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Selecting a New LMS? Here’s the Why, How, and What You Need to Know

  • 3 Min Read

Why should you upgrade your learning management system (LMS)? What sort of qualities do you look for in a new LMS? How do you go about choosing the right option?

For the 61% of schools who are revisiting their LMS strategy in 2016, these are exactly the kinds of questions they need to be asking. The good news is, there’s no need to start from scratch. We’ve enlisted the help of Sonya Watkins, the Assistant Vice President of Information Technology at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) to help guide you through the process. Sonya recently joined us for a webinar to discuss why they needed to make a change to their LMS, what qualities they were looking for, and how they came to a decision. You can watch the video below to hear all about the UCO experience.

Find out if you’re ready for an online learning platform with our LMS Prep Test

The most important thing to focus on are the results. UCO saw a big jump in adoption rates as a byproduct of the LMS upgrade. In spring 2011 only 37% of UCO’s courses were using the old LMS, but with the implementation of a new system this number rose to 89% by spring 2015.


Here’s a quick summary of the UCO LMS upgrade experience:

WHY upgrade your LMS?

In UCO’s case, they had three critical things weighing on them which led to the need for change:

  • Their incumbent platform was coming to end-of-life
  • They had outgrown their system
  • They needed one consistent experience for students (there were too many other types of technology/tools in place)

WHAT to look for in a new LMS?

First off, you should always get feedback from your key stakeholders to discover what they find most important in a LMS. UCO made sure to survey their faculty, students, and other technical/faculty units that would be supporting the system. Here’s what each group found most important:

Faculty want:

  • Smooth content migration
  • Improved functionality (for grading tools and more robust feedback tools)
  • Stability and reliability (the growing number of users was overloading their current system)
  • Increased vendor support

Students want:

  • Mobile-friendly tools
  • Improved functionality (emailing, alerts/notification capabilities, and feedback methods)
  • Stability and reliability (ability to access whenever and wherever they needed it)
  • Increased administrative support
  • A system faculty would use effectively, so they can get the most out of it

Support Units want:

  • Scalability
  • Flexibility
  • Industry-proven
  • A learning solution that could support the university’s strategic direction for the next 5-10 years

HOW to choose the right option?

Choosing the right LMS for your business should not solely fall in the hands of IT. UCO recognized this early on and brought in a number of key players to help with the evaluation process. They formed a taskforce with a technical and functional lead. Here’s an example of what kind of representatives you should make sure to include:

Create an LMS Taskforce

  • Technical Lead – from your IT department
  • Functional Lead – from your faculty senate
  • Faculty – from each area to serve as ambassadors for the stakeholders they represent
  • Students – from your student union
  • Support Units – from areas in your organization who will help support the system
  • Advisors – from areas of disability support, library, enrollment, and purchasing

It’s important to have all stakeholders actively participate and bring attention to the requirements they will need from the new system. You then want to ensure these representatives champion the solution that is selected across their individual domains. If you want a more in-depth look into how to assemble the right team, check out this helpful post.

Build a LMS Project Plan

A crucial part of selecting a new LMS is making sure you have an outlined project plan. For UCO, a key part of their plan was to bring the potential vendors onsite. Their intention was not only to receive a demonstration of the products, but to learn more about learning management systems and discover new technologies. After these sessions, the university was better equipped to make the right decision for their needs.

Not sure where to start on a project plan? Check out an example from UCO:

UCO is a great example of what a collaborative effort can accomplish and a good model to follow when going through an LMS upgrade. By having a solid plan in place for selecting and implementing a new LMS, they were able to make a positive impact on adoption rates of the new platform.

If you’re going through an LMS upgrade or thinking that’s the direction you might be headed, watch this webinar to learn how to take this as an opportunity to increase engagement, and grow your adoption rates.

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