Over the last few years, enrollment in online courses has consistently risen.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, 98% of US corporations added online learning to their organizations. In light of continued growth, the corporate e-learning industry is expected to be worth nearly $50 billion by 2026, with an expected 57 million online learners by 2027. Some companies look to get ahead of the game; JPMorgan Chase & Co. plans to spend $600 million to upskill its workforce through digital platforms. Amazon is investing over $700 million to provide online training for employees, and PwC is spending $3 billion on professional development for employees over the next three years.
Organizations explore online learning opportunities to retain talent, improve company performance, and keep their staff engaged. But achieving these goals requires us to choose the right learning management system (LMS). Those who seek to create effective training programs must find an LMS that allows for efficient, flexible, and impactful delivery of online training content.
Here, you’ll get a step-by-step LMS implementation guide to help you transition to a flexible, remote platform seamlessly. In this article, expect to learn some LMS implementation best practices, including how to:
- Assess your organization’s needs
- Choose the right LMS
- Form your team
- Develop an implementation plan
- Configure your LMS
- Test your courses
- Train LMS users
- Migrate your data
- Provide ongoing technical support
But first of all, what is an LMS?
- Introduction to Learning Management Systems
- Understanding LMS Implementation
- Pre-Implementation Preparation
- LMS Implementation Steps
- Best Practices for a Successful LMS Implementation
- Download Your LMS Implementation Checklist
An LMS is an e-learning tool that helps trainers create, upload, manage, distribute, and track online training—all in one place.
Think of an LMS as a digital storehouse for all of a trainer’s educational content. Via their unique login, each student can also access relevant content at their own pace—which may be shared all at once or, in the case of Thinkific, you also have the option of delivering content in different formats, like in the Drip Schedule feature. Through an LMS, students can go through the trainer’s content, keep in touch with trainers, teachers, thought leaders and peers via a discussion board (like Thinkific Communities), and access extra resources provided by the trainer.
Trainers use an LMS to host their library of learning material, and they’re able to track student progress as well. Many organizations use LMS systems for the following use cases:
- Revenue Generation through the sale of online learning products like courses.
- Customer Training / Education to increase customer satisfaction and engagement.
- Employee Training to foster ongoing development within the organization.
- Lead Generation to attract and nurture new and potential customers through content marketing.
LMS implementation is the process of setting up a system within an organization. Successful implementation must align with organizational needs and learning goals. Here are some of the more common considerations:
- Creating a pre-implementation plan: this includes assessing your organization’s needs, choosing the right LMS, and assembling your implementation team.
- Executing your LMS implementation: this starts with configuring the LMS, migrating data, testing the digital product, and training users.
- Using LMS implementation best practices: these will guide communication within the organization, data migration and integration, as well as user onboarding and support.
When implementing an LMS into a complex environment, a few challenges will inevitably present themselves. Preparing for these challenges in advance can help organizations effectively address them. Some of the more common difficulties include: organizational resistance to change; leaders feeling intimidated by new technology; and skepticism about the benefits of using an LMS. With the right communication, training, and LMS implementation plan in place, however, many of these challenges can be swiftly overcome.
Plus, this LMS implementation guide is here to help you every step of the way—beginning with a few key considerations that need attention prior to the implementation process.
Before you begin your LMS implementation, it’s a good idea to do some pre-implementation preparation. Looking ahead and proceeding with caution will ensure that you have a seamless implementation journey, after you’ve chosen the right platform.
Assess your organization’s needs
The first step in your pre-implementation preparation is to assess your organization’s needs. Get clear on what you aim to achieve by implementing the LMS. Will this system help you with employee training? Lead generation? B2B training? Clearly defining the system’s purpose will help make the rest of the process much easier. Organizations must understand why they are using an LMS, what it needs to accomplish, and what gaps need closing. Knowing this background will help you map out your students’ transformation and determine how they will move from their current reality to their future selves. After identifying the ideal learning outcomes, you’ll be able to create impactful content when the time comes.
During this initial step, you’ll also want to evaluate your current processes and systems, in order to properly translate them into your LMS. Think about how you will measure the success of your LMS implementation. What will your markers be? Which data sets will you analyze? These are important questions for assessing your organization’s needs.
Choose the right LMS
When it comes time to choose the right LMS for your organization, first take stock of your company’s goals. Here are a few questions you can ask prior to your LMS implementation process:
- Does this LMS tool meet technical requirements?
- Is it flexible enough to meet current needs?
- Will customer success be feasible on this platform?
- Is this tool capable of scaling as the business grows?
- Does this tool provide the right user experience for students?
- Is the tool easy to navigate?
It takes time, diligence, and research into different vendors to identify a system that best fits your company’s needs. But purchasing an LMS shouldn’t be complicated; if you’re thinking about signing up with Thinkific Plus, download this LMS evaluation guide and access all the information you need in one place.
Next, it’s time to determine what you need from an LMS. You’ll want to evaluate the tool’s features and functionality—as well as assess whether or not the LMS has the right support and reliability. For example, you will want to know that you have a team who can help, as soon as possible, when technical difficulties arise. Or, if you need a certain technological capability, like an integrated community like Thinkific Communities, then you’ll want to keep this in mind when reviewing options.
