Finding a learning management system (LMS) for your association and transitioning continuing education online as part of a digital transformation can often feel like walking on a tightrope. On the one hand, you need to move fast to safeguard revenue and deliver learning opportunities to knowledge-hungry members. On the other, you want the solutions you put in place now to help your association achieve its big goals and set it up for long-term success.
In April 2020, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) found itself facing the need to take its planned nine-month rollout of its new LMS, D2L’s Brightspace, and instead deliver it in two weeks. We had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Jenelle Hodges, Director of Digital Learning at CHIME, and Danielle Burt, a project manager with D2L, about what went into that rapid implementation and some key takeaways that came out of it.
For nearly 30 years, CHIME has been the professional organization for chief information officers and other senior IT leaders in the healthcare sector. It’s grown its membership by offering conferences and workshops to international audiences, but it was eager to do more—reach broader audiences, expand its education offerings, and continue learning between events. CHIME knew the only way to do that was by using digital technology like an LMS.
Working with D2L, CHIME developed a nine-month implementation process and planned to launch ignitedigital.org at its annual in-person conference later in 2020. When the pandemic struck, CHIME needed to switch gears fast so it could make its digital training programs available to learners as soon as possible.
Tips for Deploying Online Learning Fast without Compromising Quality
1. Prioritize Must-Haves and Nice-to-Haves in Your Project Management Plan
Whether you’re starting from scratch or adapting an existing project schedule, one of the first steps you’ll need to take is to review the milestones and determine the order in which you want to tackle them.
For CHIME, the focus was on taking its full project plan and breaking it into phases that could be developed and launched iteratively. The first content it was able to release were originally in-person courses that had been transformed into digital, self-paced, on-the-job offerings. Then, from there, CHIME focused on launching something new every six weeks to further build out its Ignite digital education platform.
2. Communicate Clearly and Consistently with Internal and External Stakeholders
Change management is a crucial part of any online learning transformation, but, especially when timelines are tight, it’s also one of the components that is most often overlooked. When it comes to developing communication plans, you need to consider:
- What are the goals of your project? How will your online learning platform and programs impact your association and its learners?
- Who are your audiences? Think about both your internal (staff and executives) and external (members, learners, and sponsors) constituents.
- What are the key messages each of your audiences needs to hear? What will get them excited?
- Which communication channels do you want to use? Remember that in addition to sources like email and social media, there may be tools available within your LMS, such as announcement widgets or automated messaging features, that can help you engage people while they’re in the platform.
Early on in the process, D2L was able to provide recommendations to help CHIME communicate what the platform was, how it worked, and the courses people could access through it—both for the initial launch and on an ongoing basis as CHIME released new content.
3. Make Sure You’re Working with the Right Partner
Choosing the right partner can play a crucial role in streamlining your initial adoption and driving long-term success. How will they support you during implementation? Can they be on hand to help you build strategy and create course content? What happens next? After launch, will they still be there to help you track progress and achieve your goals?
In addition to working with Danielle and the implementation team to build a project plan and execute a rapid launch, CHIME has collaborated closely with D2L’s Learning and Creative Services team to augment the expertise of its own in-house instructional designers and help make its courses as effective and engaging as possible using things like a gamification strategy and branching storylines. D2L’s learning strategy experts were also involved to help guide measurement and evaluation components. Ultimately, it was about creating an ecosystem of support to help CHIME achieve its goals.
4. Be Prepared to Move Fast—but Don’t Forget to Dream Big
Even if you’re not able to execute on a full project plan right off the bat, that doesn’t mean that you need to limit your vision. If your immediate need is getting your online learning programs off the ground, what do you want to do next? Who are the new audiences you want to reach? Are there new types of content or courses you’d like to deliver? How many learners do you want to attract each year? Are there new geographic areas you’d like to expand into?
In an earlier interview, Jenelle commented: “The big questions were: In between our forums and conferences, how do we continue educating? How do we reach the 80% of our membership who may not be able to attend our events in person? And how do we reach out to the next generation of people who will become members in the future?”
At the end of the day, success in online learning comes down to having confidence in your end goals and making sure you have the technology, expertise, and support you need to make them happen.