How to Migrate to an Online LMS Part 2: The Planning Stage

(This was originally published on Optimal Partners’ blog.)

In our first segment of the How to Migrate to An Online LMS (Learning Management System) series, we gave a general overview for the project, covering the three main stages: planning, configuration and deployment. We’re here to guide you through the details of your project, but part one of the series will help you get a better grasp of the “big picture” before delving into the specifics. This article will go into more detail on the initial stages of implementing an online LMS, ranging from how to decide which system is right for your organization to how to assemble a team for your project. Hopefully, this series will leave you with the tools needed to deliver a valuable asset to your organization.

What LMS Is Best For You?

Create a list of functionality that your organization requires, and perform a fit/gap analysis on the systems that prospective vendors offer.

Although your institution wants you to implement a new LMS, it’s up to you to work with them to decide which system best fits their needs. Some LMS’s offer features and functionality that others don’t, while some are more easily configurable. Your goal at this step is to create a list of functionality that your organization requires, and perform a fit/gap analysis on the systems that prospective vendors offer. Your list should consist of the technical requirements for a new LMS, as well as the specific preferences and configuration options that will make your users’ jobs easier. Some key things to consider are how you want your courses to be structured, what forms of reporting functionality your vendor can provide, and whether or not your new LMS meets any standards your organization needs to comply with. Take this opportunity to evaluate how your new system could build on the functionality of your old one, instead of trying to imitate it exactly. You might find that procedures and functionality can be optimized or redesigned to create a better user experience for your customers.

Creating Your Project Charter

Your project planning should begin with a project charter. This will help you establish your project’s objectives and requirements, and help you communicate them to your organization and project team. While your goal will be to migrate your institution’s data to a new online LMS, that still leaves you with a lot to figure out before diving into migration.

Your project’s scope determines how you plan on allocating your resources and team members to accomplish your objectives. This will help when assembling your project team, determining who should do what, and how each team member can potentially help others. This step is integral to the planning process, as so much relies on how you plan to get the job done in the first place.

Many projects progress in stages, where each step builds upon the step that came before it.

Your project charter should also include a proposed schedule for your project. This will not only help you see “the bigger picture,” but it will also make negotiations with your organization easier. Many projects progress in stages, where each step builds upon the step that came before it. This means that time management is very important, as each new stage in the implementation will require the last stage to be completed on time.

You will also need to touch on the basic requirements of your project: the costs, staff, and risks associated with the implementation, as well as your plan on how to transition from production to support. These are the kinds of topics that you’ll need to focus on while preparing your charter. Keep in mind, however, that your project charter is only a catalyst for your planning process, not a plan that’s set in stone ─ you’ll be able to adjust your project plan as the implementation evolves, but having a strong initial statement will help keep everyone involved on the same page.

Building Your Project Team

The project team you assemble will be the most important factor towards your success, especially since the implementation of an LMS requires a wide array of skill-sets and expertise. Hire as many talented people with previous experience in e-learning as possible. You should also negotiate with your vendor about working with the most experienced LMS implementation expert on staff, to help aid in the migration process.

Your team should start with your Project Sponsor, the middleman between your organization and your project. The Sponsor has the last call on any and all important decisions made throughout the implementation. Although project teams are less hierarchical in Higher Ed, the Project Director could be described as the second-in-command. The director provides overall direction for the team, ensuring that they are working towards a common goal, while also managing the financial side of the project. The project manager will provide the day-to-day management needed to keep the project in line with the project plan. They will monitor your team’s progress, ensure that tasks are completed on time, and plan for what’s ahead. Each section of your project team should also have someone at the helm. A Technical Lead and Functional Lead are necessary to keep tabs on the technical and functional teams respectively, while Network and Security Managers ensure that their teams have the resources and guidance that they need.

Work closely with your instructional design expert, LMS implementation expert, vendor, and project team.

One of the most important people to have on your team is an instructional design expert. They will help make the migration as smooth as possible, especially if your team is generally inexperienced in working on e-learning projects. You will need to work closely with your instructional design expert, LMS implementation expert, vendor and project team to deliver the best product for your institution.

Planning Your Project

It’s important to be as inclusive as possible while creating your plan.

Although your project charter is complete and your team is created, there’s still more planning to be done. In fact, having a team of talented and creative people can help the planning process expand upon what your project charter started. It’s important to be as inclusive as possible while creating your plan, not only communicating your ideas with others, but also including your team in the planning process directly.

The scheduling of your implementation is going to be tricky, since you’re often only given a deadline and a list of requirements to design an entire project. The key here is to start with your deadline and work backwards, making sure that each of your project’s components can fit together to deliver your product on time. If you can’t make room for something, you’ll need to find a way to either work around it or replace it with something that fits better in your schedule. You should plan ahead for any problems that may come up, as well. No project is perfect, and it’s always better to be proactive than reactive to issues that arise during your implementation. If you don’t end up using that time, then your team can perform additional testing or preparation for a smoother transition from production to support.

On To The Next Stage

Now that your project charter is finished, your team is assembled, and your plans are in place, you can now proceed to the configuration stage. Part three of this article series will explain in-depth how to configure your new LMS to fit your organization’s specific needs and how to prepare for your project’s migration to production.

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