Assemble your implementation team
Now, it’s time to form your implementation team. This requires engaging your stakeholders; with proper guidance, your stakeholders can help you to create a successful LMS implementation process.
A strong implementation team will draw from at least three different groups associated with your company. Identify your implementation stakeholders (the launch team), internal stakeholders (those who the LMS is intended to serve), and external stakeholders (outside parties that may influence your plan: such as the LMS support team, web developers, instructors, content creators, and designers).
By assigning different roles and responsibilities to various stakeholders, your implementation team will become cross-functional. To ensure the team is able to connect with ease, establish communication channels on a digital platform (like Slack). That way, all communication can happen in one place. This crucial measure will help maintain a record of decisions, avoid miscommunication or duplication, and promote a smooth LMS implementation process going forward.
Now that you’ve become clear on what’s needed for your pre-implementation preparation, it’s time to execute the steps to success.
By following this LMS implementation guide, you can expect to smoothly transition to your LMS and get your whole organization on board.
Develop a launch plan
After arranging all your ducks in a row throughout the pre-implementation stage, it’s time to develop your actual implementation plan. This involves creating a detailed project management plan, with clear timelines and deadlines.
In order to determine a realistic timeframe, the first thing to do is choose your launch date. Then, work backwards, outlining the major milestones needed to meet the launch date goal. Assign each milestone a deadline. This will help to hold your team accountable and to break down the work into manageable chunks. Clear timelines will also help you to determine a realistic budget and allocate the necessary resources to make it all come together.
Having a detailed plan will help you to stay accountable to your goals, remain on task, and achieve your desired outcomes.
Configuring your LMS
Now that your plan is in place, you’re ready for the next step: configuring your LMS.
In this stage, you’ll want to complete two distinct tasks:
- Customize your settings and permissions: depending on the specific use case, you’ll want to customize your LMS settings and permissions. This means defining and customizing the roles of different users: for example, some people in your organization—such as managers, instructors, and content creators—may need administrative access.
- Integrate your LMS with existing systems: if you choose Thinkific Plus as your LMS, then you can confidently integrate it with the other systems that you use, as long as they are fully compatible with the platform. A few examples of compatible systems are ActiveCampaign, ClickFunnels, Salesforce, ThriveCart, Zapier, Google, and Klaviyo. These can all be smoothly integrated with Thinkific Plus. You can also choose from over 100+ apps in the Thinkific App Store to customize your LMS according to your needs.
Test your course
A crucial step throughout your LMS implementation process, testing your course will help you spot any mistakes in your content, technological mishaps, and ways that you can enhance your user experience. In other words, this step will help you to iron out any kinks.
To test your online learning product before you launch, there are a few things you can do:
- Conduct system testing: ensure that all of your content has been properly uploaded.
- Ensure functionality and usability: perform testing in multiple web browsers to ensure that everything functions properly. It’s also a good idea to test all of your interactive elements, such as quizzes, surveys, and questionnaires. Are they working as you intended?
- Review course content: ask for a second (and even third and fourth) set of eyes to look over your course content. By carefully reviewing your learning material, you’ll be able to ensure accuracy, relevance, and alignment with learning objectives. This is also your chance to fix broken links, spot missing content post-migration, and clean up any formatting issues.
- Address and resolve issues: count on your support team for any issues that you cannot manage yourself. If you use Thinkific Plus, our support team will be happy to address any issues that you have in a timely manner.
Before you implement your LMS, you’ll want to ensure that you teach your students how to use it. To do so, find a way to brief each new user on how to login and navigate through the system. The goal is for each student to easily access your course content and learning material. Additionally, those who will be running your LMS will also need to be properly trained, so they understand the system and their role in its management.
You can train your LMS users in a few ways:
- Plan and deliver training sessions: these could be one-time training sessions or a series. Training in the LMS should be fun and engaging, so that learners retain the information and feel confident in using the system.
- Provide ongoing support and resources: this will be helpful especially when your LMS goes through technological changes, or if your content delivery shifts over time.
- Promote user engagement and adoption: perhaps your organization creates an incentive that motivates employees to learn the LMS; that may help to promote engagement and adoption of the platform.
Pro tip: a simple training manual and easily accessible FAQ can save you a lot of time answering basic questions like “what is my login?” or “which training module should I complete first?”
Getting a new LMS launched and ready to deliver immediate value is no easy feat. But the process doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. In order to perform a successful LMS implementation, consider a few of the following best practices that we at Thinkific recommend.
Change management and communication
For many organizations, managing change can be an arduous task. Innovation often provokes resistance, fear, and uncertainty. To ease these hesitations, it’s important for organizations to have a plan on how they’ll navigate change and improve communication. Here are a few steps to include in your planning phase:
- Create a change management plan: we recommend outlining key strategies, activities, and resources needed to manage the transition effectively.
- Develop effective communication strategies: make sure everyone in your organization is on the same page by creating consistent communication; consider introducing a communication channel (like Slack) or a discussion forum where team members can easily communicate.
