Administration and operation of a learning management system typically falls to one person or a small team, and it can quickly become a full-time responsibility. Effective LMS administration can be tricky, because the concerns and challenges facing the LMS administrator may not always align with the issues facing the end users.
To meet the needs of the learners interacting with the learning management system, LMS administrators should keep in mind the following five best practices...
1. Walk in the learner's shoes.
Because LMS are usually operated from a reporting and data perspective, an LMS administrator's view of what makes a system effective may be quite different from the learner's. For many learners, the LMS is unintuitive, and it's a major headache to log in and locate required training, let alone look for optional learning experiences. To understand the end user’s frustrations, LMS admins should regularly log in as a learner and see how the course experience "feels" from the learner's side. When selecting and rolling out a new LMS, include learners who do not have a stake in reporting and administration in order to gauge the learning experience.
Develop a user group for feedback and inclusion, and engage everyone from the learners to instructional designers to provide input on enhancements and system updates. This group can provide ongoing and early feedback on any change-related process. They become your change champions and can help spread the word about system updates, new features, and upgrades. They can also help you course-correct if the LMS administration team is working to roll out an enhancement that could ultimately prove counterproductive.
2. Identify success measures beyond eLearning.
Be creative with how your learning organization measures and records learning, keeping in mind that eLearning is not the only measurable item that can be used with an LMS. Many administrators adopt a SCORM-package-only mentality and don't consider adding other content objects. Documents, job aids, videos, checklists, and other types of learning and performance support materials can be added and tracked by nearly every major LMS. Identify how to record these types of objects to encourage blended learning and performance support as part of a richer learning experience.
Engage instructional designers in understanding the different measurement methods available, and invite them to lead a discussion with stakeholders around what successful completion looks like.
3. Determine audiences for more targeted learning.
Most LMS allow for grouping of learners, enabling administrators and managers to schedule learning events for relevant groups without needing to manage each person individually. However, not all learners react well to having large courseloads thrust upon them all at once just because they joined a new group or because several programs were just added.
Consider staggering implementation for groups to avoid overwhelming anyone, and allow learners to self-register for some programs, if possible, so they feel more in control of their own path. Seek out show-and-tell opportunities.
4. Promote content that appeals to more learners.
Learners at large organizations spend so much time participating in required learning, such as compliance training, that they may have little motivation to seek out or attend optional training. Schedule opportunities to market optional and awareness-level trainings so that learners are more likely to find something of interest. Many LMS allow for bulletins or postings on the portal that advertise new programs; be creative and appealing, which aids in building a culture of learning.
Consider partnering with event planners, or hosting a booth or an LMS demo with HR during goal-planning periods.
5. Partner with IT and ERP teams.
LMS administrators often have so many tasks for the learning organization that they fail to forge strong relationships with members of the IT or ERP teams. Since ERP often provides data, if not a direct interface, partner with this team to improve data integrity and maintenance for learners. Additionally, communicate regularly with IT to identify ways to use other technologies to improve LMS maintenance and performance, and to ensure quick support when necessary. Remember that from the perspective of the end user, IT, ERP, and the LMS are all one integrated experience. When updates come from all three areas at the same time, it can become overwhelming. Coordinate with the IT and ERP teams when scheduling updates or enhancements in order to create a more seamless experience for the user base.
By applying even a few of these best practices, you will develop champions within your company who can be advocates and help improve everyone’s LMS experience.
Brian Ziemba is a senior instructional designer with Caveo Learning. Based in Pittsburgh, Ziemba has over 10 years' experience designing and developing eLearning, instructor-led training, and performance support tools. Prior to joining Caveo, Ziemba worked as a performance consultant with IT firm Five Star Development. He holds an education degree from the University of Pittsburgh.