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?
Next, consider the overall structure of the policies related to LMS usage. For example, what is the passing grade for courses, both online and instructor-led? Will you have a failure policy that leads to a retake? Or are some courses, such as compliance, a pass-fail basis? Will certain course failures need to be reported to managers on a regular basis? In addition to these questions, you’ll need to assess what qualifies required versus elective training, as well as which courses can be taken online and which cannot.
The third sample area is instructional design. Will online courses be designed outside of the LMS, using Flash or HTML, and then packaged for use on the system? Or do your designers simply need access to a pre-packaged content development system, or Learning Content Management System (LCMS)? From your organizational technical analysis, can you determine if the audience is going to expect social media, such as chat rooms, discussion threads, or blogs as part of their learning experience? If so, you may need to find a vendor that offers a Social Learning Management System, or SLMS. In addition to all of this, if your organization has a de-centralized training structure, will managers or subject matter experts need access to the LMS in order to create and post online training courses?
After design, shift your focus to delivery. Will all instructors have access to the LMS? Will each person who teaches a class or course need to access rosters, record attendance, and post grades when each class is completed? Does the organization need to implement a registration deadline so that instructors can prepare for classroom courses effectively? For example, you may want to consider a registration deadline of a day or two before the event if the class is material-heavy. This will be a great way to watch your budget as the LMS gets off the ground.
Another area to consider is professional development. Who within the training organization will manage career paths and development plans, if they are to be included in the LMS rollout? Or are career paths and development plans even necessary at the beginning? In a related sense, who will have access to training participants’ transcripts? For example, some organizations restrict access to employees only, while others allow access by both the employee and his or her direct and/or indirect managers.
Finally, consider the reporting aspect of the LMS. Which managers or executives will need to see class attendance, survey results, and online course completions? Will this type of information be generated as reports on a regular basis for distribution to the key players, or will those key players be allowed reporting access at any time? In addition, is reporting simply an intra-organizational function, or will it be used to support regulatory compliance for your organization?
This is certainly a “laundry list” of functions, tasks, and potential business needs within the training organization. But if you start here, you’ll have a much better idea of what information and access the training teams need before the LMS is implemented. Next, we will look at vendor selection and demonstration.