A portion of your audience should test any large-scale technical system before it is rolled out to the general population, whether it is an LMS or even a core of online courses. In regard to the LMS, user acceptance testing (UAT) should really occur on two planes: end users and “back end” users, such as the learning and development organization. Let’s look at how you can ensure that UAT occurs on both planes – and also some best practices for both.
One of the first sources for UAT information is your vendor. Set up a meeting with the vendor representative to find out how they would recommend testing the system. By the time you are ready for testing, your vendor should know your audiences, both internal and external, almost as well as you do. The vendor may be able to provide sample scripts, testing areas, and project plans. In addition, your vendor should be able to create a “copy” of your LMS to be used for testing, instead of using the live database. When you’ve obtained information and assistance from your vendor, take the time to develop and customize the UAT process even further. Remember that your time spent on the front end will probably save both time and money in the long run.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On August 24, 2010 NO COMMENTS
You can look at the build out of your learning management system as the point where “construction” begins. This phase usually occurs directly in line with the vendor and your agreed-upon project plan and timelines. But try to avoid leaving the entire build out in the hands of the vendor. In other words, you should stay on top of each phase and every development during the build out just in case any issues arise. Ask for consistent progress reports from the vendor’s representative and your project manager, if you have one. Stay in constant communications with the vendor’s team to ensure that nothing is missed. In addition to this, it may be a good idea to schedule project meetings on a regular basis just to “check in”.
Internally, the build out is also a good time to maintain your communications channel with the internal IT department. With this channel open, you can report any issues, have your IT department look at them, and determine if anything is going to hold up the progress of the installation. Another best practice is to ask the vendor if they will allow small “tests” of functions that have been built out, just to ensure that those functions are meeting your specifications. Along with your IT department, you should be able to manage the construction of the LMS without any issues.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On August 17, 2010 NO COMMENTS
You can probably take a deep breath after your selection of LMS vendors has been made. But don’t get too comfortable before the implementation begins. During the time period between the selection and the signing of contracts, start moving forward on conducting some final due diligence in relation to the LMS, its functionality, its specifications, and the vendor. First, let’s discuss contracts.
Most organizations have a legal counsel that reviews contract documents before they are signed. But you most certainly want to review the contracts yourself, especially if the legal counsel was not involved in vendor selection. This may go without saying, but sometimes the temptation exists to let legal do all of the heavy lifting when it comes to contracts. In addition to the legal review, consider having a contract specialist from IT or another area review the documents.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On August 10, 2010 NO COMMENTS
The process of finding an LMS vendor can be just as taxing as the whole LMS implementation process in general. In today’s market, there are many providers who are looking to add you to their satisfied client list, so your due diligence and patience in the selection process are absolute requirements. One of the first items on your vendor selection list should be to conduct thorough research, so let’s look at how to start.
First, go to your industry network, such as colleagues in the training and development business or your local ASTD or ISPI chapters. Find out who is using an LMS and whether they are truly satisfied with their vendors. You’ll find that a conversation definitely occurs with clients who are extremely happy or fairly disappointed, so be aware of the “horns and halos” effect. Look for patterns in LMS vendors in relation to your networks’ industries, business needs, organizational size, and training needs. When you have a sizable list of vendors, begin your research on your own first.
By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On August 3, 2010 NO COMMENTS
No matter how large or small your organization is, the department that will probably use the learning management system more than anyone else is your own training and development organization. For the most part, administration, data entry, data usage, and “back office” functions will be run via the training department. Because of this, it is vitally important that you lead your staff through a thorough needs analysis.
Consider how your staff is currently organized. There may not be many staff members, but each one has a function. Or, you may have various staff in various departments throughout the training organization. Break the staff down into functional areas that relate to the LMS, such as administration, design, delivery, development, reporting, and technology. Use these breakdowns as the starting point for your learning organization analysis.
First, look at the administrative function of the LMS. Who is going to be responsible for initial and regular data entry? For example, courses may need to be set up as a one-time event, with classes being added regularly. Will an LMS administrator conduct the one-time set up, and then move class access to instructors? Or will the administrator maintain control of this function? Plus, will there be a data management “checkpoint” person throughout the LMS life cycle?