If you have gone through a rigorous LMS evaluation & selection process, then you are well poised to move to the implementation phase of the plan. Much of the time involved is based on your organization’s requirements and how well-suited the LMS is to those requirements. You should also have an understanding of what you need to do, what resources you have at your disposal to accomplish the tasks, and what is the timeline.With the rise in popularity of “software-as-a-service” (SaaS) solutions the work of rolling out an LMS has been simplified. SaaS solutions are quick to implement – think weeks to two months – but planning out the steps required for your organization is essential to avoid mistakes that will be difficult to undo in the future.
- LMS Configuration/Organization Setup
- Course Content Assessment
- Systems Integrations
- Course & Data Migration
Planning will ensure that the process goes smoothly, as unanticipated needs or challenges may arise. Planning ahead and remaining flexible will help keep the project on track.
Each organization will have a unique implementation plan based on their requirements. You may ask your LMS vendor if they provide a template that includes the tasks that need to be accomplished from their point of view. You can start with that, and add tasks that don’t initiate with the vendor, but are still important to successful implementation of the LMS, such as resource allocation, communications, data extraction, etc.
Most plans will include tasks related to the configuration of the LMS and the setup of the company in the system. Depending on your needs, you may identify additional tasks to include in the plan.
Most LMS vendors will have a team member dedicated to assisting you with the configuration and setup of your company within the system. They will likely be able to make configuration recommendations based on your requirements, so be sure to ask for advice. They know their software best, and can help you get the most out of the system by ensuring that your company is setup correctly from the start. And while most vendors will do their best to give you advice – the more information you can give them about the requirements of your organization, the better the advice will be.
The configuration decisions you will make include:
- Understanding your data & data requirements
- Understanding your operations
- Understanding roles & data access
Some of the configuration decisions you need to make are fairly straight-forward: domain name and login plan. Others will require more thoughtful planning as outlined below.
Many LMS products allow for data customization by clients. This means you will need to define any organization specific data fields you need to have added to your database. Now is the time to do that.
Some of the data requirements may be determined by the systems you will be using for integration (Human Resources, for example), and others by information you want to see on reports. Each LMS will have a core set of data fields that every company is allocated, so find out what those fields are before defining additional fields.
Some examples of custom data fields include region, division, department, job title, employee number, hire date, etc.
Roles and Data Access
Roles are permissions sets assigned to specific types of users. For example, you may need one set of people who can run reports, another set who manage/enroll users, and yet another who can create/manage course content. You may also need to further refine these roles, by giving the report managers access to specific datasets – people in a specific department, for example.
Many LMS products enable a single user to have multiple roles, which gives you more control over data access. Layering of roles can also help with distributing responsibility to personnel throughout your organization.
- Determine who will be assigned to which roles.
- Determine which datasets each person will have access to.
Most LMS software will give you several options for organizing your internal company groupings in the LMS. For smaller organizations, the LMS groupings may look identical to HR groups, while larger companies may require more subtlety. For example, a small, single location business may just use department name to group users. A large, multi-location company may be better served by grouping users by department and location. This is the time to make these decisions as they will support data access by role, and will also support your reporting needs.
At this point it’s important to assess your training content needs. Determine what types of training you need to offer - which categories and titles are required. You may also want to include training content that will be offered but not required. This content can be added in the future, when you are ready to expand your offerings.
Using the content you’ve defined, list the source of the training content: legacy content you own and can re-use, content to be purchased, content to be developed using internal resources.
If you will be developing training content with internal resources, select an authoring tool if you don’t already have one. The authoring tool should support SCORM/AICC standards to ensure that the content will be compatible with your LMS. Some content authoring tools that are SCORM/AICC compliant are Captivate, Articulate, Storyline.
If you need to purchase training courses from a content vendor, you will also want to select a vendor that is SCORM/AICC compliant. Here are some previous blog posts regarding selecting a content vendor, as well as some vendor reviews:
- LMS Integration With Content Vendors
- 2019 Training Content Vendor Review: Vivid Learning Systems
- 2019 Training Content Vendor Review: Skillsoft
- 2019 Training Content Vendor Review: BizLibrary
Most LMS products offer a course catalog, which allows users to browse the courses offered. Some LMS products allow for multiple catalogs, that can be assigned to specific groups of users. Either way, you will want to organize your content-related courses into categories. For example, all Environmental Health Safety (EHS) courses would be placed in the EHS category. The categories in the course catalog organize the information for the end user, making courses easy to find.
Course and Curriculum Structures
In most LMS products, a course may include multiple learning activities such as a reading assignment, a pretest, a self-paced module, attendance in a classroom session, a master test, and a post-training survey. Trainees may need to take these activities in sequence. Some may be mandatory, others optional. These combinations define a course structure.
A curriculum may include any number of courses that may or may not need to be completed in sequence. Again, some may be mandatory and others optional. The criteria for earning completion credit may vary from curriculum to curriculum.
