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The Great LMS Transition

BB_Moodle_icon_blog_31As an Educational Technologist, you may encounter a time in your career when you must evaluate and select a new vendor. I would like to recount one such experience. My department- an Online Graduate school- decided to evaluate learning management systems to see if a change would be beneficial and effective. Our analysis of several different vendors led us to the decision that, yes, a change would be positive. Now we needed to determine a transitional plan so that the change had a lesser impact:

Design the Layout of the Courses – A lovely and exciting task for an instructional designer! The online education department met several times to discuss and deliberate on the course layout, with our professors and students in mind. The professors would eventually take over the building of their courses, so we needed to make sure they had every feature they typically use. The students would be the end users. We had several faculty members act as Subject Matter Experts to help us with final decisions.

Have a plan­- The online education department had an agreed upon plan for the migration of the course sections (roughly 200 unique sections per term or 600 course sections total). Each member of the department would:

1) “Sign out” a faculty member, and document this information on the department-shared data sheet

2) Inform their faculty member that they would be working on transitioning the faculty member’s courses

3) Back up the course section

4) Copy the content from the old LMS to the new LMS system

4) Move content within the course according to the previously established course design

5) Confirm with the faculty member the successful migration of their course

6) Train the faculty member on the use of the new LMS and in doing so, verify that all course content is accounted for

Communicate with Your Faculty- We informed faculty what needed to be done, why it needed to be done, how it was going to be done, by whom, and in what time frame. Answering these questions thoroughly helped eliminate fears of the transition. It was also important that each faculty member had a single point of contact within our department so that communication was stream lined.

Start Early- The migration started during the Spring term and needed to be completed by August to ensure that every course was migrated and faculty were properly trained before the start of the Fall term. It was also important that the migration process was completed well in advance of the termination of the former LMS contract. This way, we could be sure that we retrieved all course content for each course before we lost access to the former LMS.

Backup and Make Duplicates- to ensure that if a course transition failed from one LMS to the new one, we still had access to the original course.

Communicate with Your Colleagues- We created an Excel Spreadsheet on a shared department drive (GoogleDrive, DropBox services will suffice as well). Each member of the department needed to “sign out”a faculty member to work with BEFORE they began the process. This limited the chance of a multiple people doing the same (and conflicting) work.

Document the Progress- The previously mentioned Excel Spreadsheet, shared by the entire department, also helped us keep track of our progress as a department and give updates to those who inquired.

Follow up with and Train Faculty- Finally, we made sure that each faculty member was trained in the new LMS so that they could effectively create their own future courses. In addition, we followed up with them in the first two weeks of the semester to make sure that they were okay with the new system.

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