(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 provided a general overview of the project, covering the three main stages: planning, configuration, and deployment. Our last entry discussed the steps for configuring your new system, but now we will go into more detail on the deployment stage—ranging from the types of training programs you should provide to how to best communicate to your end users. With the right knowledge and tools, you’ll be able to deliver a truly valuable product to your organization.
Communication is Key
Any Higher Ed IT professional will attest that communicating to end users about a system rollout can make or break a project. Even if the implementation goes smoothly up to that point, a botched transition to support can damage the users’ perceptions of the product. This isn’t just our opinion; a recent survey of students and faculty, as well as a series of interviews with university staff that we conducted, showed that users thought their IT departments needed to improve how they contacted users about new systems and how they conveyed the importance of those systems during rollouts. Each type of end user may respond differently to the methods of communication that you choose, so you will need to take special care to ensure that they are made aware of your project, know how it can help them, and understand how to use the product.
One email may initially get your message across to your users, but it will eventually get buried in their inboxes.
Higher Ed users are very busy and always on the go, so email shouldn’t be your only avenue for contacting them. One email may initially get your message across to your users, but it will eventually get buried in their inboxes. To counteract this, you will need to provide a more easily accessible source of information, like a page on your university’s website. This will ensure that your users can quickly find what they need if they ever want to know more, instead of digging through emails or having to contact your support team.
Inspire your end users to want to learn about the new system. This isn’t about trying to sell them on minor upgrades or software updates; you should be able to present each type of user with a series of features that will make their day-to-day work easier. Once they know how the new LMS will benefit them, they’ll be more willing to learn about the project and help support their peers during the transition.
Encourage user engagement by getting students and faculty involved in your outreach campaign. Asking for feedback can help give users a sense of ownership over the new LMS. It doesn’t have to be a boring procedure; you could try having contests for users to incentivize learning about the new system, or set up a forum for users to answer each other’s questions. You could even spur engagement on social media by creating a hashtag for users to link photos of themselves using the new system. If you are going to use the social media route, it is important to maintain your social media presence during any hashtag promotions. It is very easy for one disgruntled user to derail your campaign, but quickly and politely responding to users’ posts will help keep the conversation in line with your message.
It’s good practice to be proactive by expressing how beneficial the new LMS can be and how your team is available to help with the transition.
Positivity is key to a successful transition to support. If users have issues that aren’t dealt with quickly, they’re likely to tell other users about their experiences, spreading negativity about your project before you have the time to respond to everyone’s concerns. It’s good practice to be proactive by expressing how beneficial the new LMS can be and how your team is available to help with the transition. Remember, your users will need to put a lot of work into learning about your new LMS and how to use it, so it’s important to let them know about all of the support options available to them so that they know exactly who to contact if they have any questions or concerns.
Offer Flexible Training Programs
Make sure that your choices reflect the needs of your user base and can accommodate for different types of users.
The next goal in this phase of the project is to train your users how to make use of their system. Luckily, there are many different approaches you can take to adjust your training program to fit your users’ needs. Depending on the preferences of your faculty and staff, you should decide between one of three major approaches for teaching about your new LMS. Asynchronous training involves an online component where users learn about the system on their own time through instructional software. Synchronous training, on the other hand, is primarily done face to face, involving a designated instructor teaching many users at once. The third option is a mix of both strategies, blending online accessibility with the perks of engaging with users in person. However you plan to provide training for your new LMS, make sure that your choices reflect the needs of your user base and can accommodate for different types of users.
Choosing your specific approach for user training isn’t everything, however. The results of our survey and interviews with Higher Ed end users revealed a pattern for their training preferences. Many staff and faculty were frustrated with the one-size-fits-all approach to learning, where each person is given the same amount of training, regardless of varying proficiencies with similar products. Many of the responses we received suggested an approach that would allow more tech-savvy users to test out of extended training while keeping it available for others that need more time with the system.
Last Minute Preparations
Your full go live date is quickly approaching. This is the time to make any last minute preparations to ensure that your project transitions to support without a hitch. Set aside resources initially for a stabilization phase. This involves project team members closely monitoring the use of the new LMS for any possible issues and responding to them in turn. The stabilization phase should take between two weeks to a month, after which the first wave of bugs should subside, and your support team should be ready to take over.
You’ll need to make sure that your support team and help desk have the knowledge to quickly and thoroughly respond to any problems your users have once the system is live. This is where all of the documentation you’ve done throughout the project comes in handy. That being said, it’s still important to maintain your documentation efforts throughout this process to keep your support team’s information up to date. Create a dedicated site to keep track of bug fixes and known issues. It may also be useful to create an FAQ for your new LMS, to help catch any common issues and lighten the workload. If a problem becomes too much for your support team, they should bring it to the project team’s attention and continue onto other problems.
Now that everything is ready for your new LMS to go live, you’ll need to work around your users’ schedules to decide the specific time that would be best for the full rollout. Weekends are often preferable so that the transition disturbs as few users as possible. You should also work with your institution’s staff and faculty to assure that training is postponed during your go-live period. A seamless transition to a new LMS requires precise scheduling and coordination between your project team and your end users.
A Job Well Done
Give yourself a pat on the back. You’re now finished migrating to a new online LMS, and your support team is ready to take on the task of responding to user questions. With the right approach, you have successfully communicated with your end users about your project, trained them to use the new LMS, and deployed your new LMS without any major issues.