LMS Migration Checklist: 8 Steps to Prepare for Conversion

Updated on August 2, 2022

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It all started so well. In the beginning, there was excitement and anticipation about all the new experiences and accomplishments ahead. But the thrill began to fade, communication broke down, and you were left feeling like maybe you made the wrong choice. Oh, you tried to make it work, but the two of you seemed to have different goals and expectations.

Let’s face it, at this point, you both know the relationship is over. So you find yourself checking the sites and apps to see what else is out there. The field looks promising, and you are ready to make your move.

Does the scenario sound familiar to you? If so, there is a good chance that you are ready for a new Learning Management System (LMS) vendor partner. You know what this means, right? LMS selection and migration are just around the corner.

But seriously, LMS Migration can be daunting! However, with careful planning and execution, the LMS migration process can be relatively smooth. This blog post will discuss a Pre-Migration Checklist of steps organizations should take to prepare for an LMS migration. In addition, we will highlight the tasks you can perform long before learning management systems selection and implementation that will significantly reduce the effort and complexity during the selection and migration process.

Organize a Pre-Migration Planning Session

Hosting a planning session or sessions is an opportunity to take stock of all facets of your current learning environment with input from the individuals with the most knowledge of the current system. If you are likely to lead an eventual selection and migration project, consider assembling a small group to collect and verify critical information that will help frame the LMS selection and migration. Your team should include your LMS Administrator, Lead Instructional Designer, and primary contact in IT.

The planning session invite list may also include key stakeholders, but keep the group small at first so you don’t introduce unnecessary politics. The first session might start by brainstorming and identifying all the learning environment aspects touched by the Learning Management System now or in the future.

Establish early that the purpose of the session is not to create requirements for the new LMS or discuss potential features of the new LMS. Instead, keep the sessions focused on the current content and required data in the old LMS. As you progress, you should also identify integrations with other business systems and strategies for documentation.

Identify and Inventory Training Assets in Old LMS

Now that you have a team and a high-level understanding of the Learning Environment, the next step is to identify and inventory all of the training assets that your LMS currently manages. These assets include eLearning courses, learning portals, social media sites, virtual classrooms, and other content used for training or development purposes. After you completely understand what you have, you can begin to assess the plan for how you and your project will migrate assets to the new LMS.

Discuss the best approach to capture the information you will collect with your team. For example, if your organization supports collaborative spreadsheets, these tools would be your first choice for collecting and consolidating information.

Build Comprehensive Course and Curricula Catalogs

Now that you have a complete understanding of your current learning environment and have agreed on your approach to capturing information, you can begin to build comprehensive course and curricula catalogs in preparation for your LMS migration. You will use these catalogs to track and manage the new system’s courses and curricula you migrate.

You may be thinking, “we already have a course catalog in the LMS; this process will be easy.” Not so fast. Before you assume you have this information at your fingertips, remember that your LMS generally stores only the information about content necessary for the LMS to perform its essential functions. Therefore, your course catalog should include most of the data stored in your LMS but many other fields that capture crucial characteristics of courses and assets. Another simple but essential point is that your course catalog should exist OUTSIDE your LMS. The catalog should be standalone and apart from the LMS because A) at some point, your LMS will no longer be available to you; B)so that you can analyze course and asset information to decide which courses to migrate. If resources are limited, you may also use the information to establish course conversion and migration priority.

Ensure that your catalog includes information about when the content was last revised and Learner Groups that use the content. Later you will use this information to determine what content should and should not be moved to the new LMS. Also, capture information about the course developer and owner because sometimes courses will need modifications before migration to a new LMS.

Document User Groups and Branches

User groups are a fundamental organizing concept for all Learning Management Platforms. You may base these groupings on departments, office locations, organizational levels, franchises, and many other criteria. Ensure you fully understand the current processes and structure through which the system enrolls Learners in courses.

In addition, keep in mind that you also need to understand Adhoc groupings that an administrator or instructor may have created for a particular purpose by an LMS Administrator. Again, a comprehensive understanding will ensure that these organizational structures are supported and implemented in your new LMS.

Catalog Notifications Used by the System

Learning management system notifications are a critical aspect of the learning experience because they keep Learners on track with learning goals and provide confirmation and feedback on enrollments. Unfortunately, migrating notifications from one LMS to another is not a quick, easy process.

