How to Migrate to an Online LMS Part 3: The Configuration 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 of the project, covering the three main stages: planning, configuration and deployment. You may want to read through it first, because it will help you get a better grasp on the “big picture” before delving into the specifics. Our last entry discussed the steps for preparing for your migration, while this article will go into more detail on the configuration stage of implementing a new LMS—ranging from establishing what kinds of courses are offered to how to respond to initial testing feedback. Hopefully, this series will leave you with some of the tools needed to deliver a valuable product to your organization.

Migration Preparation

You should have an idea of how your courses will look early on

Before any data can be migrated over to your new LMS, you will need to configure it to meet the specific needs of your institution. In terms of course data, you’ll need to determine how your catalog will be structured, what types of courses will be offered, and how they relate to one another. You should have an idea of how your courses will look early on, even if you must wait until data is available in the new system to configure. A useful technique is to create templates to help make the migration process easier and aid with the development of new classes.

You will also need a plan for your users’ profile information before attempting to transfer it to your new LMS. Establish how your LMS will interact with your Student Information System (SIS), what data your students’ profiles will include, and how you’ll extract that data from the SIS. Keep in mind, the LMS will also draw information from other systems for faculty and university staff profiles, which may also need to be configured. Once user profile templates are established, you should look into what types of access each user is allowed—Instructional Design staff will most likely have more access to functionality than faculty, and faculty will have more access than students. How your LMS deals with security and authorization may need to be decided early on as well; determine who will have the authorization to make changes, who can see, and who can interact with specific content.

Online LMS’s often integrate with many different instructional tools, which may each need their own configuration before going live. Depending on your institution, Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) technologies will likely need to be set up, so that students can leverage additional features not delivered by a vanilla LMS. In many cases, reporting tools are already configured in line with universities’ needs. In the case that they aren’t, or that your institution’s standards don’t match those of your vendor, you’ll need to adjust them as well.

Remember to work closely with your vendor and instructional design experts throughout this stage of the project

The initial configuration process will take time, and it may be difficult to make decisions based on requirements that can change at a moment’s notice, but preparing for the configuration will help your project immensely in the long run. Remember to work closely with your vendor and instructional design experts throughout this stage of the project to guarantee that your institution’s needs are being met. A Steering Committee, including faculty and university staff, should also be consulted when making major decisions. Schedule weekly core team meetings to confirm that your chosen configuration options work well and don’t conflict with each other. Once you’ve decided how your new online LMS will operate and how it should be configured, it’s time to begin the migration process.

Migrating Into the New System

Approaching the migration of data into your new LMS in steps is paramount to the success of your project. Instead of trying to send everything over to the new system at once, start off by transferring a small set of information, then testing to ensure that the LMS works correctly. Make sure that the data you use to test the system doesn’t require other specific information to function properly. Once you’re certain that the new system works, you can migrate over the rest of the data, keeping an eye out for any issues that may arise and dealing with them as they occur. In addition, it’s also very important to verify with your vendor that they have a robust disaster recovery plan, just in case anything goes wrong. If you’re hosting your data on-site, then it’s up to you to confirm that there is an appropriate backup infrastructure in place.

Testing and Feedback

Your QA team needs to sign off on any resolved issues before transitioning into user acceptance testing

Congratulations! You now have a functional online LMS configured to your organization’s needs, but the job’s not done just yet. Your team is going to need to test your new LMS extensively before going live. The first step is to create a thorough list of functionality for your project team to test. Next comes the initial testing phase, where your team makes sure everything works properly. Once your team discovers a problem, you should document the issue thoroughly, prioritize it, attempt to resolve it, and then test to guarantee that it is resolved. Your prioritization should be based on the probability with which the problem will occur and the impact it may have on the user experience. Your QA team needs to sign off on any resolved issues before transitioning into user acceptance testing (UAT). There will be many different types of end users for this project, including students, faculty, and university staff, making UAT incredibly important. After testing is complete and you are ready to move into production, it’s best to open up the system to a group of pilot users, to give it a final look before doing a full go-live. Incorporating as many of your team members into testing and making sure each type of user is represented will guarantee that your transition to support goes off without a hitch.

Onto the Deployment Stage

Now that you’ve migrated your data into your new online LMS and tested it extensively, you are ready to migrate to production. Part four of this series will explain in-depth how to go live with your new LMS, train faculty and staff on how to use the new system, and transition to support.

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