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A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 10)

This is the final instalment in this series! Here are all the previous posts:

STEP 10: Create Reports

Congratulations! We’re at the last step of the process. The reason we’ve left the this step to the end is that it’s easier to create the reports you need when you have actual activity data in the system. So, you could potentially take a break after adding learners to the system, allowing them time to interact with the content. Then, you can create the reports that will allow you to evaluate the success of your learning initiatives.Absorb LMS Schedule Report

In this step, you want to:

  • Create relevant reports. Common useful reports include:
    • Learner progress in different courses, either for all your learners, a group of learners, or individual learners
    • How learners collectively answered test questions
    • Course evaluation reports
    • Certifications obtained
  • Save those reports if your LMS provides this option
  • Push out those reports to external managers if the LMS contains this feature

Timeline

You don’t need to go through all the steps in this series in order. Some steps can be done simultaneously by different people on your team, as the image below illustrates.

For more information

We regularly present the content from this series as a Webinar. Please see our list of events

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 9)

June 7, 2012 1 comment

Break out the party hats and noise makers! The LMS we’ve been setting up throughout this series will now be going live. We’ve accomplished a lot so  far in this series: 

STEP 9: Add Learners

In some systems, your LMS will be “live” as soon learners are added to the system. Learners will be automatically informed of their login information as soon as their learner accounts are created. Also, the enrollment rules or automatic course assignments you’ve created in step eight may now be triggered, which will inform learners that they are now enrolled into courses.

If you’re risk averse, you may want to do a partial roll-out to just one group of learners to see how things unfold before going live with all learners. If you’re fearless, you may just want to go live for everyone.

There are four common ways to create learner accounts:

  • Integration with an HR system or other enterprise application. (See this document describing common ways learning management systems can be integrated with other applications.)
  • Learner self-registration
  • Import learner information contained within spreadsheets
  • Create individual learner accounts

Integration with an HR system is fast and efficient but will likely only create learner records for internal employees. You’ll still need to figure out how to get external learners into your system.

Learner self-registration can be a great option, but you need to ensure that you’re somehow capturing the identifying characteristics you’ll need, such as learner group, job title, etc. during registration. You’ll also need a way to ensure all the learners you need to serve have actually registered.

Importing learner data from spreadsheets can be an efficient way to get started. You’ll need to get access to the data and will need to make sure that the columns in your spreadsheets map to the learner record fields

Creating individual learner accounts isn’t an option for anything but the smallest learner initiatives. The time and effort is just too high.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 8)

June 5, 2012 3 comments

We’re very close to welcoming learners into your new learning management system. Completed so far in this series: 

STEP 8: Create Enrollment Rules or Course Assignments

In some learning management systems, you may need to first create learner accounts within the LMS and then assign learners to the appropriate content. In others, you can create rules related to access to content and course enrollment prior to the creation of learner accounts. So, depending on your system, this step may be step eight or step nine in setting up your LMS. For the sake of this post, we’ll assume we can create enrollment rules first and then create the learner records. The advantage of this approach is that learners will automatically have access to the relevant content the minute they are registered within the LMS. There will not be a delay between the time they are registered in the system and the time they receive notification that they have access to content.

Once again, the work you did on the content inventory document will make this step very easy. You’ve already identified who needs what content, and whether that content will be assigned to that group of learners or simply placed in a course catalog for the learner to select if they wish. You now simply need to create those assignments within the LMS.

Here are some examples of enrollment rules:

  • If learners belong to the group Internal > Sales, assign them to the course titled “Managing Accounts”
  • If the learners have the word manager in their job title, assign them to the curricula called “Management Certification”
  • If the learners are located in San Francisco, provide them with access to an instructor-led session titled “Team Building.”

Absorb LMS enrollment rules

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 7)

May 29, 2012 4 comments

By the time you complete this step in the process, you’ll be very close to making your new learning management system available to learners. So far in this series: 

STEP 7: Create Curricula/Learning Paths

If you’re only making individual courses available to learners, then you’ll be able to skip this step altogether. If, on the other hand, you plan to make curricula/learning paths available, you’ll need to create those course groupings.

