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.
We will use the term “installation” to describe your area’s preparation for the full-scale rollout of the LMS. Keep in mind that there is usually not a physical “install” of an LMS. However, you may have some installations to implement while the system is being built. For example, your IT department may have recommended running the LMS on its own server that may need to be installed and tested. Or, your department may need software or hardware upgrades in order to efficiently operate the reporting or data mining features of the LMS. Take the time during the build out to get all of your internal hardware and software installed and tested.
Another part of what we will refer to as installation may be the internal training of your staff. Often part of the LMS contract is a certain amount of onsite or at least virtual, in-person training for the learning staff. This may include learning how to use the system as a learner, as an instructor, as a designer, and as an administrator. Be sure to schedule the training during the “down time” during the build out. Another task you can undertake during the installation phase is to determine the system access instructions and paths – with this information, you can begin building training and quick reference guides for the rest of the population.
One of the final areas of the installation is the initial and continuing population of data in the LMS. First, where is the initial and regular data for your training audience coming from? For example, will the HRIS transfer employee information regularly, or is this information scheduled for manual entry at certain time intervals? Be sure to schedule these data “runs” at the beginning of the LMS implementation to ensure that information housed in the LMS is always up-to-date. Also, consider how you will set up course “shells” and class schedules. Typically an LMS will require you to create the catalog of courses first, such as “Banking 101” or “Customer Service Basics”, and then create all of the class meetings and schedules. If this is the case, you will need to determine who is going to conduct all of the manual data entry that is required. Some organizations assign members of the training staff to do this, while others may leave this time-consuming set of tasks to the LMS administrator. Alternatively, hiring temporary workers to complete data entry is a possibility, although these people will have to be trained. As with any step during the installation phase, be sure to “test” data to ensure that it is uniform in entry and appearance. For example, after the first data transfer from the HRIS, locate records within the LMS to make sure that the data transferred correctly. For courses and classes, consider having users test the data by looking up a particular course and class meeting.
Once the LMS has been built, the next step in the implementation is User Acceptance Testing, or UAT.