Setting Things Up and Dealing with Errors – An Interview with Michael Lanius:
Today we are going to focus on some of the nitty gritty software issues that LMS Administrators face in uploading user information and assigning users to courses in the LMS system. We’ll do this by talking with Michael Lanius. This is the first of a two-part interview with Michael. Michael is a senior support staffer at Web Courseworks who has played all the roles related to being a Learning Management Systems (LMS) Administrator. Much of his day is dedicated to administrating the Web Courseworks LMS platform, as well as helping other LMS Administrators do the same with their local company platforms. In addition, he is responsible for software quality assurance. This means that Michael handles and has a great depth of knowledge in both the overall LMS Administrator tasks, as well as very technical software and internet components of administrating a LMS.
Michael is going to walk us through some of the basic but extremely important technical issues that an LMS Administrator deals with on a regular basis, and how he handles those issues. These issues include detailed information on CSV files—what they are, how to format them, how to do bulk uploading of them, and how to deal with CSV errors. We’ll also talk about setting up bulk and individual user accounts, and helping users when they have forgotten their password or need other kinds of assistance.
To begin, I asked Michael about the most common way for an LMS Administrator to create user accounts. He responded that the most common way is to do it through a bulk CSV file upload into the system, adding that single accounts can be manually created as well. Bulk loading is preferred over manual single account creation because it is much quicker and easier. Michael went on to define what is meant by a CSV file, where to organize the CSV file, and how the CSV file appears in different programs:
The CSV format is used because that’s the way the LMS system handles importing data and uploading data. The CSV actually parses out the data, in fields, by a common denominator, which is the comma between the fields. The Excel spreadsheet organizes the data into rows and columns so it can be read by the LMS system. In this clip Michael briefly tells the problem with dealing with other formats:
When a CSV is bulk uploaded into the LMS system, exactly what information is being uploaded about users and user accounts? I asked Michael to give an example of the content of a typical batch of information being uploaded into the LMS system. In the following clip, Michael gives a description about what’s included in those CSV columns and rows. He also shares the other important process that takes place simultaneously when bulk uploading of user account information is being done, and why bulk uploading is important:
One of the common issues that LMS Administrators face happens when the CSV user data has been bulk uploaded into the LMS system and the system reports back to the Administrator that there’s an error somewhere. In particular, this happens when the Administrator is uploading bulk user information to create user accounts. I asked Michael about the common errors that he sees when CSV files and spreadsheets are uploaded:
I asked Michael, “When an error is found, how does the LMS Administrator fix the error? Does the system tell him exactly what the error is and where to find it, or does the LMS Administrator have to “track down” the error and find out what it is and where it is before s/he can fix it? What tools are helpful in finding and correcting formatting errors?” In this clip, Michael answers these questions and gives a useful tool to spot errors quickly.
It turns out that some of the common calls that an LMS Administrator can expect to get come from users who have forgotten their passwords and need their passwords reset. In the following four clips, Michael talks about how to handle this this. He tells how passwords can be reset, both by the user and by the LMS Administrator, and mentions the role that a “help desk” can play in assisting users.
In the Web Courseworks LMS system called CourseStage, how difficult is it to reset passwords?
But what if the user comes back a year later and doesn’t even remember what email they used?
So is it accurate to say that most LMS administrators, and also a help desk, would find it a pretty simple procedure to reset passwords?
Continue reading with Part Two of the Michael Lanius interview, where we’ll learn about the LMS Administrator’s role in generating reports, managing courses, course development, site settings, the importance of front page (home page) administration and monitoring, along with the skill set needed for that, and finally, the skills that a good LMS Administrator needs to be successful at their job.