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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.)

Video: How Jennifer Automates the Management of an Extended Enterprise Learning Initiative

If you’re a regular reader of this Blog, you’ve read about how learning management systems can be configured to automate many of the activities required to manage a learning and development initiative. You may have read this, but you may not have SEEN it. 😉 So here’s a short video showing how this is done within Absorb LMS.

Let’s set the stage:

Jennifer is employed as a Learning Manager in a medical supply company, MedSupply Inc. She has just been informed that her organization has signed an agreement with a new distributor, Safe Distribution LLC. The contract between the two firms specifies that Safe Distribution’s employees must undertake a certification-based learning program to ensure that they understand the safe handling of MedSupply’s products.

Jennifer does not know who Safe Distribution’s learners are, nor how many there are. She’s been informed that up to 500 Safe Distribution employees may require certification. Compounding the challenge, the time frame for training is short. Safe Distribution employees must be certified within 60 days.

The good news is that the required course is already created. All MedSupply internal employees have undertaken the same certification-based program.

Jennifer now needs to:

  • Register these external learners into the learning management system
  • Enroll these individuals into the appropriate course
  • Provide status learner progress reports to MedSupply’s and Safe Distribution’s management
  • Issue certificates to the learners who successfully complete the learning program
  • Provide learners with a refresher course

The video below illustrates the steps Jennifer took to configure the LMS for this learning program.

Note: Jennifer, MedSupply, and Safe Distribution are all fictional. Any resemblance to a Jennifer you may know is coincidental.