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Interview: Katrina Baker author of LMS Success: A Step-by-Step Guide to Learning Management System Administration

Katrina BakerE-Learning Council is pleased to interview author Katrina Baker, author of  LMS Success: A Step-by-Step Guide to Learning Management System Administration.  Katrina Baker is an LMS Administrator/Learning and Development Manager for a Fortune 500 company. Previously, Katrina owned two successful small businesses and worked in diverse fields, including design, editing, entertainment, and production. She has two Penn State business degrees, and is a proud member of the American Society of Training and Development. LMS Success, Katrina's first book, was the #2 best seller at TechKnowledge 2014. Katrina lives in Los Angeles.  We're pleased that Katrina will be speaking at E-Learning Symposium 2014 in Austin.

ELC: Katrina, can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Katrina Baker: I am a trainer and aficionado of all things LMS. I currently work for a Fortune 500 company as a training manager and LMS administrator. I also speak and provide guidance to those seeking to learn more about learning management systems.

ELC: Great and an author?

Katrina Baker: Yes! I recently wrote LMS Success: A Step-by-Step Guide to Learning Management System Administration

Katrina Baker: The book was basically written because I love being an LMS administrator, and I wanted to share what I've learned with others. I self-published my book and I've been lucky to get picked up by Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, and other large retailers! The American Society of Training and Development will be republishing my book later this year.

ELC: Wow! Significant accomplishments in a short time frame. What is the book's intended audience?

Katrina Baker: LMS Success is aimed at training managers and new LMS administrators who may have a limited technical background. The book is intended as a ground-level up, easy-to-read guide.

More experienced administrators may also enjoy the book for its suggestions regarding how to use an LMS to the fullest extent.

ELC: In your view, what are the critical items to think about when selecting an LMS?

Katrina Baker: There is actually a lot of research to be done, I feel, before the selection process even begins. It's very important to establish the exact role the LMS will play in a company or organization.

ELC: I am making the usual mistake of cart before horse. Lead with the needs of the organization?

Katrina Baker: Exactly! Some companies just use their LMS to record training data; others use it to deliver complex e-learning courses. And there's everything in between.

ELC: Who are some of the key stakeholders to consult to get the needed information?

Katrina Baker: Definitely executive leadership should be consulted. IT should be involved to ensure the LMS will "talk" to existing company systems. Training, of course, since the department likely has a vision of how the LMS could fill gaps in the current training program. Basically anyone who benefits from the LMS or whose workload will be changed by the LMS

ELC: I like that--any group who benefits front he LMS or whose workload will be changed by the LMS or benefits. A very succinct way to put it.  What are some areas to discuss with these key stakeholders? What are some critical questions?

Katrina Baker: It's a bit of a "who, what, how" format of questioning.

Who are we delivering the training to? Leadership? Everyone?

How are we delivering the training? What percentage of classes will be delivered through e-learning versus instructor-led?

What resources do we already have? (Is there existing content?)

How much can we spend on a new system?

This is just a smattering of questions. I have an entire chapter on this in my book, so I could go on for awhile.

ELC: In a large implementation the process of discovering stakeholder need and getting stakeholder alignment is critical and can take a while.

Katrina Baker: Absolutely. And getting buy-in for the project is key.

ELC: I agree. I have seen more projects fail because lack of stakeholder alignment than anything else.

Katrina Baker: It can be very challenging with an LMS, because the system affects so many different levels within the organization.

ELC: Moving on to LMS selection. What are some key considerations in this area?

Katrina Baker: Certainly the LMS vendor is a consideration. It's important to know that the company is stable, customer service-oriented, and willing to customize the system to your company's needs.

For some organizations, security features may be particularly important. It's always much easier to set up appropriate safeguards from the beginning rather than attempting to add them later.

It's critical to take your company's goals and make sure that the LMS has features that will assist in carrying out those goals.

ELC: In your experience do companies tend towards LMS' hosted in house or is the general trend towards Software as a Service (SaaS) hosted solutions?

Katrina Baker: SaaS seems to be trending amongst large corporations. I have not seen many companies who host their LMS data on their own servers.

ELC: Does the training type/content type play in a significant way into the LMS decision?

Katrina Baker: I think the ease of adding or creating content should play a great role in selection.

Some LMS' have "assessment builders" available inside the system.

These builders, and other similar tools, can save administrators a lot of time if they are easy to use.

Another consideration regarding content may be the protocols that the system accommodates, such as xAPI, SCORM, and AICC.

These protocols affect security, how content is presented, and to what extent the LMS can "pull" training information from sources outside the system.

ELC: All good criteria, what are some of the reasons that corporations are going towards SaaS solutions for LMS'?

Katrina Baker: I think part of it is that hosting LMS data internally requires special server configurations and increased maintenance on the part of IT.

Often it's easier to have the data stored in an external "server farm." Having data hosted externally is also a safeguard, because the data is typically stored on at least two servers in two geographic locations.

Essentially, it comes down to data security, maintenance, and configuration.

ELC: All great reasons, as well as easy scalability

Katrina, what are some of the future directions you see LMS' taking? What's the future for LMS'?

Katrina Baker: I think there is a definite trend toward learning management systems becoming part of a larger picture in learning technology.

With the adoption of xAPI, I believe we will begin to see more training data coming from sources external to the LMS. Learning management systems will still play a large role in delivery of e-learning content and recording of data, but there will be supplemental information coming from outside the system.

Learning record stores are becoming more prominent in learning technology, and it will be interesting to see how they affect the overall picture.

But most importantly, I think learning management systems will remain an important part of corporate training for a very long time!

ELC: Agreed. Katrina you are going to be coming to E-Learning Symposium 2014 in Austin to speak about LMS. Can you give our readers some highlights about what you will be speaking about?

Katrina Baker: Sure, I'm very excited to be part of the symposium! During my lecture, I hope to give some highlights from each of the five chapters in LMS Success.

We will touch on practical tips for selecting and implementing an LMS; building an administrator team; creating e-learning content; maintaining the system; and realizing the full value of an LMS.

ELC: Thank you for your time today Katrina, we'll see you in May for the Symposium.

E-Learning Symposium 2014 Austin

See the slide deck from Katrina's presentation at ELS 2014.

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