Once again, the course inventory audit document you created in Step 3: Establish Who Needs What Contentwill make this step much easier. Simply looking down a user group column will identify the content each group requires. If it makes sense to you to bundle those courses into a curriculum, go ahead and do so.

In bundling courses into a curriculum/learning path, you’ll need to decide:

  • Do the courses need to be completed in a specific order
  • Do courses issue individual certificates or does the learner receive a certificate for completing a curriculum
  • Does the learner need to complete all the courses or only some courses in the curriculum

TIP:

If you have high-priority courses many learners will need to take, consider investing the time and effort into presenting this content in different formats. You could, for example, present the material through:

  • A self-paced online course
  • A virtual classroom session
  • A face-to-face session in a physical classroom

If your LMS supports course equivalency and the option to complete some, but not all the courses in a curriculum, your learners will appreciate the ability to take courses in the formats they prefer.

In the example below, the learner must take the course titled “Welcome” but can choose between a self-paced or a Webinar-based version of the course called “Safe Handling and Transportation.”


A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 6)

May 23, 2012 5 comments

We’ve passed the mid-way mark in our structured approach to setting up a learning management system. So far, we’ve examined the following:

STEP 6: Import, Configure, and Test Content

If you have a large amount of content, this will be the most time-consuming part of your new LMS implementation. Being a strategic LMS super administrator, you realized the scope of the effort in `STEP 2: Perform a Content Inventory Audit’ and consequently may have created a number of course manager admin accounts in `STEP 4: Define Administrator Roles and Create Admin Accounts.’ So, you won’t need to tackle this alone.

If you don’t have a lot of existing content, you’ll of course work through this step fairly quickly.

In this step, you’ll:

  • Create within the LMS topic areas or categories for your content to match the topic areas you identified in your content inventory document
  • Import or create the relevant content within those categories
  • Configure the communication templates associated with your content. These messages and/or e-mails will be how the system informs learners of events. Templates may include:
    • Enrollment messages
    • Reminders
    • Completion messages

Depending on the features of your LMS and the specific requirements of your learning initiative, you’ll then need to configure your content. Here are some common settings you may need to adjust:

  • Images associated with course
  • Course prerequisites
  • Course expiration settings
  • Cost of the course if it will be sold and if your LMS contains e-commerce capabilities
  • Passing grades of exams
  • Education units issued by completing the course
  • Certificates issued upon successful completion of individual courses

Absorb LMS Course Certification Settings

TIPS:

If you have a very large amount of content, considering tackling the content associated with your highest priority learning requirements first. You can then proceed with the other steps in this document and go live with the most urgent content first. You can continue adding new content while learners are completing their high priority courses.

Broadband internet accounts are designed for fast downloading of information. Unfortunately, their upload speeds are much slower. The result is that downloading a 100 MB file video file may go quickly but uploading such a file can take longer. If you have a lot of content to upload, speak to your vendor about options. They may import the information for you or provide you with a way to batch upload a large number of files.

Do you have a many courses that are very similar? (A common course type we see is a video followed by an exam of some type.) If so, you might be able to create one course, configure its settings, make duplicates of it in within your LMS, and then replace the title, video, and exam. Another common example might be instructor-led courses. Duplicating a course and changing the title, date/time, venue, and instructor may save you time over creating each from scratch.


A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 5)

May 17, 2012 5 comments

We’re now approaching the mid-point in this series. So far, we’ve examined the following:

STEP 5: Create Learner Groups and Placeholders for Identifiers

The day you tackle this step, you’ll be going home from work feeling smug and productive. Even if you have a large number of user groups, creating departments or groups for them in your LMS should be fairly fast and straightforward. Once again, you’re benefiting from the planning you did outside of the LMS in Step 1 and Step 3. Your learner groups are already identified and named. You just need to make this a reality within the system. So go ahead and create the learner groups you’ll need.Learner groups

Just one thing, though:

In `STEP 3: Establish Who Needs What Content,’ you identified which learners will have access to what content. If your spreadsheet or database indicates that only some people within certain groups will have access to that content:

  • You’ll need to make sure their learner data contains those differentiating characteristics
  • You’ll need to have a way to capture those characteristics in the LMS.

