10 Key Considerations for LMS Migration/ Upgrade


‘Falcon Heavy’, ‘Starman’, ‘Tesla Roadster in Deep Space’. Sound familiar? Well, social media and mass media have discussed a lot about their extraordinary feat, and the montage of SpaceX's historic test flight has now been viewed by millions and trillions across the globe. The video showcases various stages of preparation leading up to the launch of Falcon Heavy from Kennedy Space Center, which makes us wonder how meticulously planned the whole process must have been.

Learning Management System migration/upgrade may not be rocket science, but like any process with an evident outcome, it requires attention at various levels.

Technological change, content change, and vendor change are the key drivers of LMS Migration or Upgrade. Quoting directly from the references cited in the Research Article- Migrating Learning Management Systems: A Case of a Large Public University, “Reasons and motivations that institutions may wish to consider when migrating their systems include added functionality, compliance with new standards, expiration of support for installed version, keeping the LMS up-to-date, dissatisfaction with technical performance, organizational issues, and competitive pressures (Kremers & Dissel, 2000). In addition, factors of economics and budget, along with the nature of technological systems that evolve constantly, may drive the will to change an LMS. LMS migration may be necessary simply because the hardware has become obsolete or too expensive to maintain, particularly given the development of cloud-based platforms (Ganesan, 2013; Jackson, 2014).”

LMS Migration to a new system or Upgrade within the existing one, both usually involve not just the content shifting but also transferring the learning history, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. A checklist usually helps in making any process easier.

In my previous post, titled LMS Upgrade or Migration: 10 Best Practices, I briefly introduced you to some tried and tested ways to migrate or upgrade your LMS. In this post, I will be elaborating on the 10 key considerations to simplify the process of LMS migration or upgrade.

1. Data Mapping - What is to be Transferred?

As the aforementioned research article points out, though LMS migration doesn’t have much to do with physical movement per se, it still is a movement in which the stakeholders at the organizational level are finding better conditions for training purposes and management. Migration and Upgrade starts from assessing what data goes where. And undoubtedly, for this to happen, the data needs to be mapped accurately. The key lies in identifying all the threads associated with the data and mapping them carefully to the new version.

This responsibility is mainly shouldered by the vendor’s project team. The key stakeholders of your organization can always seek assistance from the vendor’s team to clarify how the data will be represented in the new system.

2. Data Cleanup - What Needs to be Left Out?

The thing about existing systems is that, over time, a lot of data is added redundantly. Some of which eventually doesn’t even match the current learning curriculum. As the LMS evolves with time, be it due to technological advances or the market requirement, data is often updated, optimized and modified, which also means that some parts are chunked out, and legacy data ends up being completely unused in the system. Hence, it is important to identify and clear out such unused, redundant and inconsistent data.

Check with the vendor and ensure that the clean-up activity doesn’t leave open ends or un-mapped data behind. It is important to map and link the open-ended data properly.

Yet another aspect to this is the presence of age-old data or legacy content that often needs validation from the SMEs within your organization before being archived or trashed. Also, check whether the vendor offers a retrieval option in case you are reluctant to archive the data.

3. Enhancements - What are the Expectations?

The primary aim/goal behind any upgrade process is enhancement. Enhancement could be anything - new technology, compatibility, new features, IT guidelines, and so on. Take time and discuss clearly about the organizational learning needs, the expectations and about the kind of enhancements you are looking for. This allows the vendor to focus more on the enhancements, hence making the upgrade more of a success.

4. New Modules - Discuss Upfront

Migration to new system or Upgrade even usually comprises of new learning modules too. Knowing what new modules are added as the part of the upgrade or when migrating from a different system may can be of significant importance to your organization as it may help in redesigning the learning strategy. So, discuss with the vendor and check which new modules will be introduced right from the beginning.

5. Additional Features - What's New?

As a continuation to the above point, it’s the vendor’s responsibility to demonstrate the new offerings/features that the upgraded LMS or the new LMS has to offer. This can either be within LMS or as add-on services. While the vendor usually highlights the new offerings in a positive light, try to understand how it can be beneficial and how the features can be utilized to the best.

