Learning Management System

Learning management system (LMS) implementation isn’t something you want to skimp on.

Like any other software deployment, LMS implementation is a complex process. However, if you have a detailed plan from the start, you have a greater chance at end-users fully adopting the LMS.

Our detailed guide will breakdown what you need to get started and the six main steps for a successful LMS implementation project plan.

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Getting Started

Whether or not your company has used a learning management system before, there are two major tasks that must be completed before jumping into the LMS implementation process:

  1. Create a team.
  2. Decide on a time frame.

Ideally, your implementation team and timeline will be finalized before you sign on the dotted line with a vendor. As you evaluate your top choices, be sure to ask each vendor about the implementation process to prevent any surprises when creating and executing your project plan.

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Implementation Team

It’s important to create an LMS implementation team early in the process to make sure enough resources are available for each step of the implementation. Steve Foreman, the President of InfoMedia Designs, says companies should create two teams for a smooth implementation: a core team and an extended team.

Core Team – The core team should be a targeted group of decision-makers who bring insights from all sides of the business’s operations. This team will be responsible for carving out an effective plan, from installation to user adoption, opening channels of communication and keeping all the moving parts on task throughout the process.

The size of the core team will be determined by the size of your company. A common suggestion is two to three members for small organizations and five to six for enterprises. In an interview with David James, he said it’s important to identify and invite the key people who hold the power to make decisions.

As you think of how to invite to the team, here are the main roles that will need to be filled:

  • Team Leader – The team leader keeps the project moving forward. He/she is able to work with all the team members to effectively hit deadlines and work around obstacles as they pop up. This person will also act as the main liaison between the organization and the LMS vendor.
  • Project Manager – A project manager tracks and manages all the tasks, their due dates and resource assignments. This person is responsible for making sure all necessary tasks are accomplished before progressing to the next step.
  • elearning Tech Specialist – The elearning tech specialist is an expert on the organization’s learning models, as well as the tools and platforms involved in those models. This elearning champion will help with the migration of all courses and assessments, along with testing the solution to make sure all software configurations are done correctly.
  • Training Administrator – A training administrator can demonstrate the company’s LMS administrative needs, such as checking compliance, managing user profiles and creating reports. The training administrator will have a strong understanding of what features and configurations are necessary.
  • IT Architect – The IT Architect is responsible for the effective migration of data and any other IT-related tasks during the implementation process. These can include software authentication, system configurations, data security management and solution integrations.

Extended Team: The extended implementation team should consist of people who will regularly work with the LMS once it’s fully implemented, including course authors and designers, administrators and training managers. This group will be involved in tasks like administrator training and user acceptance testing before rolling out the LMS to the whole company.

Building a Timeline

Some will say implementing an LMS will take anywhere between six and 12 months for an on-premise solution, and three to nine months for a cloud-based one.

This range is a good place to start when deciding on a realistic timeline. However, it’s important to remember every company has different needs that might not fit in a templated implementation plan.

When creating an LMS implementation timeline, it’s critical to talk through each step with your core team to define what will be accomplished, what resources are necessary and how much time it should take to complete a task. Once every step has been discussed, you can start putting together your implementation project plan with a proper timeline from start to finish.

Expert Tip: No matter how in-depth your planning is for a project, roadblocks can still pop up along the way. Build in small time buffers for major tasks, like data migration or system configurations, so when a delay happens, your entire project doesn’t fall behind schedule.

Steps for Implementation

Like most software, there are six major steps for an LMS implementation project:

  1. Planning
  2. Configuration
  3. Integration
  4. Migration
  5. User testing
  6. Go live

Below, we’ve summarized the critical considerations for each stage of the implementation process.

1. Planning

Planning is critical for a successful LMS implementation.

A communication plan should be set up for the core team members and the LMS vendor. An implementation project has many people involved, with many moving parts. Establishing a communication plan ahead of time will allow team members to be transparent about where their tasks stand and if any additional resources or time is needed. This also allows key team members, like the project manager, to easily track the progression of the implementation process.

A strategy for each step should be planned out as well. A good place to start is to ask the vendor for its LMS implementation project plan. However, it’s important to remember that this template isn’t carved in stone and might not meet all your company’s needs. Have your core team review the vendor’s template and discuss what steps need to be added or removed.

