Top 6 LMS Administrator Fails and How to Avoid Them

Are you heading towards a LMS slip-up?

Everybody makes a mistake occasionally, but when you are working with an LMS it could impact thousands of people. Hopefully, by reading this we’ll be doing some good in the world and helping LMS administrators avoid these common pitfalls. If you are a project manager working on a training project then this may also help you with your risk log and mitigation planning.

This list is arranged in the sequence that we think is most likely to happen.

Number 1

Assigning a course to the wrong people or group of people

  1. How does this happen and why does it matter?
  2. Very easily. As your LMS grows the number of courses and people on it will rapidly increase. Administrators may leave your company and new ones join. Without good course structures and well-defined learning paths it’s all too easy to assign the wrong course to the wrong people.

Mitigation Methods

  • On most LMS’s, when you define a group of people (team) there is a description field to fill in. All too often this is left blank. Give good team descriptions, defining as much as possible about them. For example, where is the team primarily located? What do they mostly do?
  • The description field is also very important for courses. Not only does it serve to tell learners about the course they are about to take, but it helps LMS administrators know what is in the course. List out all the main course objectives and significant topics. Also, include a statement defining who the target audience are.
  • If you allow learners to self-enrol on courses, make sure that you carefully control which courses they can see.

Number 2

Deleting somebody from the LMS only for them to re-join the company later and you no longer have their training records.

  1. How does this happen and why does it matter?
  2. As a security and data conscious administrator, you don’t want people who have left the fold to be able to access all those valuable courses. So, you put in place a mechanism with HR so they tell you who is leaving on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. As people leave you delete them and their training records without considering the impact.

Mitigation Methods

There is a balance between security and keeping training records. This will change from sector to sector and depending upon the local data compliance laws. You may need to keep training records for audit purposes for example, or you may need to respect personal data privacy laws. Consider just deactivating people instead. That way they won’t be able to log in so your system will be secure and you’ll be able to keep their training records. Alternatively, export training records into a digital vault and consider keeping only the highest level information.

Deactivating a user
Setting a date in the future to deactivate a user

Number 3

Not keeping source files for re-building courses

  1. How does this happen and why does it matter?
  2. LMS administrators come and go and have different working practises. Beware creating content on an LMS directly – as this makes it more difficult to move it to another LMS later (for example, your company is bought out and you need to merge systems or the LMS vendor hikes their prices).

Mitigation Methods

Put in place a central file server if you don’t already have one. Make sure that ALL source files including your SCORM files are kept on the file server regardless of where they come from and who creates a course on the LMS. Ensure that all content is built offline.

Number 4

Running reports for managers/stakeholders when you are asked to

  1. How does this happen and why does it matter?
  2. We all try to do our jobs to the best of our ability. When somebody asks us “Can we do xyz?” it’s all too easy to just say “yes”. This is a slippery slope though for an LMS administrator. As the number of people and courses on the LMS grows, more reports will be needed, taking up valuable time.

Mitigation Methods

Give managers the ability to run reports themselves or build a report for them and schedule it to run at pre-defined periods. If you do have time to do the report though and it’s a one-off or for important stakeholders, just go ahead and do it.

Number 5

Uploading a new list of people from HR without checking it first

Administrator import
Importing 5000 users at once
  1. How does this happen and why does it matter?
  2. LMS administrators need to give access to the LMS and will synchronise with an HR system on a periodic basis (typically using a data export from the HR system into Excel which is then imported into the LMS). The problem arises though when the HR data isn’t very good. This causes the LMS to also have bad data.

Mitigation Methods

You must rely at some point on the data being correct. But, before importing data from an HR export, check it. Look at the obvious things like:

  • Capitalization of words
  • Spelling
  • Company names are consistent
  • Email addresses don’t contain disallowed characters
  • Challenge any weird looking data and go back to HR with queries
  • Ensure access levels and custom flags are set correctly

Note: you could also consider using an API to synchronise with the HR database, but the source data will still need to be high quality.

Number 6

Accidentally not paying the bill

wallet clamped shut

  1. How does this happen and why does it matter?
  2. As more and more of us move into SAAS (Software as a Service) models we need the bills paying in order to keep the lights turned on. SAAS companies will be quick to remove a service if they are not being paid for it. The issue often arises as a result of invoicing dates and/or payment terms and conditions.

Mitigation Methods

Get to know your financial people well. Make them aware of how a non-payment of an invoice on time could impact the organisation. Talk to the providers of the service and determine exactly when an invoice should be submitted. Let finance know about this up front. Work as the grease between two gears, trying to make sure that both sets of cogs interact correctly. Communicate everything to all parties involved and praise them openly when it goes well.


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