Technology has ushered in a new age of innovation into the field of learning. Media integration and innovative online learning tools have changed the way that learning institutions are able to present learning modules to their students. And the business world isn’t far behind in implementing these new learning possibilities into their own organizations.
With the help of learning management systems (LMS), it’s now easier than ever before to develop and organize courses in order to help the workforce continuously improve and grow in their positions at the company. That has made the learning management solutions market grow at an incredible pace. According to Marketwired, the LMS market is poised to grow to a staggering $7.83 billion in 2018, compared to just $2.55 billion back in 2013.
Businesses of all sizes are implementing learning management solutions because they provide never-before-seen opportunities for continuous training and progress by their employees. However, learning management systems haven’t always brought immediate success to companies. A 2016 Brandon Hall Group survey revealed that almost half of the companies that participated in the survey were thinking about replacing their LMS because they weren’t happy with the user experience.
But that doesn’t mean that LMSs as a whole are at fault. Even if the software solution itself is solid, companies still need to understand the proper steps of smooth LMS implementation. Putting in place the proper procedures for integrating the software can be the difference between a quick, easy and efficient implementation and a negative experience that ends in wasted time and resources.
So what are the steps that your company needs to perform in order to properly implement a learning management system?
Here’s a checklist of the seven key steps that you should strongly consider during the LMS implementation process:
1. Set Clear Expectations
Perhaps the most important part of the LMS implementation process is setting clear and specific expectations for what you need the software to deliver. This way, you can choose a solution that’s the best fit for your company.
It’s wise to think about how much customization will be required, as well as how complex these customizations might be with a particular LMS solution. Many companies make the mistake of not taking into account the potential time and budget requirements for adding customized functionality to the software, which can severely impede the implementation process.
In order to avoid this, it’s essential to set clear expectations for every part of the implementation process. In particular, you need to pay special attention to mapping out the entire process and setting specific timelines, often working together with the software provider to get valuable feedback.
2. Put Together a Team for the Project
LMS implementation is a complex process; therefore, it’s essential to put together a team that can make sure no important steps are missed. Usually, a team of four to six people is adequate, but that number can vary depending on the scope of the LMS deployment and the size of the company.
The essential roles that must be filled carefully are the project leader, a communications manager and a project manager, although these responsibilities can be shared by a few people if necessary. Some companies choose to assign a person in each branch who helps coordinate the implementation in their department.
Continuous communication with the creators of the product is required. This ensures that the implementation process is smooth and that continuity is achieved.
3. Set Specific Timeframes
As touched on earlier, having clear timeframes and milestones is the only way to ensure that an LMS implementation process doesn’t get derailed. Consistent communication between the vendor and the organization is required throughout the LMS implementation. But it’s especially important during the early stages, when a plan that maps out the entire process is put together.
Having a specific plan allows you to prepare the manpower and technology that will be required for specific parts of the project in advance. While it’s difficult to expect the representative of the vendor to be available at all times, they should at least be involved enough to develop a timeframe and help prepare the project team for the various obstacles that are to come.
Each business has unique needs when it comes to learning management systems, so it’s natural that the integration needs will be unique as well. First off, in order for the LMS to be properly utilized, it’ll need to easily integrate with the software tools that are already used by the organization.
Luckily, working closely with the vendor can make this part of the LMS implementation process painless. Most leading solutions allow for in-depth customization of features, appearance, security and many other aspects. If done correctly, this process ensures that the LMS solution complements the technology landscape of the organization instead of becoming a disruption.
Seamlessly integrating the LMS with human resource management and talent management solutions that are already in place make it much easier for managers to make better judgments about how to develop courses and training programs that align with organizational goals. In turn, this helps get the most benefit from of the learning management system.
5. Content Preparation
A learning management system isn’t very useful if you don’t have any content, so it’s important to prepare courses for all the categories that you plan on using it with.
At the beginning, even a couple of courses for each category will be enough, but it’s important to make sure that the content isn’t just generic PDF files or videos. The content needs to fit with the organization’s goals and be easy to understand and follow.
Many companies opt for content created outside of the company, but creating custom content within the company allows it to be catered to the specific needs of your company. You can even customize it for specific groups of employees, which can greatly increase their learning efficiency. Ideally, it’s good to aim for a healthy mix of the two, as some subjects are simply too difficult to prepare in-house. Not to mention, these great external courses are readily available for use as soon as the system is up and running.
You don’t want to have any surprises once you launch the program to the entire staff. Therefore, thorough testing is required with a small group of learners to catch any problems with the system or the courses.
Some of the things to look for are seeing if the single sign-on system is working, if the automated tasks such as email alerts are running correctly, if the test group is making the expected progress and if reports are generated accordingly. The IT team must carefully monitor the entire learning management system and check off every function that should be working properly.
7. Ask for Feedback
Even with comprehensive testing, it’s impossible to catch every little error that might occur during the launch of an LMS. That’s why, in order to get the software working smoothly as soon as possible, companies should actively seek out feedback from all of the users after the launch.
Feedback can also help vendors discover areas of improvement, which can make the LMS much more efficient.
Furthermore, as the program’s scope expands during the months after launch, some hiccups are to be expected. Being able to catch and correct them quickly ensures a positive experience with the system, which is the main goal of the entire LMS implementation process in the first place.