Best Practices in Learning History Migration

Last updated on December 14th, 2021 at 8:25 am by Chris Fellabaum

A common requirement when implementing a Learning Management System (LMS) is the migration of learning histories. While this can be a labor-intensive effort, the benefits of learning history migration include:

  • Employee satisfaction: everybody likes to see evidence of their completed work
  • Efficiency: it’s easier to report on all sources of historical training within a single application
  • Continuity: facilitates seamless tracking of ongoing compliance training, certifications, and licenses

The following questions will help you to scope the level of effort needed to migrate your learning histories:

  • How “clean” is your data?
  • What should you migrate?
  • How far back should you go?

How “clean” is your data?

The “cleanliness” of your source data will directly influence the level of effort needed to migrate it to your new LMS.

The best-case scenario is a well-tended source of data, such as another LMS, where exporting histories is as simple as running a report. The worst case typically involves home-grown systems, ad-hoc spreadsheets and databases, and paper rosters. Here, data integrity can be an issue, and you should work to normalize the data into a common format. Ensure that user identifiers and course codes are consistent.

In even the best-case scenario, clean-up will probably still need to happen. Make sure to account for all disparate sources of data early, and if possible begin cleanup before the data migration effort begins.

What should you migrate?

When deciding exactly what data to migrate, consider the following:

Relevancy of data: When implementing a new LMS, it’s a great time to define or revisit your standards around what is considered “training”, and will be tracked (or not tracked) in LMS as a result. Concurrently, cull your histories to migrate only records which fit those standards.

Active vs. Inactive employees: What reporting will you need to do from the new system around former employees? Frequently this will apply to initiatives-in-progress, so you can report on their full picture for a given period of time. Define what is needed to support this, and archive all other records in another location.

Course or class level?: For Instructor-led training, completion is typically only migrated at the course level – NOT the class level. For example: plan to migrate John Wilson’s completion in Fundamentals of Basket Weaving, effective 5 PM on October 12, 2013 – NOT his participation in the October 10 – 12 Home Office session of Fundamentals of Basket Weaving. If you need to capture additional information, most learning history migration specifications include a Comments field or other information fields.

How far back should you go?

From a records retention standpoint, this can vary widely depending on your specific locale, industry, and the topic of training. The safest answer is that you should retain ALL histories, going back forever.

However, you probably shouldn’t move all those records into your new LMS. Complying with records retention policies does not necessarily mean having all those histories stored within the same tool. Instead, define that you will bring over histories going back “X” number of years (e.g. 3 years), and warehouse the remainder elsewhere (in compliance with your IT policy). This has the benefit of simplifying the transition to the new system, while still keeping older records accessible for legal disputes, etc.

Also, make special note of any certifications or professional licenses which will be tracked on a recurring basis in the new LMS, and ensure you go back far enough to account for the most recent certification or license date.

Other considerations

Course setup: One fundamental prerequisite for migrating learning histories is that associated courses must already exist in the new LMS to receive the historical completion records.

In a learning history migration scenario, associated courses will be one of the following two types:

1)    Historical – created only to receive legacy completions, and not active moving forward

2)    Operational – can receive legacy completions, AND active moving forward

While creating Historical courses is easy (since they are typically only “shells” of courses), migrating learning histories to Operational courses can be logistically challenging. You may opt to migrate all histories to exclusively Historical courses for this reason (creating separate Operational versions where applicable, for “go forward” purposes). What you gain in simplicity of migration, however, may come at the cost of more complex reporting later (i.e. reporting on two objects versus one).

Credit Hours: Most learning history migration specs include the ability to specify the number of credit hours earned for a given completion. This can be valuable information later if you wish to run any kind of “total training hours” report across your departments or divisions.

Contractual considerations: If moving between LMS vendors, ensure you have a clear understanding of any contract language around accessing your learning histories. While some vendors will offer a “data dump” upon request, others may require you to pull all data via the reporting interface, which can take time and planning depending on the volume of data.

Finally, make sure you get all the data out of your old LMS before your contract ends, or you may find that your histories are “history”.

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