While as a client you may not even look for additional services/ modules/ features at that point in time, good vendors normally take the initiative to explain briefly the futuristic benefits of these offerings so as to future-proof your training.

6. GUI - What does it Look like?

First impressions do make a difference, and in case of an LMS the credit goes to the User Interface. GUI design is something that requires planning and creative inputs. However, the innovativeness should align with what the users/learners in the organization expect, what they are used to, their technical know-how, etc. So, have the LMS vendor explain the usability aspect of the LMS to you.

7. Target Users - For Whom?

While identifying the target users is the key to any LMS implementation process, it is equally important for migration or an upgrade. Vendors should try to understand whether the users are employees or administrators. As clients, you should be able to provide information about how and where the LMS is to be used. Is it for induction, or for compliance training, or as administrative tool to track classroom trainings and to maintain MIS? Users can also be classified as HR Staff, IT Personnel, Students, and so on. Classifying them often gives vendors a better understanding about the users, their understanding about the LMS /applications, and about their technical know-how.

This kind of analysis helps the vendors in inferring about the learning environment, i.e. from where the LMS is accessed - is it a closed environment say for instance, employees of a bank accessing LMS within the bank or whether the users access it from home or on-the-job or during field runs where they need to access the LMS from their mobile devices.

This understanding further provides insights about the general connectivity requirement of the organization. For instance, knowing whether the employees work in remote locations, gives the vendors the information that the content on LMS should be light and optimized so that users don’t encounter issues pertaining to loading due to heavy file size.

In certain cases, the LMS may have to be configured differently for different users.

8. Existing Applications –  What is the General Design Expectation?

Most organizations have a specific GUI, a branding style that is replicated across the website and other applications (in-house and customized). The vendor’s task usually includes studying the GUI style so that the new LMS gels in well with the other applications used within the organization, and so that the users are more comfortable in accepting it.

9. Company Policies for Password, etc.- What are the Security Norms?

LMS should be configured to match the existing security related policies of the organization. For instance, the policy for password should be taken into consideration well in advance. Most organizations have a fixed password policy set by their IT team which adheres to the security guidelines set forth for the entire organization.

Policies for data protection, data encryption etc. shouldn’t be overlooked either. The upgraded LMS or the new LMS should be configured in concurrence with these aspects.

10. Limiting Factors - Do the Existing Rules Hinder the Application?

From the very beginning, there should be clarity about any policies, rules etc. that can restrict the LMS setup. Here are some common issues-

  • In some cases, organizations may have a policy wherein a particular software version is used, hence neither higher nor lower version of the software can be used, however it may be that the LMS needs a different version to run smoothly.
  • In some other cases, the organization may have a policy to upgrade software regularly whereas the learning requirement may call for a fixed version of the LMS.
  • Yet another scenario is where certain software installations or sites are prohibited in the organization, but the same software or site is used within LMS, YouTube for instance.

Vendors should provide all the necessary environment details well in advance so that the internal IT team gets enough time to review and provide the required clearance. This in turn also helps to prevent issues during the latter phase of the project. A hassle free LMS setup calls for the involvement and equal contribution of both client and vendor.

LMSs that have been around since mid-1990s. Though it initially met a cold reception mostly owing to the general wariness towards a sudden switch from manual to automated management, the trend soon caught on. Gradually LMSs have created a niche in all training ventures and witnessed the tumultuous trajectories of change associated with technology. Over the period of over 28 years a lot has been altered and LMSs have hence, adapted to the changes, been modified to cater better to the learner’s requirements. LMS migration and Upgrades have hence become commonplace, yet the task is often seen as an expensive and time-consuming one. The points discussed above can act as the perfect guidelines for a successful LMS Migration or Upgrade. Whether, crashes or reaches the right orbit or forays into an unexplored one depends on the thoroughness of each stage in the process.

So, are you prepped to commence LMS migration or to launch an upgrade?