For instance, if you have a course that is intended for only the managers in your sales department, you’ll need to ensure that there’s a way in the system to differentiate sales managers from non-managers.

So at this point, you’ll need to consider:

  • How learner accounts will be created in the system
    • Imported into the LMS through an integration with an HR system or other enterprise application
    • Created through learner self-registration
    • Imported into the LMS from data contained in spreadsheets
    • Through the creation of individual learner accounts, almost always a bad idea due to the time and effort required
  • Whether the source of these accounts contains the differentiating characteristics that will allow you to provide these learners with the correct content
  • How to capture those characteristics in the LMS

Your LMS may provide you with a way to add additional learner record fields for these unique differentiating characteristics:

Regardless of how it’s done in your system, you’ll possibly need to establish how to differentiate your learners beyond groups before you import their records into the LMS. You’ll of course need to ensure that the source data for the learner records contains the required differentiating data. You’ll never be able to provide specific learning content to sales managers if you can’t identify who your sales managers are in the system.


A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 4)

May 15, 2012 6 comments

We’re now 30 per cent of the way through this series. So far, we’ve examined the following:

STEP 4: Define Administrator Roles and Create Admin Accounts

Chances are you won’t be alone logging into the administrative control panel of your LMS. Others may require access as well. These people might include:

  • System administrators
  • Course authors/managers
  • Instructors
  • Course graders
  • Exam Proctors
  • HR managers

Apart from these standard roles, there may also be people who require some type of personalized access to the system once your new LMS is live. If you provide training to people outside of your organization, for instance, you may need to give access to an external manager to track the progress of her learners. You’ll want to ensure that this individual can only see progress reports related to her organization’s learners. The privacy of other learners must be respected so access rights need to be limited.

There are three things you need to accomplish in this stage:

  1. Define who gets access to the administrative area of the LMS
  2. Establish what they can do
  3. Decide where these administrators can perform their tasks, across the entire LMS or in only a sub-section such as a learner group

Not everyone involved in setting up the system needs to be a high-level system administrator. Course authors, for instance, can be provided with access rights limited to the tasks for which they are responsible: creating, importing, configuring, and testing content. Some learning management systems allow you to create custom roles that might better reflect your organization’s specific needs. If so, go ahead and create those custom roles as required.

You’re still a few steps away from going live with your new LMS. So, you may want to hold off on creating admin accounts for external managers or team leaders, instructors, and anyone else not directly involved in setting up the LMS. The system doesn’t really contain anything of interest to them yet. Create those accounts when you’re closer to going live.

You’ve been immensely patient throughout this series, resisting our natural desire get into the system and tinker. At long last, the time has come! Log into your new LMS and create administrative accounts for your team members. In creating their accounts, specify their roles. This may look something like this:

TIP: In some learning management systems, there’s one highest-level, super administrator account that allows someone to make significant changes, such as turning features on or off, to the system. The login for this account needs to be recorded somewhere secure and should not be used for day-to-day activities.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 3)

May 10, 2012 7 comments

So far in this series:

Those of you eager to start clicking inside your new learning management system will be happy to learn that today’s post is the last—I promise—step you’ll be performing outside of the learning management system. So far, we’ve identified the learner groups we`ll be serving and the content we’ll be providing. Today’s step consists of matching content to learners.

STEP 3: Establish Who Needs What Content

It may have seemed like a pain to create your content inventory audit, especially if you have a large amount of content. You’ll now, however, begin to reap the benefits of the work you’ve done. It’s time to connect the learners with the content.Photo of square peg, round hole by sfllaw

You’ll need to decide the following:

  • Who needs access to what content
  • Will the relevant content be assigned to the learner or will it placed in a catalog for learners to select themselves

Add extra columns to your content inventory audit spreadsheet or database. If some of the content needs to be available to all your internal learners, add a column named “Internal.” If you support learners outside your organization, add a column called “External.” Then, add columns for each of the learner groups you identified in step one.

