You've decided to replace your old learning management system (LMS), upgrade your existing one, or launch one for the first time.
In any case, the issue now becomes: How do we implement it?
Sounds complicated, right?
It could be, but it's incredibly easy with this LMS implementation project plan.
Select a Learning Framework (Methodologies)
Choosing a learning framework 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 between the waterfall and agile methodologies.
ADDIE is an acronym that stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate. The idea behind ADDIE is that the instructional designer or team perfects each stage before moving on to the next one. 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 the Successive Approximation Model, which emphasizes continuous iteration. In other words, the team works on multiple steps simultaneously and adjusts as they go.
5-Step LMS Implementation Project Plan
Once you've selected your framework, dive in. Here's the simple 5-step implementation project plan you can use to get your learning program up and running fast.
- Define learner personas
- Create an outline
- Build your content
- Engage and promote your academy
- Measure performance and iterate
Step 1: Define Your Learner Personas
Clearly defining your learner personas, business goals, engagement strategy and learning objectives, and how you'll measure success is the best way to ensure the foundation is strong.
While researching these basic practical questions, you'll discover what your target audience (e.g., customers, employees or channel partners) needs to learn. Refine your findings to a bullet-point list of learning objectives, and you'll have the foundation you need.
With the "what" established, you now have to think 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.
- Do my learners need introductory or advanced content (or a mix of both)?
- Are they constantly on the go (maybe you're in the gig economy) and therefore need a learning experience perfectly optimized for mobile devices?
- Are they swamped and unlikely to have time for live webinars and events?
These are just a few examples of what you should ask yourself when developing personas. The better you understand what people need, the better results you'll realize once your LMS is up and running.
Step 2: Outline Your Plan
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 personas and use them to create an online 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 will the training 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
- How success will be measured
- How updates will be made (to the program or LMS)
Planning gives your training program much-needed structure and forces you to think in a tactical way that will increase learner engagement and impact.
Step 3: Create the Content
With a plan established, you need training tools (i.e., the content). Since most of your training with an LMS will happen online, the most time-consuming aspect of this phase is developing the online courses people will use.
To develop training content, you must leverage the features offered by the 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 tools to develop design content properly, create highly engaging videos and record audio like a pro. At this step, you should also set up learning paths that'll deliver the content in a way that encourages engagement and aids in knowledge retention.
Step 4: Engage Your Learners
Now it's time to ensure your content finds its audience and they can reap the benefits. Revisit Step 1 to determine the best way to deliver the content to your workers. Your delivery method may vary depending on your target learners, where they spend most of their time, and the context of the training content.
For example, if you're onboarding new sellers, you may want to embed a link to the courses in the CRM tool used by your account executives (what's up, HubSpot LMS?). 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.
Step 5: Measure Training Performance
Once you've given people access to the courses, it's time to collect feedback and track their engagement. Use qualitative and quantitative data to gain insight into the following.
- Is the course easy to navigate?
- Is the course content engaging?
- 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 specific 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 resolving 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 conduct an LMS implementation properly. A strong grasp of your framework will make the remaining steps outlined in this LMS implementation project plan.
Build Your LMS Implementation Team
The LMS likely touches several operations within your organization. So, in building a team to oversee the LMS implementation project plan, 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. However, experts advise keeping the team as small as possible to ensure the implementation remains highly focused.
Once you assemble the team, establish individual roles. Here are some vital players:
This person oversees the overall LMS implementation to completion, working directly with the LMS vendor and dealing with any issues.
The project manager tracks all milestones in the LMS implementation process to ensure all deadlines are met.
Subject Matter Expert
THE SME has an in-depth knowledge of the topic. They translate that information into a logical training program people can easily digest.
An instructional designer develops the story and structures the learning so people can learn quickly and incorporate it into their workflow.
You may also want a graphic designer to help bring your content into a beautiful, engaging reality.
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.
As this individual supervises the L&D program, they ensure the LMS matches organizational goals through the course structure, certification, compliance and user reports.
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 Implementation Plan and Timeline
How long the LMS implementation process takes depends on which type of LMS type you go with. An on-premises LMS installed on your 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 impacts the timeline. Be realistic in your timeline and budget enough time to meet each benchmark before the actual launch.
Whether transitioning from a legacy LMS or implementing one for the first time, a key decision centers on which courses, data and instructional assets you'll transfer to the new system.
Transfer only those courses and data essential for the upgraded LMS and archive the remainder. Check with your legal department to see which files must be kept. (Course completion 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 instructional assets to ensure you can integrate them within the new LMS. Even if SCORM compliant, you may need to adjust the courses to work in the new system.
Trial Run and Training
Before completing the LMS implementation, test the new technology among handpicked users.
Prepare a test case your administrators and users can run through for the preliminary LMS trial. 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'll utilize the LMS. You can deliver this training via a webinar or in-person instruction. Again, your LMS vendor should provide guidance on which training options are available (make sure to find out if extra fees are involved).
Also, during this period, formulate an LMS implementation rollout plan with the 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 in several ways:
- You complete the changeover overnight.
- You gradually phase out of the old LMS and phase-in the new one.
- You run both systems in parallel before the changeover.
In any case, alert your colleagues of any blackout period between when the old system goes offline, and the new one is live. Discuss with your LMS vendor 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 allows users to get comfortable with the new system. Once the data is secure, and all parties are ready, switch over.
Assessing and Wrapping Up
Once the LMS implementation process is complete and the new system has been in operation, review how the process went. Pinpoint any technical glitches that may have hampered the launch and correct those.
Assess how many users logged onto the system and how they progressed. 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 regarding organizational 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, optimize content, add more courses and perfect the user experience for as long as the LMS operates.
The best training platforms have created, tested and refined successful LMS implementation project plans. When selecting an LMS vendor, you ask questions about the implementation process.