Your learning management system is probably the most complete source of learning activity in your organisation. After all, that was their primary function when they were first envisioned. You probably also spend quite a bit of time running off reports for various stakeholders, including business leaders and subject matter experts; and many will focus on the mandatory training that was also the raison d’être for most systems.
For decades, we’ve focussed entirely on reporting what has happened – and no doubt then quibbled over the numbers – but that is hopefully about to change. Our LMS should be our primary source of learner insights.
Just as “big data” has arrived on the scene elsewhere in our organisations, including in other areas of HR, there is an increasing realisation that we should be using learning data differently. Reporting historic learning uptake is quite a short-term use of the wealth of information that an LMS is capturing. We need to start to ask what we can deduce about learning in the organisation from the data that is being accumulated.
It’s still early days– and we will need our systems to evolve too – but here are my initial thoughts on the sort of questions we should be asking and how the results can help us to shape how we deliver learning in our organisations, in particular when it comes to developing new learning solutions, including digital options.
|Data point||Answers these questions|
|Learning methodology||How does this audience currently learn?
What are their most commonly chosen learning approaches?
Although other factors might ultimately outweigh the target audience’s own preferences, being aware of how they learn and perhaps their familiarity with some of the newer approaches is valuable data when considering the format of the proposed programme.
|Average digital learning session time||Looking at the target audience, how long do they typically spend learning digitally?
What is the average study time when they do?
What does this suggest for maximum module duration?
15 years ago, one-hour long courses were the norm –and probably didn’t help the cause. 10 years ago, 30 minutes became the optimum duration. Over the last 7 years, I’ve progressively reduced module durations to below 10 minutes; and now with so-called micro-learning, we’re looking at below 3 or 5 minutes. If you’re still unsure about using micro-learning, does the reality suggest now might be the time to try it?
|Learning start times||When do the learners in the target group tend to learn?
Is there a pattern as to when the target audience does its learning?
Are they learning during work hours or on their commutes?
If your target audience is learning during their free time, is this something you want to encourage, or does this point to the need to design learning in such a way that they don’t have to take it home with them? Think about how you can design the learning so that it best suits those moments learners decide to learn.
|Device types used||On what devices do the target group do most of their learning?
Does it appear that they are desk-bound or are they choosing to access learning on mobile devices and possibly whilst on the move?
Looking at the time they learn on mobile devices might help to confirm the morning or evening commute as prime learning time. You might also choose to launch new content at this time, if that might improve the immediate uptake. Learners have sometimes told me there are certain times in the day when they are most receptive to learning. And learning on the move points to the use of micro-learning, rather than merely making an online course suitable for completing on a mobile device.
|Completion rates||What is the average completion rate for this group of learners?
Does this group find it easy to complete training?
How many attempts does it take on average for them to complete training?
Do completion times and rates improve for certain types or durations of content; or the device used?
The answers to these questions should help to determine the optimal format of the training solution, especially if certain styles of course prove more successful than others. Multiple short attempts might suggest it’s difficult for them to find the time or a conducive learning environment and again point to the use of micro and mobile learning. Indeed studies already show that short bursts of mobile learning lead to higher completion rates and faster completion times.
|Prior knowledge (learning)||What related courses have they already studied?
What are their most recent levels of competency?
As we strive towards offering more personalised learning solutions, it’s important to take into account what learners might already know about a subject or how competent they might be in a particular behaviour.
The LMS can tell us what the target group might already know about the subject in question and the appraisal or talent system might also reveal their current assessed levels of competence in specific related behaviours. Your training solution can then acknowledge the former and quickly move beyond these areas to target what they still need to learn and master.
If there are still groups of people who need the basics, then you can structure the programmes in the LMS, so that those who have already completed some relevant training in the past are exempted from studying it again in the new programme. Similarly, if your LMS and talent system talk to each, then you might also be able to exempt someone based on their current proficiency in a certain area that’s tagged to a training module.
|Ratings and recommendations||Which types of content does the target audience like the most? And the least?
It’s hard to ignore these learner preferences. Use any related comments to uncover any specific reasons for their preferred choices.
|Course-specific analysis (where we look to see what insights was can learn about an individual piece of content or learning intervention)||Which courses work the best?
Which are completed the quickest?
Which are completed in the suggested study time?
A course that takes far longer than expected to complete might need some further analysis to see why learners are struggling to finish it in the published time.
Which enjoy the highest overall completion rates?
Which are rated the highest by learners and do any comments explain why?
If some types of courses appear to score more highly in these areas, then it suggests these are formats worth adopting again.
Where there is an assessment, which courses enjoy the highest pass marks?
Were certain types of question easier to comprehend than others?
This could mean the assessment or individual questions are too easy, of course, but it could also mean the content was presented in such a way that comprehension levels were very good and therefore worthy of repetition in future training.
|Future data point (as LMS analytics develop)||Answers these questions|
|Search results||What are learners looking for?
What are the trending words/topics?
What were the suggested solutions (search results)?
Which searches did not reveal any relevant solutions (or no solutions at all)?
Did the learner then select any of the suggested solutions, e.g. to add to their learning plan and go on to complete the training?
Using search results in this way will provide us with some very valuable data, which will enable us to decide where to invest scarce budget and resources. Perhaps we need to develop new content in areas where learners aren’t finding content, or revisit existing content that doesn’t seem to meet the needs of those looking for it.
|User-provided insights (where learners directly share information with us)||What do we know about the learning preferences of the target audience?
How do they prefer to learn (i.e. their learning styles)?
What are their preferred delivery channels?
In which topic areas have they expressed an interest?
If your LMS has the ability to profile learners, including inviting each learner to complete their own profile listing their preferences, then you can acquire a wealth of insights about the target group.
Start now by looking at what data your LMS is currently recording. How can you use this data differently? How can it help you to plan what you do next and how? If there are gaps in the data you’d like to collect, then work with your LMS vendor to close these in the future.
With scarce resources a continual issue for most L&D teams, start using what you know about your learners to inform your overall learning strategy and individual programme designs.