You now need a way to specify in your matrix:

  • Which learner groups need which content
  • Whether everyone in that learner group needs the content or only specific people, (for instance, people with specific roles, people in certain regions, etc.)
  • Whether the content will be assigned or placed in a catalog for learners to enroll themselves

You can use whatever notation method you’d like as long as it can be understood by others. Avoid using abbreviations unless you provide a clear legend. If you’re feeling creative and like data visualization, color-code your cells. In the end, your matrix may now look something like this:

In case the image above is confusing, here’s a screen capture of a spreadsheet illustrating this approach.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 2)

The first post in this series discussed the importance of a structured approach to setting up a learning management system. We also started the process by identifying the learner groups we will be serving. In this instalment, we’ll identify and organize the content we’ll be providing to these learners.

STEP 2: Perform a Content Inventory Audit

One of the greatest strengths of a LMS is that it acts as a central repository for much of the formal content you’ll make available to learners. This content can be in many formats to support different learning modalities, including:

  • Self-paced SCORM courses
  • Videos
  • Exams
  • Documents
  • Instructor-led events
  • Etc.

Getting a sense of what you have by performing a content inventory audit will make creating learning paths and enrollment rules much easier later on.

Existing contentInventory photo

If you’re migrating from a learning management system to a new system, you likely have existing content you’ll be importing into your new LMS. Just as it’s a good idea to do a major purge of stuff you don’t need before moving into a new home, a content inventory can be a useful way to get a global view of your content. Such an inventory will likely uncover content that may be out-of-date and in need of updating or no longer relevant. Uncovering stale content in an inventory review will save you valuable time later on since you’ll have that much less content to import into your new LMS.

New content

If this is your first LMS, you may not yet have content. You should nevertheless map out what you plan to provide your learners. Your content inventory document will act as a content road map.

Your content inventory is best created using a spreadsheet or some type of database application. The beauty of using such tools is that you’ll easily be able to sort the data by various columns, making it a breeze to see all content types or topics grouped together.

If you have a way to share this document with other stakeholders so that many people can contribute simultaneously, the time required to complete the audit will be reduced significantly.

Here’s a potential structure that might make sense for a unilingual learning initiative. (Multilingual implementations should, of course, have a column added to specify language.)

This inventory document isn’t only for planning the launch of your LMS. Rather, it should be maintained and continually updated as your learning initiatives evolve.

(Again, I know you’re dying to start clicking on things in your new LMS. Please hang in there. It won’t be much longer.)

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 1)

March 9, 2012 9 comments

A new learning management system (LMS) is like a blank canvas. You can proceed with setting the system up two ways:

  • In the style of abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, you can start importing learner records and adding content in an impetuous yet passionate way; or
  • You can, like Michelangelo preparing to create a fresco, deliberately plan and organize your data

The Jackson Pollock approach feels great! The sense of power that comes from logging into a new application and clicking buttons wildly is exhilarating. This euphoria may, however, be short-lived; replaced—hangover-like—with a nagging sense of “what was I thinking?!”

The Michelangelo approach, though far less exciting at first, can create a structure that is easily maintained, and immediately understood, by any future administrators. When it comes to enterprise software that will be used by many people, order trumps chaos.

So how do we set up a new learning management system? Let’s start planning!

STEP 1: Consider the Learners

All learning initiatives should focus first and foremost on the learners. Before doing anything in your learning management system, it’s good planning to identify who those learners are today, and who they might be in the future.

  • Are learners internal employees?
  • Are learners people working outside of your organization; possibly partners, suppliers, and/or customers?
  • Are you serving both internal and external learners?

How should learners be organized?

  • By department or function?
  • By geographical region?
Using a text editor or a mind-mapping tool such as Mindmeister (fun!), create a structure that reflects the organization or your learners. Here’s what this structure might look like:

Internal learners:

  • HR
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Manufacturing
    • North America
    • Asia

External learners:

  • Suppliers
  • Resellers
  • Distributors
    • Africa
    • Americas
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Oceania
TIPS:
  • Even if you presently support only internal or external learners, consider listing two lowest-level groups to accommodate both.
  • If your LMS is integrated with, and drawing learner records from, an HR system, consider using the same group names in your structure list

(I know you’re dying to start clicking on things in your new LMS. Please hang in there. It won’t be long.)