When creating an LMS implementation project plan, some key questions to consider are:

  • What is the objective of the LMS?
  • What configurations are needed for my company?
  • Does the LMS need to integrate with other solutions? (e.g., accounting software, HR solutions, customer relationship management systems)
  • How will administrators be trained to use the LMS solution? How will end-users be trained?
  • How will administrators and end-users be trained on the software once it goes live?
  • Who will maintain the software once implementation is finished?

2. Configuration

Most of the implementation process will involve configuring the software to your company’s specific needs.

To do this effectively, your team needs a strong understanding of the operations of your company and the necessary data for those operations. Your vendor can help you understand on the LMS’s data fields and capabilities.

Some configuration decisions you might have to make early on include:

  • What information is stored in user profiles
  • If multiple domains are needed for different audiences (e.g., if you need separate domains for internal employee training and customer training)
  • The security permissions for each role using the LMS
  • The structure of the course catalog and the meta-data tags used for easy search and selection
  • Structures for the courses and curriculums migrated from your legacy system
  • What skills and proficiency outcomes are needed for each position, course and assessment.
  • What notifications should be activated, deactivated, or customized, including alerts, reminders and confirmations
  • Which reports are needed for which employees, and how often they must be generated
Expert Tip: The vendor may know its learning management system’s capabilities, but only you understand the needs of your company. That’s why it’s important to both have a good understanding of the software’s functionality and capabilities, and an open line of communication with the vendor to discuss how the system can handle your specific needs.

3. Integration

Most learning management systems can integrate with other solutions, making it easy to update and access critical information. Here are some of the most common LMS integrations:

  • Solutions with user accounts and profiles
  • Systems with single-sign-on (SSO) abilities for employees using multiple software solutions
  • LMS portals to access data, such as deep links that take users to a specific course page, or using an API (application programming interface) so IT can pull LMS data and place it in a portal
  • A platform allowing users to access content and documents from other enterprise solutions that relate to the course material (also known as Enterprise Search)
  • Any solutions that aid in e-commerce services, such as credit card processing systems, accounting solutions and so on

4. Migration

Data and course migration is one of the most complex stages in LMS implementation because incompatabilities between the legacy LMS and the new one often need to be dealt with along the way.

The first step to migration is deciding how much data needs to be moved over. A common practice is to migrate as little data as possible to avoid roadblocks and errors. Check with your IT and legal departments to make sure you’re following any data retention policies. Also consider other data that should be kept, such as previous course information for courses that have prerequisites.

Breaking up the data migration into the following three steps can help prevent data loss:

  1. Migrate a small sample of data first, and test it to check that migration programming is working properly.
  2. Migrate all the data necessary.
  3. Just before going live, transfer any additional data that was added or manipulated since the full migration in stage 2 (also known as Delta Transfer).

Different types of data you’ll need to migrate include:

  • User data, whether from the legacy LMS or from an HR system
  • Course software that includes standards for academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, government compliance and SCORM
  • Course data, such as course titles, meta-data tags, schedules, etc.
  • Transcript data, which tracks a user’s course progression and completeion.

5. User Testing

User testing checks the entire learning management system to ensure it’s working properly, with no errors or bugs.

A good place to start with testing is to have your core team brainstorm and document a list of all actions that various users will complete with the LMS This list should then be divided among the core and extended teams. Each member should perform a function and note all the menus selected, fields entered, checkboxes checked and buttons pushed during the process.

This will give you the information necessary to create tests, set a testing schedule and assign system testers. Designate someone as the test lead, who will instruct the testers on testing and track any bugs that were found.

After each day of testing, discuss the bugs with your core team and prioritize how to fix them.

6. Go Live

Going live is the homestretch of a successful implementation project.

The core team should have a plan in place for user training during and beyond this phase. There should also be a separate communication plan set up to direct questions and concerns to the correct people.

Expert Tip: Prepare your IT helpdesk with a script and a communication plan to use during the Go Live stage.

Course designers, administrators, instructors and other frequent learning management users should be notified well in advance about the new system. This gives them time to schedule critical training and deadlines around the Go Live dates.

If transitioning to a new system, your company should be prepared for a “blackout period” where both the legacy program and new LMS are unavailable to use. During the blackout, the full data migration will be completed along with a quick check to ensure all data is in the correct fields and the LMS is functional. If problems arise, you may have to reinstate your legacy program until the issue can be diagnosed and fixed, postponing your go live period.

Expert Tip: Schedule your blackout period over a weekend for the least interference with day-to-day operations involving the LMS.