The following is an interview with Connie Welch. Connie is the Director of Student Services at the Credit Union National Association, otherwise known as CUNA. She has been involved in online training at CUNA since 1999, when CUNA first began offering online training to its member credit unions. Connie has helped defined the “features” direction of CUNA’s learning management system and how it would be utilized by member credit unions to train employees. She has performed all of the roles related to an LMS administrator, including handling all the general LMS functionality and setup needs for member credit unions, as well as handling all upgrades and related projects. Connie also maintains all ongoing relationships with CUNA’s LMS vendor.
There are numerous ways that an LMS can be implemented for corporation HR departments and for specific training initiatives. Since CUNA provides a sub-site for each member credit union, the extra layer creates special challenges. For example, each of the participating credit unions may have their own training manager who acts as a local administrator.
From its inception, the CUNA LMS platform was designed and customized for different purposes than most corporate LMS platforms. Connie utilized what I would typically call a “corporate LMS.” Rather than just being internally HR focused, as many LMSs are, CUNA expanded its LMS to deliver their courses through sub-sites to individual member credit unions. The individual credit unions used the online training for such employee enrichment as “Teller Training” or “Compliance Training.” The CUNA LMS also offers talent management features. In this portion of the interview, Connie discusses how her department grew from offering self-study books and ScanTron exams (using snail mail) to providing its members with a unique LMS offering that required additional support and staff.
Our original self-study course offerings were made up of print modules that required Scantron exams. While there was manual effort needed to grade/mail these exams, the overall support needs were much less than we’ve seen since moving online. At that time we were a team of two or three, and now we’re a team of eight. An online solution brings simple support needs—such as forgotten passwords or general navigation needs—to more complex LMS functionality navigation/training needs, reporting, etc. We receive many e-mail and phone inquiries on a daily basis; some of which can be quickly responded to, others requiring further research. Our team also proactively schedules web training sessions to ensure that the 3,600+ administrators at our credit unions understand how to use the system. Last year we held nearly 140 live web training sessions. Additionally, our team has created more than 50 electronic tutorials/resources that we make available to administrators for just-in-time training on the different aspects of the learning management system.
In terms of talent management and employee advancement, CUNA uses its LMS platform in a creative way. It has tools in the LMS system to assess competencies of different credit union positions. This way, a credit union employee can see where their skill set fits into the organization, learn about other positions, see if they have gaps in their skills or experience, and find training to fill in the gaps if they so desire. This provides individual credit unions with talent management functionality that credit unions might not afford with their own system.
A team at CUNA spent a good deal of time creating competency models for the most common positions at credit unions. These models are made up of more than 400 competencies/skills. Our LMS has a competency assessment tool that allows those models to be actively used by our credit unions. Learners can assess their current skill set to selected positions to determine where gaps in their skills and experience may exist; then the LMS presents the training necessary to fill those gaps. At that point a learner can directly register into those learning activities. Credit union administrators may also use this information to find those that might be a good fit for open positions or promotions.
In this portion, I continue my exploration from prior blog articles of the skills, talents and experience that are needed for a candidate to be a Learning Management System Administrator. I asked Connie what she looks for when hiring people for this position, and what important traits an LMS Administrator needs to have. My goal here is to help managers get a better feel for the many and varied skills and abilities that someone hiring a LMS Administrator needs to look for. At CUNA, LMS Administrators function at a higher level, so CUNA’s hiring qualifications reflect that in terms of the skill set needed for the position. Here’s Connie’s take on what’s important in hiring an LMS Administrator:
Our current team is made up of 8 individuals supporting the varied needs related to this vehicle of education. The team not only needs to understand how to use the LMS for our purposes and support the daily needs of our credit unions, but also onboard/train them on how to use the system to benefit their specific training programs. To meet our needs we look for individuals that are self-starters and fast learners, tech savvy, adapt to change quickly, thrive under pressure, can manage multiple projects and deadlines, have analytical problem solving and troubleshooting skills, and multi-tasking ability with overlapping complicated procedures and processes. It’s also important to have excellent written and verbal skills, as well as strong presentation, training, and consulting skills.
Companies and institutions often underestimate all that is involved in administering a Learning Management System. They often assume that it will only require one person to perform all of the tasks involved. Usually, this is not the case, and most often than not it takes more than one person. Both Connie and I have been associated with LMSes for over 15 years, and at the beginning, we both thought “we’re going to save all of this money by doing the system online”. But we have learned over time that it takes a staff of people to operate this system. I asked Connie about whether she got feedback from her member credit union managers when they realized, “Oh, I need someone to do enrollment,” or “I need someone to do report generation,” or “I need someone to answer questions, or do troubleshooting.” In this portion, Connie responds to my question about the involvement of more than one person in administrating the LMS:
There’s much more involved in supporting an LMS than most people realize, and with that a variety of skillsets that may or may not exist in one person. Administrators at a minimum are maintaining user data, learning activities, catalog management, and transcript/roster data. Beyond that, they may be creating/ deploying/ monitoring progress on training plans, course assignments, and instructor-led training structures. To obtain training metrics, they must be able to use your LMS reporting tool. Finally they must be able to provide end user support, training, and technical troubleshooting needs for all of the above.
Next, I asked Connie about skills needed for the entry level LMS administrator or a company’s first LMS administrator. What did she look for when she was hiring for these positions? In particular, I was interested in finding out about specific skill sets related to working with CSV tables and/or spreadsheets, because this is an important part of the knowledge base of an LMS administrator. I was interested in Connie’s take on what to look for and how to vet for those types of skills when interviewing potential candidates for the position. Here’s what she had to say:
We do feel experience with reporting tools is valuable. While we don’t officially test for this background, we do ask a number of behavioral interviewing questions to better understand their experience and understanding in this area. In our case, it’s just as important to be able to communicate and present to other administrators on how to use the reporting tool, as well as all other LMS functionality. We do ask candidates we’re seriously considering to give an instructional presentation to our team. Additionally, we use OneNote as a resource to answer most questions we receive from learners, managers and administrators at our credit unions. A candidate would need to be versed in finding this information and relaying it to the end user, walking them through the process and providing follow-up documentation to them to use and share with their staff.
There’s a certain amount of technical savvy that’s necessary in being an LMS administrator, else a person might be overwhelmed with the technology and use of the internet. I asked Connie: “Do you look at technical skills, and if so, how do you do that? Do you ask the candidate questions about whether they understand a browser and the different types of browsers? Also, do you have any kind of specific questions that gets at their level of ‘tech savvy’?”
We do ask several questions that allow an applicant to walk us through their experience in this area. One example question: “What type of technical troubleshooting experiences have you had?” We ask them to give us specifics on their most complex technical troubleshooting experience and we, in turn, ask more follow-up questions. You can definitely get a good sense of their experience in these areas based on how these conversations progress.
There are many important tasks that an LMS administrator does, whether it is the specialized task of uploading courses, resetting passwords, pulling reports or dealing with customer browser issues. In conclusion, I asked Connie, “What’s the most challenging task that you have dealt with that tends to be most burdensome for LMS management or staff?”
I feel the most challenging situations we face are reported system issues that we’re unable to replicate. These require a higher level of troubleshooting, research, and, in some cases, incorporating the LMS vendor to assist. Varying web browser, computer, and internal infrastructure settings can all play a part in creating different experiences. Getting to the bottom of what’s causing a different experience can take some time. Persistent technical troubleshooting skills and patience are really pluses in those cases!