A corporate university must have some sort of unified delivery system for scheduling, online courses, classroom course schedules and descriptions, tracking, and instructor and facilities scheduling. It would be difficult to plan so heavily for the roll out of the corporate university only to find out that there is no way to deliver. So the next best practice is to purchase or build a Learning Management System (LMS).
Choosing an LMS is an important step for any Learning and Development organization. In fact, some organizations may already have a functioning LMS when they make the transition from training department to corporate university. But if you do not have an LMS, the setup phase of your corporate university is the time to buy, build, or “freeware” a system. You definitely don’t want to have to backtrack in order to catch up on scheduling, curriculum paths, and course tracking after the university is up and running.
The first step is to determine how you’ll use the LMS. Do your courses reside mainly online, in the classroom, or a mix of both? Do you want learners to have direct access to registration, curriculum plans, and career paths? Are you managing multiple locations, facilities, and instructors? Do you plan to include technology, such as blogs or social media, in the roll out of the corporate university? Will you want to include a content management system? All of these decisions will have an impact on what kind of LMS you choose.
Next, locate LMS vendors who share your vision and can provide the features you need. Take the time to price them out, contact their clients, and look over their company information before making a decision to bring them in. Once you’re ready, be sure to bring any potential LMS vendor in to your location to provide a live demo of their system and its features. Create a review committee to take part in the demos, review technical specifications, documentation, and contracts before you make any decisions. In fact, your review committee can be part of your corporate university stakeholders and sponsors group.
One of the issues you may face is the question of funds. But just because there is no money to purchase an LMS does not mean that there is no solution. There are LMSs that are offered as “freeware”, such as Moodle. Take the time to research and review free LMS systems, because they do work and can be used to meet basic needs with no customizations. On the other hand, if you have an IT department that is involved in the roll out of the corporate university, ask them to spec out an in-house LMS. This may be a very effective way to get what you need in an LMS without having to pay for a vendor.
Once you’ve decided on an LMS, test it thoroughly well in advance of the corporate university rollout. Be certain that any data that has been entered or imported is correct before putting the LMS online for your learners. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is rolling out the corporate university with a badly functioning LMS.
Another consideration for the LMS is to use every feature you’ve ordered or had developed. For example, if you bought a content management system that allows for design of online courses, have your design team start developing online courses, quick reference guides, or even short online interventions that are designed to fit inside a classroom course. Avoid wasting money by wasting features.
Finally, as you develop your corporate university structure, you’ll want to make decisions about how the LMS will be administered. Some organizations choose to have an administrator, while others may hand the administration of the LMS to various people in various departments. The point with this step is to make these decisions early, knowing that you may need to have some flexibility as you move forward. Remember that some type of Learning Management System is a foundation of your corporate university, so spend some time on the various aspects of this important best practice.
Next, we will look at the inclusion of technology in the corporate university.
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