In most cases, the migration team must configure each notification in the new system one by one. Therefore, you must document notification details to enable a system administrator to recreate each notification accurately.

What should you document? The answer will vary from system to system, but a few items to include are: 

    • Name or associated code
    • Purpose of notification
    • Notification text
    • Delivery type (e.g., email, text, etc.)
    • Trigger Event
    • Schedules
    • Course and User Assignments
    • Filters
    • User roles
    • Associated courses
    • Graphics used in notification
    • Associated shortcodes

For some organizations, the number of notifications in the system can be considerable. Therefore, create a notification catalog to ensure success during conversion.

Plan for LMS Data Migration

LMS data migration can be a more complex and time-consuming task for a migration team. First, it involves identifying the data stored in your current system that the team must move to the new system. It is also challenging because team members are generally not database experts, nor do they have to deal with internal system data in their daily use of the system.

This article assumes you have not yet selected a new learning management system, so while you can’t complete the process, planning now can cut months from your migration work plan. 

Begin by working with your contact in IT to identify and extract data fields used by your current system. Your current LMS provider may be able to help but keep in mind that they have little incentive to assist you in migrating to a competitor system. 

Your goal at this phase is to understand the data stored by your system for everyday learning events. You will also determine the name of each field in the database. You need to know the term used by your current LMS database and the common name used by your organization. IT experts often use “data mapping” to describe this process because it results in a map from the old system to the new. 

The time required to complete this process comprises several phases:

    1. Identify and extract data from the current system
    2. Catalog data fields and add names and descriptions that learning professionals more easily understand
    3. Evaluate what data to move to the new LMS and what data is no longer needed
    4. Test and perform a quality check that data is valid and free of errors.
    5. Migrate data to the new LMS

The first four phases often consume the most time because they require multiple meetings and coordination with technical and vendor resources. In addition, evaluating which data to exclude from migration may require input from leadership and the IT department to ensure that the organization retains compliance data required by law. 

It is important to note that only the last phase requires that the new system be selected and functional. Therefore, the first four phases can be started well before the new platform selection and save valuable time during implementation.

Identify System Integrations To and From Your LMS

You don’t need to transform yourself into a super techie as you prepare for your LMS migration. Still, it is vital to have a high-level understanding of the integrations between your LMS and other systems.

These integrations may include various business systems like HRIS, CRM, ERP, etc. In some cases, your team may implement these integrations in the new system, and indeed, the implementation team will need to evaluate how the new system supports each integration.

Your organization may achieve integrations through various technologies. Increasingly, integrations use an application programming interface, better known as an API. Work with your IT team to understand what functions are currently supported by an API. Your team will most likely need to implement API calls used for the current system in the new system.

Catalog Development Documents and Assets

If you have a detailed course catalog, you have already identified custom-developed content and assets; however, now is the time to make sure you know if and to what extent development assets are available. For example, you will want to know if storyboards, design documents, project files, and other development assets exist. These artifacts can be beneficial during the migration process as you work to re-create or republish custom courses for the new system. Even if you don’t have access to all project files and assets used in the project, knowing which courses may be challenging to modify will assist you in strategizing about resources and priority.

LMS Migration Checklist Wrap Up

You might be saying, “good grief, maybe we should just live with our current system.” You may be feeling this way because you are learning that upgrading to a new LMS and putting in the effort to get organized for this move is challenging. Compounding this challenge is that you have likely inherited your current LMS and were not involved in its original setup.

You may be living with a system designed and set up by a person or persons who no longer work at your company. But, if it is any consolation, you are not alone! Unfortunately, few organizations maintain current documentation for their training assets.

Consider proposing a mini project to prepare for the future migration and create an accounting of the current environment based on the items discussed above. You can justify this effort by pointing out that this upfront investment will save time and consulting fees later in the project. Moreover, no consultant or vendor can accurately estimate conversion and migration effort if the abovementioned factors are not well established and documented.

Need help getting a handle on your learning environment and preparing for an upcoming LMS upgrade. SkillQ is ready to help with knowledge and experience earned in the trenches of assisting clients in building a more effective learning experience for their organization.

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