You cannot fully configure these structures until you have completed migration/upload of your course content into the LMS. However, you can establish these structures on paper as a guide. You may leave the development of course structures up to Subject Matter Experts, and you may allow administrators to define curriculum structures, depending on your needs. This can be as simple or as complex as you require. It is best to work with your LMS vendor to ensure that you are making the best decisions for your needs.
Additional LMS Features Assessment
Here are some common LMS features that you may want to take advantage of, whether or not your current content supports these features. The idea is to be aware that you may need to spend some additional time setting up notifications, or configuring requirements, or developing post-training surveys so you can plan accordingly.
Many LMS products have built in evaluation (survey) and assessment (test) tools. The advantage to using a native LMS tool is that you can easily view reports at the question level, which gives you insight into how well the question assesses knowledge. The biggest disadvantage is if you change to a new LMS vendor in the future, you would have to redo all the assessment data. Note that many SCORM-compliant course authoring tools include test functionality.
Most LMS products provide a standard set of notifications, and some allow you to create custom messages. There are essentially three types of notifications: alerts, reminders, and confirmations. An alert may notify users of an overdue training requirement or a change of a classroom training date/location. A reminder may notify users of a class that is about to begin, an assignment that is past due, or a required training due date is approaching. A confirmation may notify users that they have enrolled in a course or completed a course.
To configure notifications, decide which notifications to use. You may setup default messages, that can be customized by managers as needed. You may also want to customize your notification email message recipients, subjects, body, and/or signature. Many LMS systems personalize the email using information like the course title, dates, and location.
Most LMS products provide a set of out-of-the-box reports. Many include reporting tools that enable you to configure your own custom reports. Some even provide the ability to save and schedule the reports you use most often. If you did a requirements document when you were selecting an LMS, you can be confident that the LMS will house all of the data you need for reports.
An LMS may integrate with a number of systems, depending on your needs. Below are some common integrations.
Integration with Human Resources Information System
One of the most common LMS systems integrations is with a system containing user accounts and profile information. In larger organizations this system is sometimes referred to as HRIS; for smaller companies it may be an in-house employee database.
Most LMS products provide mechanisms to import recurring data feeds from these systems. Someone in your organization will determine how to extract the data that is to be imported into the LMS. Many LMS vendors will develop a custom process to run nightly that will automatically update your training database, keeping the LMS in-synch with the HRIS.
Most LMS products also allow for manual data entry of user account and profile information. If you will be entering user info manually, you may want to establish a procedure that outlines standards and conventions used when adding data. You will also want to restrict access to the user management functions to administrators or specific user managers. This will decrease the risk of user-error.
Whatever approach you take to managing user accounts, be sure to check your license agreement with the LMS vendor to ensure that you are licensed for the number of active users who have accounts in your system.
Single Sign-On (SSO)
Another frequent LMS integration is with a single-sign-on solution. In order to avoid requiring end users to log in to different systems with different logins, some organizations have implemented single sign-on (SSO), where the user logs into the system once, and the credentials are passed to other systems as needed.
Many LMS systems support a variety of SSO methods, so have the IT group work with the LMS vendor to ensure you get the best solution for your organization.
If you have existing training data from another LMS, or from an in-house developed database – you will want to import that information into the new LMS. You will need to work with the LMS vendor to ensure the data is migrated successfully. You may need to address any incompatibility between the legacy data and the new LMS. Vendors are well versed in helping with data migration, so ask for assistance if necessary.
Standards-based Courseware Migration
If you have existing courses that you want to migrate to the new LMS, there will be several factors to consider. First, if you have implemented SCORM-based courses, then you will need to reinstall the SCORM package for each of the courses on your new LMS. Many LMS vendors will work directly with your IT group to make the process as efficient as possible. Other LMS products will require you to install each course, one at a time.
Once you have populated the LMS with users and courses, you will want to import legacy training data for reporting purposes. This data will associate trainees with specific courses and training dates. It will also be the baseline for determining re-training dates and training requirements.
Test a sample of the user, course, and training data to confirm that the data import was successful.
You will want to dedicate resources to do full end-to-end testing. This means administrative tasks need to be tested to ensure the LMS is properly configured to support your needs. Likewise, courses need to be checked to ensure they are creating the necessary records. Check that course assignments and requirements have been setup correctly. Run reports using historical data you've loaded into the system to be sure it is correct.
You'll also want to test the systems integrations that you've setup, especially if they are automated. Make sure the data extraction process and the import processes are synching properly.
In creating your implementation plan, you will have thought about how you are going to announce the launch of the LMS. Will there be a corporate wide email? Will users be notified by the LMS of their course requirements/assignments? If you are using SSO, user ids & passwords will not need to be communicated, but if you are not, how will that information be communicated to learners?
If you've gone through the process of thinking about the implementation of your LMS, and worked with your LMS vendor - the rollout of the LMS to your organization should be smooth sailing!