through the LMS?
- What features do I really need?
- What is the skill level of your LMS administrators?
- How will I measure ROI?
If you have clarity on this, and have included your LMS platform partner in your strategic planning, then you should be aligned on your goals and set up for a successful LMS implementation.
It's also crucial that you've established goals and KPI's for the initiative at the outset and make sure the LMS you selected will allow you to measure success the way that is right for you. These goals will remain in focus throughout the LMS implementation process.
Select a framework for designing your learning materials
Choosing a learning framework early will help you during the LMS implementation stage and beyond. Elearning professionals and instructional designers may be familiar with two common learning methodologies — ADDIE and SAM. Project managers may see parallels to waterfall and agile methodologies.
ADDIE is an acronym for analyze, design, develop, implement, evaluate. The idea behind it is that the instructional designer or team perfects each stage before moving on to the next. The downside is that it may not be agile enough for an environment where goals have the potential to change.
SAM is an acronym for Successive Approximation Model, which emphasizes continuous iteration.
Both of these, though, really depend on involving the expertise of an experienced instructional designer, while the modern LMS allows anyone to start developing courses.
At Northpass we’ve developed an alternative five-step methodology that we call The Beginner's Guide to Creating an Online Training Program. Let’s take a detour into the steps of this framework before diving into the next steps of LMS implementation process.
Step 1: Define
Clearly defining your learner personas, your business goals, your engagement strategy and learning objectives and, finally, how you will measure the success of the initiative, is the best way to ensure the foundation is strong.
In the process of researching these basic practical questions, you will discover what your audience needs to learn. Refine your findings down to a bullet-point list of learning objectives and you will have the foundation you need to build your training program.
With the “What” established, now you have to spend some time thinking about the “Who.” Numerous personal factors impact training development for a specific audience. Aside from the learning objectives, these include ideal learning styles, previous knowledge of the subject, the learning environment and strategies for retention and application.
Step 2: Outline
A key part of every learning methodology is recognizing the importance of a plan. Now it’s time to take the learning objectives and your audience assessment and use them to create a training plan that meets everyone’s needs. At this stage, you’ll clearly lay out your content development approach to ensure everyone on your team is fully versed in the organizational structure, format and scope of content production.
The specifics of your plan will be contingent on the nature of the project; there are many ways to write a plan and many different aspects you can include. Broadly speaking, however, the plan should explain:
- What the training will be
- Who will receive the training
- What timetable will be used
- What materials will be required
- Who will administer/supervise the training
- How competency will be tested
Planning not only gives your training much-needed structure, but it forces you to think in a tactical way that will increase your impact.
Step 3: Build
With a plan established, you now need training tools. Since most of your training will likely happen online, the most time-consuming aspect of this phase is developing the online courses your learners will use.
To develop training content, you need to leverage the features offered by the learning management system (LMS) and course authoring tools you’ve purchased. Features such as video integration, quizzes, and analytics are important for online training and should be intuitive and easy to use. Use the necessary tools to properly develop design content, create highly engaging videos and record audio like a professional.
Step 4: Engage
Now it’s time to make sure your content finds its audience and that they can reap the benefits. Revisit Step 1 to determine the best way to deliver the content to your workers. Depending on your target learners, where they spend most of their time, and the context of the training content, your delivery method may vary.
For example, if you’re onboarding new sales team members, you may want to embed a link to the courses in the CRM tool used by your account executives. If you’re updating customer-facing employees on feature releases, perhaps sharing the course link in an email or internal chat channel may be more appropriate.
No matter what you choose, be sure to meet your learners where they are to help make the courses easily accessible and highly contextual.
Step 5: Measure
Once you’ve given your target learners access to the courses, collect feedback and track their engagement in the learning experience. Use qualitative and quantitative data to gain insight into the following.
- Is the course easy to navigate?
- Is the course content engagement?
- What about the course can be improved?
- How many learners have accessed the course?
- How are learners scoring on the course assessments?
- How many learners have completed the course?
In addition to focusing on the training metrics, it’s important to determine how this data maps to your business goals. For example, if your goal is to make your customer support reps more knowledgeable and efficient in solving support tickets, you may want to correlate the completion rates to the average number of exchanges required before a ticket is marked as resolved.
By selecting your elearning methodology early, you’ll get a jump start on getting to know the new LMS you’ve adopted and how to properly conduct an LMS implementation. Having a strong grasp on your framework will make the remaining steps outlined in this LMS implementation process plan.
