[Guest post] Non-technical considerations around LMS implementation at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
Updated on 07 August 2022
The Canadian Foreign Service Institute (CFSI) is the primary training provider for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) and offers more than 250 learning activities serving around 20,000 participants every year. CFSI’s mandate encompasses providing training on a wide variety of topics e.g. foreign languages, intercultural effectiveness, leadership and management development, international affairs, corporate systems and HR and Finance to all employees, managers and senior executives within DFATD.
Within the last year, CFSI has implemented an integrated learning management system (ILMS) that is to be used by over 10,000 employees around the world to register for both classroom and online learning, keep a record of learning activities completed and to assist managers in reporting on learning within DFATD. As with any major system implementation, the ILMS project management team faced many challenges, such as technical issues, unforeseen expenses and delayed launches. However, there are other non-technical issues that need to be considered when examining the success or failure of implementing an ILMS; at DFATD, it was apparent that the ILMS project management team would also need to prioritize human factors as an equally important aspect of any major systems implementation project.
This is corroborated by research that clearly shows that implementing IT systems can be costly and time consuming and it is almost logical for the initial thinking to be about the many technical issues that need to be addressed. Some researchers suggest that there are five main elements required for a successful e-learning strategy: people, tools, training, processes, and support . To successfully implement our ILMS at DFATD, we found change management to be an essential part of the equation to determine the project’s implications on the organizational culture. Our approach included having to manage expectations for upper management and employees and to take into account their considerations, as well as those of stakeholders, as part of the implementation process.
In our case, to increase the probability of success, the ILMS project management team strove to keep up with an active top-down involvement; frequent, organized meetings; active participation at all levels; trying not to lose sight of the ‘big picture’; and recognizing and acting on ‘failure factors’ . We prioritized strategies around training, communications, and support to the Registration Team, for example:
- Over a period of three months prior to the launch of the ILMS, the ILMS project management team provided almost 35 hours of in-class training on approximately 17 primary ILMS functions to key users including course managers, instructors, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and the Registration Team.
- Starting six months prior to the launch of the ILMS, individual information sessions were delivered to teams within CFSI and other training providers within DFATD to provide an overview of the vision for the ILMS at DFATD, updates with respect to implementation, proposed changes to learning management processes and potential impacts to end users and training providers. Additional timely marketing and communications tools e.g. user videos along with a user guide were developed for employees and stakeholders.
- Additional tools were developed and provided to support the Registration Team such as a FAQs list with a summary of anticipated questions and call topics with answers; half day training on how to use the call centre phone system; workflow diagrams outlining steps that would need to be taken to complete registration tasks; creation of new service standards; and the creation and marketing of new online client registration request forms.
Throughout the ILMS implementation process at DFATD, there were many IT-related issues that emerged, as expected, and were generally addressed and resolved with time and effort. However, the implementation process evoked the equally important human factor perspective, which necessitated as much work and time for the launch of the ILMS to be successful. For those interested, we have presented our experience and strategies and tools we used at length and in greater detail in our peer-reviewed full paper titled Learning Management System Implementation: Prioritizing Human Factors to Ensure Success that can be found in the proceedings of the upcoming World Conference on Educational Media & Technology in Montreal later in June 2015. 
Dr Shujaat Wasty is a Senior Learning Advisor with the Canadian Foreign Service Institute at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.
Timothy M. Stephens is Deputy Director of eLearning at the Canadian Foreign Service Institute.