While administering organization-wide learning management is a complex undertaking within any industry, Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) have certain requirements that make the job particularly challenging. College and university leaders are faced with addressing the needs of a wide range of user groups, disparate systems, and compliance requirements, all while striving to provide quality education to their learners.
8 key challenges IHEs face delivering learning and development
1. Managing data across multiple systems
It's common for Higher Ed institutions to utilize multiple, decentralized systems to handle their learners, catalog and content data. It may be that departments or schools each work within their own system, or the entire university community may employ multiple systems for their various needs. Either way, any form of multi-source, decentralized structure creates complexities and inefficiencies, resulting in unnecessary costs associated with aligning data and trying to communicate across system owners.
2. Organizing system access for a wide range of user types
For colleges and universities, the end users (aka learners) are rarely limited to one type of user with a universal set of learning needs; rather, it's common for the institutional user base to consist of a variety of end users, managers and administrators. These users may include faculty, staff, undergraduate students, graduate students, professors, visiting speakers, post-docs, research staff and external learners, to name a few. Such a dynamic and widespread user base is bound to have varying account provisioning processes and sources of transcript/in-progress learning records.
3. Cleaning up outdated learning catalog items and content
Since colleges and universities tend to be decentralized, they may have years of outdated and/or duplicate learning objects. It is common for their historical user data and learning transcripts to live across a combination of legacy systems, archives and manually-tracked spreadsheets. Tackling the task of organizing and consolidating this data requires making decisions around which data to keep/discard, as well as developing processes for maintenance going forward.
4. Integrating with third-party content vendors
Colleges and universities may well need to set up integrations with external content vendors, such as Lynda and Skillsoft. This is particularly true with regard to research compliance, where specialized content from organizations such as the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) and the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) may be utilized. HR and technical leaders will need to address not only the technical aspects of such integrations, but will also need to make process decisions around the transfer and storage of external learning records.
5. Pushing out assignments to specially-defined learner groups
Once your end users are organized, then comes the challenge of setting up rule logic that assigns the appropriate training to each appropriate group and sub-group. As wide-ranging as the types of end users are, their requirements around learning assignments are exponential. This becomes particularly tricky where the relevant assignment criteria do not exist on the standard user profile fields. In such cases, a common solution is to utilize custom fields on the user profile to achieve greater granularity for automatic assignment by prescriptive rules.
6. Customizing the UI for different units or schools
Within higher education it is no secret that individual units at colleges and universities may have distinctly different business processes, seek to develop unique brands, and perhaps just maintain a stubborn independence from the rest of the institution. This tends to be especially true of professional schools. When onboarding these schools or units to the LMS, it may be necessary to provide associated internal or external users with a variety of distinct user experiences. For example, while an internal IT group may want to emphasize professional development and social collaboration in its approach to training, a law school may choose a much more austere UI or even an external-facing site to deliver continuing education courses via eCommerce. Utilizing microsites configured for the specific needs of the school or unit allows one system to meet the diverse needs of many across the institution.
7. Personalizing the cloud
The ability of your LMS to accommodate unique, institution-specific business processes may be a critical success factor for your institution's adoption. In that case, extending the out-of-the-box capabilities of the system through the development of customized microapps is often an ideal solution. Is there an existing process that allows learners to self-identify the compliance requirements applicable to their research activities? Do managers need a special user interface to review and approve internal chargeback codes for learning? If so, having an extensible LMS is invaluable.
8. Providing a demonstrated ROI
As state budgets for higher education continue to get squeezed and private institutions fiercely compete for enrollment, it is more important than ever to demonstrate that your system is providing a clear ROI. Some measures of ROI may be fairly straightforward--do the features of the system reduce costs by eliminating the need for separate collaborative tools for meetings or webinars or by allowing for the decommissioning of other systems used by individual units? Does more efficient delivery and tracking of research compliance training reduce risk and/or legal liability? Or, can greater engagement through a more intuitive UI or gamification lead to better professional development, greater job satisfaction and better retention rates?
Learn how you can overcome these challenges
As you can see, managing the oversight of a learning program can be a daunting task for any college or university. If you're interested in learning how to simplify training, increase engagement, and improve university business processes, check out our upcoming webinar, Small Team, Big Impact: LMS Best Practices from Leaders in Higher Education on May 3rd.