Lessons Learned from Implementing a LMS
The purpose of this post is to share my reflections and lessons learned on implementing a LMS. I will show this in the form of "Goods, Bads and Things We Could Do Better". As a community of practice (COP), we have a unique opportunity to manage, construct and innovate knowledge in this blog and COP format. If I can help facilitate someone else's success in implementing a LMS through my own experiences and reflections-- then I'm happy to do so.
Goods, Bads and Things that Could Have Been Done Better When Implementing a LMS
First, let me recommend that if you're planning to implement a LMS, have a look at the December 2017, ATD Video, https://www.td.org/videos/avoiding-lms-implementation-purgatory. It was one of the reasons that motivated me to share my own experiences here. It will help minimize the pain and help ensure a successful LMS implementation.
Like most people, I don't usually like to talk much about my own failures and what went wrong. I prefer instead to think in terms of removing barriers. None-the-less, the constructive nature of my experience implementing a LMS can be helpful.
As a little background, my institution installed Moodle LMS after purchasing a Dedicated Server and Managed Web Hosting Account this past May; the culmination of several years of trying to acquire a LMS through what we believed was the process one had to go through in order to acquire one-- research the criteria on features, cost and usability, among other things.
Goods of Implementing a LMS
The good thing about implementing a LMS is the opportunity to help close a gap in mission, performance and innovation in order to remain relevant, competitive and sustainable. We began a long journey that started several years ago on a local company intranet and ended up in 2017 on a Managed Dedicated Server outside the company. In the beginning, there was no real articulated reason for acquiring a LMS. Having little reasoned approach or road map could be a real problem when trying to implement a LMS.
We realized that we needed to remain relevant, and that's a good thing. I would love to say that we thought about the ability of our students to have access to content, enable adult learning, both cognitive and constructive knowledge and provide a platform to help increase market share; the simple truth of matter seems our acquisition of a LMS was more driven by cost savings from using too much copier paper; not exactly a bad thing.
The ability to provide a platform for asynchronous learning is a big one! And, according to the article, 5 Reasons Why Asynchronous Learning is Awesome, by Learnkit's, CEO and Co-founder of David Frey, asynchronous learning, "... creates the possibility for a much more effective and impactful learning experience..." (2015).
Bads of Implementing a LMS
The old adage, "garbage in , garbage out" couldn't be more relevant when trying to implement a LMS without an articulated plan. Simply saying one wants a LMS also clearly suggests it's not a need, but a want. It should come from a regular systematic approach to an organization's performance improvement scheme or business process. The ATD Human Performance Improvement (HPI) Model is one such example of a system. It's not enough to have passion and wanting to be the best! These things must be backed up by professional competencies. This is not a blog post on the ATD HPI Model, however, is it is very relevant here and I commend it to you. The model speaks to analysing the business process, change management, gap analysis and much. much more.
There needs to be an initial assessment of some kind to benchmark and assess progress, otherwise-- what's the point?. If there's no systematic planning, assessment, evaluation and improvement-- then anywhere is fine. In our case, for example, there was a glaring absence of coherent and coordinated planning which translated into multiple missed critical path deadlines and failures. The interesting part being that, as an organization I'm not quite sure we even acknowledged that there were failures because there was no real "authorized plans" anyway; only some plan by a lone project lead wearing multiple hats.
There was no approved plan, project team or benchmarked achievements-- anywhere was and is fine and plausible deniability in play.
Things We Could Do Better When Implementing a LMS
As project lead, there are real chunks of excellent information in the Webinar on, Avoiding LMS Implementation Purgatory, that can’t be appreciated until one tries to implement a LMS without really understanding the big picture of what's needed, not just what you think is needed! You don't know what you know until it happens to you and you have that “aha moment”. You can't miss critical path deadlines and expect to finish a project on time.
Things we could have done better; have a real plan, content to migrate when the time came, have a project team vice someone wearing multiple hats with little authority, have a documented reporting and communication requirements scheme, have a data migration plan and hard critical path deadlines as they can be show stoppers for your LMS if you don't have them.
I would also emphasize that content is king, cyber security a close second and should, therefore, be rolled into the mix of LMS implementation early in the process as possible.
On multiple hats or roles; for me this meant web hosting admin, Moodle Admin and content creator, and project lead. We had no project team to split these roles. The different roles required a different span of control, level of granularity in reporting and level of commitment and energy. In the webinar, they mentioned assigning project lead to assistants who don’t have span of control as a recipe for disaster and "dark area". The lack of clear continuity of communication, purpose, intent and approval process can also be show stoppers. Which brings me to a few final conclusions about what happened and the way ahead.
Conclusion on Implementing a LMS
The way ahead is “consequence management” and has to be part of the equation and motivation for staying on track! We had too many people giving orders, opinions and not enough personal responsibility or accountability for their actions—no consequences. Have I said enough about critical path deadlines? Seems we all know we have to hit these critical path deadlines or the whole thing falls apart, yet we miss them anyway? Apply a little too much pressure and people are unhappy; not enough and you miss critical path events, a sure recipe for failure!
Again, content is king and if you have to-- acquire a LMS that includes some content, e.g., onboarding, health and wealth, etc. As far as Virtual Training, virtual meeting software and training software are not the same (Adobe Connect, Webex, GoToTraining)! Check out Cindy Huggett, CPLP on Mastering Virtual Training, I think she’s a go to person on that topic. She’s well published, does speaking engagements and understand she will also be at this year’s ATD 2018 Conference in San Diego.
Those are my goods, bads and things we could do better when it comes to implementing a LMS. I hope my reflections and lessons learned helps increase the ATD knowledge base and benefit all that read them.
Lastly, the LMS may to be giving way to mobile learning driving the business results (see Pathgather), so maybe it's time to rethink this whole LMS model in the first place! Please let me know if this post has been helpful as I'd like to hear your comments, lessons learned and reflections as well. Thanks, in advance for taking the time to read and comment.