educationtechnologyinsights

Key Considerations for a Successful LMS Implementation

By Garret Yoshimi, Vice President of Information Technology and CIO of University of Hawaii

Garret Yoshimi, Vice President of Information Technology and CIO of University of Hawaii

What are some of the pain points you have experienced in the past, and the trends emerging in the education space?

In my experience, the primary pain point is around the changing nature and needs of the institution. Preferences and expectations of our customers have shifted significantly over the last five or ten years. That change is highly visible for both customers as well as our stakeholders, which includes not only parents, but also local and national employers that hire our graduates, and those that fund research on a regional and national scale. As the expectations vary substantially, it is becoming increasingly tough for the technology to keep up on as we simultaneously under pressure to reduce operating costs. 

Meanwhile, as expectations are changing and cost pressures mount, we see the need to deliver the “Amazon” experience. It’s an arduous task to match the high expectations and excellent service requirements with a collection of legacy infrastructure and systems.

How would you identify the places of opportunities to focus on and advance toward bringing in technological changes in the education space?

A large portion of our day-to-day resources are dedicated to keeping our current enterprise systems and networks in operation.  Key to our future success is to maintain focus on the things that need to change, and avoid the distraction of the latest shiny new thing.  It’s a matter of finding the right opportunities like implementing new systems that provide capabilities that we are unable to perform at this given point of time or do some alterations on our legacy systems to deliver significant upgrades to a broader part of our population. This kind of choices needs to be very strategic, and if we attempt to satisfy every single request, we would be mired in our efforts. Therefore the decision should be crucial keeping in mind the long term efforts to generate meaningful results for the institution.

Can you elaborate about your latest projects and initiatives, especially the implementation of LMS in your institution?

There are a handful of well-established vendors in the LMS space. LMS is one of those enterprise systems that is pretty challenging in terms of figuring out the right place for investment. Many of our peer institutions have chosen to adopt solutions such as Canvas as their LMS, and are watching the market to see what changes occur over time, especially with the broad development of online delivery of courses and course materials.

For now, the University of Hawaii continues to use Sakai, an open-source LMS. We completed an exhaustive evaluation about two and a half years ago to consider the possible replacement of our LMS, involving our internal stakeholders, and concluded that it wasn’t the right time to change. The hurdle of changing an LMS for any institution is pretty high; this includes not only the cost to change and migrate the LMS, but also the significant costs to re-train people in the use of the new LMS. Moreover, the opex increases are particularly high as we are moving from an open source product to a commercial product.

What goes into the entire strategic planning with your team while conducting or taking strategic decisions?

When we consider undertaking large projects like changing the LMS, it’s critical to maintain a focus on the institution’s strategic business objectives. This is key to any decisions driving our strategic projects.

“Success can be achieved if everyone works together towards common goals and objectives, it’s a matter of effectively aligning with the institutions’ business practices and strategies”

When it comes to the evolution of the education space, especially with the implementation of LMS, where do you see the space moving ahead or transforming in the coming years?

Specifically for LMS, the challenge is to find the right strategy that will benefit the institution as it will involve a substantial increase in our operating expense. From a strategic standpoint, one of the things that we are looking at is the potential to utilize a mix of microservices to be integrated with one or more of our future operational platforms.  Instead of considering only monolithic solutions, the option to choose to implement microservices provides us with an alternative approach that could ease the cost of change.  A microservices integration framework is something that we need to consider as we look to the future, and make decisions on future efforts.

What would be your advice to your fellow peers?

Many people believe that technology is some magical stuff that one can simply buy, and the work gets done automatically. But that’s not. I would advise my peers to choose right sized solutions aligned with the strategies of the institution.  We must balance risk with potential benefits, and be mindful that as the degree of innovation becomes greater, the amount of risk also increases. At the same time, success can be achieved if everyone works together towards common goals and objectives, it’s a matter of effectively aligning with the institutions’ business practices and strategies.

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