Throughout my learning and talent development career, I’ve always been involved with Learning Management Systems (LMSs). It’s the perfect blend of my passion for learning and developing leaders and my geeky love for data and technology. Along the way, I’ve been involved with all sorts of LMS implementations in a variety of roles, and throughout this journey, I’ve come to see that the most critical role for LMS success is, by far, the LMS administrator.
Whom you choose to be the administrator of your LMS is a key decision. Even the title is a misnomer - “administrator” doesn’t quite encompass what the role really involves. After all, every interaction LMS users have is set up by the administrator. This includes registering for courses, completing online learning, responding to surveys, completing exams, and more. It’s all built and handled by LMS administrators. In addition, some organizations understand the administrator to also be responsible for doing all the technical work and keeping users happy. Honestly, I vote to call this person a magician, but perhaps we’ll stick with administrator for now.
It seems like I have practically seen it all, so I thought I’d give you some insight into what you should look for in a well-rounded LMS administrator. This list should help regardless of whether you are looking for a LMS admin or want to develop an already existing employee into the role. You should look for someone who:
How is learning created at your company? We spend time with clients answering this simple question during an implementation because it’s the linchpin in LMS design. Having someone who understands how learning comes to life is a tremendous asset as an LMS administrator. In addition, if they can translate learning initiatives into LMS objects, that’s a true skill.
One thing to think about is, if you are going to hire an LMS administrator externally, you’ll need to shore up the lack of company experience with someone internal. This internal person should be someone from the learning team who will help the new administrator understand the company culture.
Has experience developing online learning content (or familiarity with online content development tools)
Instructional design is an asset when it comes to figuring out how best to build an item in the LMS. Should you include multiple content objects, or will it work better with only one? An LMS administrator who knows your company’s technical infrastructure and the LMS is priceless for answering questions like these. In addition, if you’re using third party content, an LMS administrator who can speak the language of the content developers is a must, especially if there’s a hiccup with the content launching or completing. With some content development background, the administrator will be able to work through the challenges successfully.
Understands IT concepts
Troubleshooting is very important. An LMS administrator who knows what an API is and has familiarity with SQL will be more successful than one who doesn’t. APIs allow the LMS to communicate with other systems, like a Virtual Learning System (VLS) such as WebEx. Integrating systems is a lot easier when you have someone who understands APIs, and SQL fluency comes in handy when creating custom reports.
Another IT concept that’s valuable for an LMS admin to know is the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) process. LMS implementations are smoother when the admin has this skill. Testers help uncover issues that the core project team might miss because of their high level of familiarity with the LMS. A good LMS administrator knows that UAT provides a sneak peek into users’ questions and helps build relationships with users who could become LMS ambassadors.
This person will ideally be someone who is familiar with HRIS data and is willing to ask questions to understand its nuances. If they happen to be an Excel geek or have relational database design understanding and expertise, even better! No matter who fills the role, be ready to pave the way for them to connect the dots between the organization’s structure and HRIS data. Find and prepare whoever has the expertise to help the LMS administrator and connect them as early as you can!
Loves a good mystery
Someone who embraces problem solving and has a bit of curiosity will go a long way as an LMS administrator. They’ll examine a problem from every angle and ask challenging questions to solve an issue. Curiosity comes into play in other good ways too. Who better to keep up on quarterly updates than someone who’s curious and willing to dig into the details? An LMS administrator who will test new features/functionalities will serve in the role very well.
Enjoys helping others
Learning happens in all time zones, all over the world and it’s likely that most of your company’s learning initiatives leverage your LMS. An LMS administrator who is patient and truly enjoys helping people through issues will succeed! In my experience, different users tend to ask the same questions and it makes for a more pleasant user experience when the LMS administrator understands that. Someone who makes every effort to deliver excellent customer service is going to make the difference.
Based on my insight into the six things you should look for when hiring an LMS administrator, who’s going to fit the bill? Simply stated, it’s a learning professional who understands IT and will strive for excellent customer service. Throughout my career, I have often heard that there aren’t a lot of learning professionals who “speak IT.” I don’t agree with that – I’ve met quite a few who were willing to rise to whatever challenge makes them exceptional performers. If you haven’t found the right LMS administrator yet, take your time finding him or her. The right administrator is worth the wait.
See some of our other posts around learning here.