Pick your LMS implementation team
The LMS likely touches on several operations within your organization. So in building a team to oversee the LMS implementation process, connect team members from those various departments, such as HR, IT and learning and development.
If your LMS works with external partners, such as channel partners or contractors, bring those individuals on the team as well. However, experts advise keeping the team as small as possible to ensure the LMS implementation process remains highly focused.
Once you assemble the team, establish individual roles. Here are some vital players:
Team leader. This person oversees the overall LMS implementation to completion, working directly with the LMS vendor and dealing with any issues that arise.
Project manager. The project manager tracks all significant milestones in the LMS implementation process to ensure all deadlines are met.
Elearning specialist. Your legacy training platform contains many elearning tools and courseware. The elearning specialist supervises the transfer or development of content to the new system during LMS implementation.
L&D administrator. As this individual supervises the L&D program, he or she ensures the LMS matches organizational goals through the course structure, certification, compliance and user reports.
IT expert. Since LMS implementation requires a high level of technical expertise, an IT expert manages the integration process with other systems within your enterprise.
Throughout the implementation process, the LMS platform partner works closely with your team members. Open communication between your team and your partner is key. This ensures implementation coordinates with your goals and happens within your timeframe.
Establish an LMS implementation plan and timeline
How long the LMS implementation process takes depends on which type of LMS you choose. An on-premises LMS installed on your own server may take longer than a hosted or cloud-based LMS in which the system is housed on the vendor’s server. The LMS vendor or your IT department can provide a better estimate of the timespan.
The number of user accounts and software programs you intend to migrate into and integrate with the LMS also impacts the LMS implementation timeline. Be realistic in your timeline, and budget enough time to meet each benchmark before the actual launch.
Whether you are transitioning from a legacy LMS or implementing an LMS for the first time, a key decision centers on which courses, data and instructional assets are to be transferred to the new system.
Transfer only those courses and data absolutely necessary for the upgraded LMS and archive the remainder. Check with your legal department to see which files must be kept. (Course completions records and Record of Prior Learning fall into that category.)
If you’re switching from a legacy LMS to a new one, have your IT expert review your instructional assets to ensure they can be integrated within the new LMS. Even if SCORM compliant, the courses may need adjustments to work in the new system.
Trial run and training
Before completing the LMS implementation process and officially launching the new system, test the new LMS among a group of handpicked users, be they internal staff or extended enterprise users such as channel partners or contractors.
For the preliminary LMS trial, prepare a test case your administrators and users can run through. Document any issues that crop up and report those to the team members and the LMS vendor.
Then, offer a training program to your internal users and external partners who will utilize the LMS. This training can be delivered via a webinar or in-person instruction. Again, your LMS vendor provides guidance on which training options are available (make sure to find out if there are extra fees involved).
Also during this period, formulate an LMS implementation rollout plan with your LMS vendor. Alert all stakeholders — perhaps via an email campaign — about the launch and when it will happen.
As one of the final steps in the LMS implementation process, switching to the new LMS can be accomplished several ways:
- A complete changeover done overnight.
- A gradual phase out of the old LMS and phase in of the new system.
- Run both systems in parallel prior to the changeover.
In any case, alert your colleagues of any blackout period between when the old system goes offline and the new LMS is live. Discuss with your LMS provider and team the best LMS implementation switchover process for your needs.
Some experts advise running both systems in parallel as that preserves data integrity and gives users a chance to become more comfortable on the new system. Once data is secure and all parties are ready, make the full switchover to the new LMS.
Assessing and wrapping up
Once the LMS implementation process is complete and when the new system has been in operation for a period of time, review how the process went for all involved. Pinpoint any technical glitches that may have hampered the launch and correct those.
Additionally, similar to the last step in the Beginner’s Guide to Creating an Online Training Program – conduct the following evaluation as you wrap up your LMS implementation. Assess how many users logged onto the system and how they progressed through it. Did they complete the courses? How did they score? Scores and user satisfaction don’t tell the entire story of how well the LMS performed in terms of organization goals. But in the beginning such stats provide insight into the technical performance of the LMS, including page uploads, time to upload and overall user experience.
The LMS implementation process doesn’t end at the time of the launch. Always look for ways to improve the system, optimizing content, adding more courses and perfecting the user experience for as long as the LMS is in operation.
The best training platforms have created, tested and refined very successful LMS implementation plans. Make sure when selecting an LMS vendor, you ask questions around the implementation process. Here at Northpass The Complete Beginner’s Kit to Creating an Online Training Program is the holy grail for implementing a modern cloud-based LMS.
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