In this third installment of the How to Implement an LMS, I’m still lingering on the analysis phase that I introduced in the second article of the series. You may be chomping at the bit to get to vendor selection and the practical steps it takes to get an LMS up and running, but those efforts are all in vain if you make a poor choice at the start of the process by short-changing this analysis phase. Get your free eLeaP sandbox account.
Your Interdisciplinary Analysis Team
The analysis phase of implementing an LMS is so important and extensive that you should put together a robust team to accomplish it. Who should be on this team depends a lot on how big your company is in terms of having differentiated roles, but consider including the following:
- Human Performance Technology/Organizational Development Expert. Find the person in your company who is most up-to-speed on putting together different kinds of assessment tools, because you’ll need several to conduct a robust analysis. This is the person who will also help with the change management aspects of implementing a new LMS, navigating organizational politics, conducting cost-benefit analyses of different solutions, and so on.
- Human Resources. HR folks are often deeply involved in training/learning efforts in any company, so you’ll need someone from that department of the team.
- Information Technology. There are clearly IT aspects to LMS implementation, and your IT folks need to weigh in on technological capabilities of the organization.
- Training/Learning. If you have a dedicated team or person devoted to your training and learning efforts, include them on the team.
- Management. You need someone on the team with enough authority in the management hierarchy to approve plans and expenditures.
- Legal/Risk Management. I think this one is fairly optional, but to the extent that an LMS will house sensitive employee data, it may be helpful to have some legal expertise on the team.
What you need for the analysis phase of your learning management system implementation is a balanced team of people so that no one aspect (such as HR or IT) is solely in charge, as the assessment will naturally be biased in favor of that function.
Drawing upon information originally presented in Performance Improvement, I’m going to present here a series of about 70 questions grouped into different assessment categories that you should be actively asking yourself during your analysis phase. In all cases, you can think of answering these questions by their level of importance. You can decide to use some kind of Likert scale, perhaps with three points (not very important, moderately important, very important). Consult your assessment tool expert to decide on this.
Human Resources Questions
- Are there different employee records currently in one database or linked databases?
- Will user passwords be automatically assigned during registration?
- Will different levels of permission be used?
- Will interfaces be customized for groups or individual users?
- Will multi-lingual records and operations need to be dealt with?
- Are current skills defined and organized (skill map)?
- Are employee skill profiles used? How updated? Linked to course completion?
- Are employee career development plants used? How updated? Linked to course completion?
- Will courses by tracked by skill categories, learners, attempts, completions, year completed?
- Will the system be ERP-compatible? To what degree?
- How and what will be tracked? Options include delivery methods, registration, tuition, pre-enrollment, no-shows, grades, cancellations, etc.
- Will there be individual training/learning records over time?
- Will the LMS determine qualification for a course via a skills profile, previous courses, or career path?
- How will learners become aware of and choose courses?
- Will manager notification or approval be needed/required/available?
- Can restrictions to registration (see #2) be overridden? By whom?
- How will courses be evaluated?
- What financial accounting data will be available for analysis?
Questions About Learners
- How and where will learners access courses?
- Will learners have access to their own completion and grading records?
- What security procedures will be in place for learner access to the system?
- Can learners access skill lists for other positions?
- Can learners access required and suggested course lists?
- Can learners take more than one course at a time?
- Are partial course completions allowed?
- Can learners access full course listings or only those related to their function or department?
- Can learners test out of courses or parts of courses?
- How can learners get their questions answered?
- What recognition will learners receive for successful course completions?
Questions about Content
- Can courses be downloaded?
- Can courses be printed?
- Can learners bookmark their place/progress in a course?
- Who creates the tests and exams for courses?
- Will courses include interactive scoring and feedback?
- Will learners be limited in how many times they can take a test?
- Will students be able to review exam questions and answers?
- What will be put in place to prevent cheating?
- Will course completions count towards some kind of certification?
- How much social interactivity will be enabled?
- What are your organization’s current IT capabilities?
- Are multiple servers available for courses’ duplicate storage for faster access?
- What are the server requirements?
- What are the end-user requirements? Consider browser types, plug-ins, bandwidth.
- What are the firewall considerations?
- How and from where can courses be accessed?
- If remote access is allowed, what are the connection speeds needed?
- Will there be a central portal from which all courses can be accessed?
- Will course development templates be provided and will they be customizable?
- What authoring tools will be used for course development?
- What are the compliance considerations and standards to be met?
- What will installation costs be, if any?
- What about hardware costs if upgrades are needed?
- Licensing/subscription costs?
- Maintenance/support costs?
- Other fees?
- How long does implementation take and what will that cost?
- What are the costs per learner?
- What are the costs per course?
- Does the new system require additional staff? If so, what are those costs?
- How will you determine the ROI of learning and training post-implementation to know if the new LMS has made a positive contribution?
- Does the vendor have an established record and reputation?
- What do the vendors’ customers think of the system?
- Is the vendor a stable company?
- What aspects does the vendor guarantee?
- Can you choose between an on-premise or cloud-based solution?
- What’s involved in ending a relationship to the vendor if you decide to move on?
- How robust is the customer and technical support offered? What does it cost?
- What training options are available and what do they cost?
- How customizable is the system and at what point do further customizations cost money?
- Is the vendor responsive to customer input for improvements and enhancements?
Keep in mind that the questions listed above are only meant to give you a starting point and stimulate your thinking on what it is you need analyze within your organization and what you want to get out of an LMS. You will likely come up with many others, and indeed you should. If you undertake the extensive kind of analysis I’m recommending before even considering which LMS to adopt, you will inevitably reach a point (perhaps more than once) where you question the sanity of this undertaking. Keep the prize in mind – making the best choice possible in an LMS that will take your company’s training/learning efforts to a whole new level, which in turn can have deep and lasting positive impacts on your company. In part four of this series, I’ll take a closer look at the LMS vendor search process.
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