What questions should we consider asking when switching from one learning management system to another?
So you’re thinking of adopting a new learning management system. Good on you! However, before you take the plunge, what questions should you consider asking? What should you be on the lookout for? Who should be on your selection committee? And what “hidden doors” should you be aware of? Consider these questions below to get started.
What are we hoping to accomplish that we are unable to accomplish with our current system? What trade-offs are we making?
It’s a good idea to make sure you have a clear justification for wanting to switch systems. You will want to be as clear as possible regarding the benefits you expect to see and take advantage of with a new system (e.g., a mobile-first design for supporting learners anytime, any place, on any device). Most requests for proposals contain a laundry list of features and functionality that can run into the hundreds. While capturing these requirements is important, ultimately you want to see these requirements in action. Be sure to ask your vendor for a live demonstration of your needed features, and be sure to focus on the tasks that people use the platform for on a daily basis. This can make all the difference in your decision to move forward with adoption or not.
Is our faculty support system capable of adequately assisting faculty members’ transition from one system to another?
Making a learning management system switch is no small matter and will require lots of planning and preparation. You want to be sure your vendor has the experience and capacity to support such large system migrations and can tailor the implementation to meet your institution’s needs. Change management comes in many styles and flavors, so you want to be sure your new vendor can assist you when and where you need it most.
Who should be part of the decision-making process?
While many people at your institution will want to be part of the decision-making process, not everyone can be. Therefore, you want to be sure you have a selection of diverse representatives from key stakeholders who regularly interact with the learning management system. Faculty opinion leaders are key, as are lead instructional designers and critical information technology staff. Determining who serves on the selection committee truly depends on your goals of adoption and the downstream effects brought by the new system—specifically, how the change will impact operations and institutional stakeholders across campus. Limiting the number of participants on your decision-making team can lead to more effective discussions and help speed up the selection process.
What additional costs do we need to be aware of? Will there be any hidden fees?
In many cases, not everything you see during a demonstration is included in the base price of your system. You will need to be sure to ask (and get in writing) what comes with the basic package and what costs extra. No one wants to learn that a key feature that was demonstrated and that everyone on the team must have costs four times more than you budgeted for.
How will we measure success?
This is my favorite question to ask institutions evaluating learning management systems. If you are unclear what a successful implementation looks like, then how will you know you made the right decision? Therefore, it is of paramount importance that you write up what a solid adoption plan should look like, get buy-in from your key internal stakeholders, and discuss it openly with your vendors so that everyone is clear about expectations and outcomes. Otherwise, you could be held responsible for a technology procurement fiasco.
A successful learning management system implementation does not happen by accident. It takes skill, patience, and a lot of careful planning and communication. In the end, you need to be prepared to ask yourself: Is our institution committed to a long-term vision of increasing operational efficiencies or is our institution switching and letting the chips fall where they may?
While so much depends on your institution’s capacity and willingness to embrace change, switching learning management systems is a great opportunity to reevaluate the way you always do things at your institution. There’s no need to be afraid. Technology initiatives like switching learning management systems or adopting a new student information system are iterative in nature, with each iteration/milestone resulting in improvements that are continuous and always in motion. Keeping this in mind can help you manage expectations and focus on delivering discrete, measurable outcomes.