Launching a learning management system within an educational institution comes with some challenges. The main goal is to customize the best platform for your organization, which isn’t an easy task. At the same time, there are many factors to consider, including stakeholders, the goals that you want to achieve, teacher training, and so much more.
As any LMS project manager knows, preparation is everything. A successful launch means higher adoption rates and a higher level of satisfaction with the new platform. After all, schools want to get the full value of their investment in an LMS.
To make things go as smoothly as possible, here are some steps to take before launching an LMS for your school or university:
1. Talk to stakeholders
Stakeholders such as principals and district coordinators don’t just decide which LMS to use. In fact, they need to be up to date all the time since they are the ones to approve LMS budgets, whether we are talking about a large university or small school.
Make sure that they see the benefits of the project, and get constant updates. This can be done through newsletters, emails, presentations, meetings, and so on.
It also helps if you choose an LMS with a built-in reporting system so it will be easier to back up your presentations with data once the LMS is up and running.
2. Build an LMS team
Teamwork makes the (LMS) dream work. An LMS team can be made of IT specialists, edtech coordinators, teachers, school librarians, and other staff members that can pitch in with ideas.
Once they understand why you need to switch to a new LMS or why the school needs one in the first place, they will actually be excited to help since there is something in there for every member of the staff. Make sure that everyone has profiles and that they can communicate with each other from the start.
You can assemble a team of teachers if the school does not have edtech or IT specialist roles.
3. Set clear LMS goals
Knowing what you want to achieve is the most important part before the launch. Some organizations prefer to do a needs assessment, or set goals together with all the teachers.
Involving teachers is the preferred way since you can try to cover as many needs as possible. For example, do you want to have all grades submitted in the LMS gradebook? Do you want to offer blended learning classes? Or, maybe use the LMS for teacher professional development courses? Write the LMS goals down so you can track progress later on.
4. Learn everything about the LMS
You don’t want to look back and say: why didn’t I know about this feature? After all, you want to get the most out of the new platform. Since you already have the goals, curriculum, and content, take some time to navigate through the LMS, read the administrator or teacher guide, and get help from your LMS provider.
And don’t worry, aside from deleting it altogether, most changes you make are reversible!
5. Customize your school platform
Students won’t find it appealing if the platform looks like a work-in-progress all the time. It would be like walking into an unfinished classroom. Instead, they will be more likely to adopt it if it’s customized to match the school’s identity, including the logo, colors, photos, etc.
Don’t forget that you can also add custom badges to reward students for completing tasks on the platform if gamification is enabled.
Read more: Is a learning portal different from an LMS?
6. Prepare class content
Again, to ensure adoption it’s better to have enough content so that students have plenty to do. Usually, they expect to be challenged and find extra materials that can help them learn better.
You can build courses in advance, even if they are not ready to be published yet. The school can also have some announcements or events added, and even some discussion groups or forums to get things started.
7. Map out the student’s experience
Things are less likely to go wrong once you have a clear idea of what a student's learning experience should be like. For example, you can choose for them to receive a welcome message when they first log in.
Knowing how they will go from A to B in the platform will also minimize potential issues such as students not knowing how to submit their homework. Which brings us to the next step...
8. Set up a pilot program
School districts and larger universities have found it useful to test the platform with a smaller group of students and teachers.
However, it is recommended for all institutions, regardless of the number of students, to test it out first and gather some feedback. This helps the LMS team know if there are any problems that need to be fixed ahead of the full launch.
9. Train teachers and staff
First, it’s important to note that a user-friendly LMS is more likely to be implemented faster. However, to make sure that everyone is on the same page, it’s important to train teachers and staff to use the new LMS.
Your LMS provider can be of assistance, and also offer getting started guides. If needed, see if you can be trained by the company. Most of them have edtech experts who can offer face to face or online training.
10. Teach students about the LMS
Depending on your students’ age group, they might need more or less help when learning how to get around the new platform.
While they’re supposed to use it in many aspects of their school life, some of them might struggle for different reasons. Don’t just assume that each student has a good internet connection at home, if at all. Younger students need more supervision from teachers, while university students can receive a guide on the basics of using an LMS.
11. Communicate with parents
This step is for K-12 schools that want to improve parent-teacher communication. It’s best to choose an LMS that supports parent accounts in which parents can see their children’s grades and communicate directly with teachers.
It can be as simple as sending an email or a flyer with all the information they need to know about the new platform. Don’t forget to address any questions and concerns they might have.
12. Make it fun!
Just because many serious activities are taking place inside an LMS, it doesn’t mean that using it can’t be enjoyable. An LMS can boost student engagement and add an element of fun to lessons.
For example, teachers can add games with points and badges so that they will be more motivated to engage with the platform. Students can also friend other students and set up groups for extracurricular activities, such as sports or theater.
13. Create anticipation
Finally, as the LMS launch day is approaching, you can leave teasers such as posters on school premises. Send emails to teachers with tips and reminders.
Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of showing the benefits of the platform and how they can get help if they need it. You can also make a special announcement on the school’s website or social media pages.
For the more adventurous, organize a treasure hunt or a small competition to celebrate.
Before the launch…
Since money and time are invested in the new LMS, more organizations should consider preparing for the launch. Taking these steps or some of the steps can really help you start off on the right foot.