- Address resistance: many people in your organization may resist adopting the new LMS; it’s best to address these fears head-on. Acknowledge how people feel, then show them the benefits of adopting the new LMS. Share how it will impact them and the company as a whole. If there is still resistance after that, consider providing additional training and support.
Data migration and integration
Once you’ve created your content, based on the gap between where your audience is and where you want them to be, you can upload it directly into your LMS.
If you’ve already created content, consider using a Bulk Importer—like Thinkific’s feature—that enables you to upload all of your course’s video, audio, and PDF lessons with a simple drag and drop.
On a Thinkific Plus plan, your dedicated Customer Success Manager (CSM) can advise on a custom migration plan as well. If you’re creating documents from scratch, you can easily integrate some of the interactivity that an LMS offers: such as quizzes, surveys, discussion boards, and discussion forums like Thinkific Communities. Building out interactivity can be time-consuming, so make sure you carve out adequate time for it.
Next, create the mandate and buy-in to integrate the LMS with your organization’s human resources department and other systems. This crucial step should lead to a seamless data flow, broad automation, and streamlined processes between different departments.
In order to maintain your data’s integrity and security when migrating to an LMS, ensure that you’ve backed up all your data before performing the migration. It’s also a good idea to encrypt sensitive data during the migration process, to protect it from unauthorized access. You should also understand the data structure and formats required by your LMS, then map out your data migration accordingly.
User onboarding and support
At some point throughout your online course creation process, your users may need support. Here are a few ways to implement an effective support system:
- Develop user onboarding materials: provide your students with accessible materials that answer common questions related to using the LMS. Clearly explained, ready-made answers will help them feel confident in how they use the platform.
- Provide ongoing technical support: make sure that your students can quickly access technical support—whenever they need it. Consider assigning a manager the role of being their point-of-contact.
- Encourage user feedback and continuous improvement: solicit and welcome users’ thoughts, concerns, and overall feedback so that you can constantly improve your digital product and make it as impactful as possible.
Now that you’ve become more familiar with how to facilitate an LMS implementation process, it’s time to take action.
While there is a lot to an LMS implementation, a checklist can help keep the scope of tasks manageable. Having a structured plan reduces stress and keeps you on task.
We’ve put together an LMS implementation checklist so that you can navigate the process as smoothly as possible; this checklist covers all of the essential aspects of your LMS implementation. Follow it to efficiently outline your educational objectives, key tasks, project milestones, course content, and extra resources. Download it here:
We hope that this LMS implementation guide was helpful. Remember: your online courses will be unique to your organization, however following this LMS implementation guide will help you apply best practices for a successful learning journey.
Ready to streamline your organization’s learning management system?
Let Thinkific Plus be your guide to successful LMS implementation. Reach out to our experts for a free personalized consultation and start your journey towards a more efficient and effective online learning environment. Get in touch with us today
Q: What is LMS implementation?
An LMS implementation is the process of setting up a learning management system within an organization.
Q: Why is a well-planned implementation important for an LMS?
Planning is a key part of LMS implementation. In order to create a seamless online learning experience, it’s recommended that you first create a pre-implementation plan. It would include an assessment of your organization’s needs; a method for choosing the right LMS; and defined roles for your implementation team. Next, it’s recommended that you plan out the LMS implementations steps, which include configuring the LMS, migrating data, testing the digital product, and training users.
Q: What are the key steps involved in LMS implementation?
The key steps involved in LMS implementation are as follows:
- Develop a pre-implementation plan:
- Assess your organization’s needs
- Choose the right LMS
- Assemble your implementation team
- Execute LMS implementation steps:
- Develop a launch plan
- Configure your LMS
- Test your course
- Train users
- Apply LMS implementation best practices for:
- Change management and communication
- Data migration and integration
- User onboarding and support
Q: How can I ensure smooth user adoption during the implementation process?
In order to lead a successful LMS implementation process, smooth user adoption is crucial. This can be achieved by:
- Clearly communicating the purpose and benefits of using the LMS: answer the question, “what’s in it for your audience?” Describe how it will improve their working lives.
- Training users on how to use the LMS: while some people may be resistant to change, intimidated by technology, or skeptical about the platform itself, negative sentiments are likely to fade once they understand the LMS. Through training sessions and ongoing support, users should be able to approach the LMS with confidence.
- Welcoming feedback: let users know that the organization is open to hearing employees’ and students’ feedback, questions, and concerns. Signaling that their experience matters to the company will help them to better adopt the LMS.
- Fostering a culture of learning: encourage users to adopt a positive, growth mindset; provide continuous learning opportunities; and ensure that they have the leadership and support needed to thrive.
Q: Where can I find additional resources and support for LMS implementation?
Contact your LMS support team. If you choose Thinkific Plus, you’ll benefit from our dedicated Customer Success team that has team members who are specifically trained in helping you implement and launch your LMS within an organization.
Get a free consultation call and receive help building your customized plan by an expert from Thinkific Plus today.
This guide was originally published July 2021, and was updated August 2023 to be even more useful!