A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 1)

A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Learning Management System (Part 1)


Richard Nantel


A new learning management system (LMS) is like a blank canvas. You can proceed with setting the system up two ways:

  • In the style of abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, you can start importing learner records and adding content in an impetuous yet passionate way; or
  • You can, like Michelangelo preparing to create a fresco, deliberately plan and organize your data

The Jackson Pollock approach feels great! The sense of power that comes from logging into a new application and clicking buttons wildly is exhilarating. This euphoria may, however, be short-lived; replaced—hangover-like—with a nagging sense of "what was I thinking?!"

The Michelangelo approach, though far less exciting at first, can create a structure that is easily maintained, and immediately understood, by any future administrators. When it comes to enterprise software that will be used by many people, order trumps chaos.

So how do we set up a new learning management system? Let's start planning!

STEP 1: Consider the Learners

All learning initiatives should focus first and foremost on the learners. Before doing anything in your learning management system, it's good planning to identify who those learners are today, and who they might be in the future.

  • Are learners internal employees?
  • Are learners people working outside of your organization; possibly partners, suppliers, and/or customers?
  • Are you serving both internal and external learners?

How should learners be organized?

  • By department or function?
  • By geographical region?

Using a text editor or a mind-mapping tool such as Mindmeister (fun!), create a structure that reflects the organization or your learners. Here's what this structure might look like:

Internal learners:

  • HR
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Manufacturing
    • North America
    • Asia
External learners:
  • Suppliers
  • Resellers
  • Distributors
    • Africa
    • Americas
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Oceania


  • Even if you presently support only internal or external learners, consider listing two lowest-level groups to accommodate both.
  • If your LMS is integrated with, and drawing learner records from, an HR system, consider using the same group names in your structure list

(I know you're dying to start clicking on things in your new LMS. Please hang in there. It won't be long.)

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