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Insights

Get Started on Learning Analytics: Ask These Five Questions

Thursday, August 27, 2020
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“How do I know if my training programs are any good? And if they’re not, what more can we do? What areas can be improved? Where are the trick spots for learners? Can they apply what they learned on the job?” These and many more questions are constantly on L&D professionals’ minds and asked by our organizations. Meanwhile, organizations are generating and storing an unprecedented amount of data from learning platforms and related technologies. With all the data outputs, the question becomes what can be done with it? This is where learning analytics come in. Simply defined, learning analytics is the analysis of data related to learning and learner interactions.

To help you get started on learning analytics, I suggest that you invest your effort in finding answers to these five key questions:

1. Have you defined your learning analytics challenges?

The first step in commencing your learning analytics journey is that you need to begin with the end in mind. Start with defining your learning analytics challenges. What learning–related questions or pain points do you want to gain insights from? Before you gather data, clarify what learning challenges (and ultimately performance challenges) you are trying to solve where data can provide insights.

2. What are your measures for success?

Once you have defined your learning analytics challenges, you need to determine what metrics you can use to measure success. For example, if you asked, “How do we make our learning offerings more effective?” then you must first determine what the metrics for measuring effectiveness are and how you define effectiveness. Keep in mind that metrics contributing to success can come from learning as well as other business areas such as employee turnover rate, engagement, and performance management.

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3. Where is your data?

At this stage, you are ready to gather your data in one place and in a standardized format. It is important to do a quick check to see how much data is readily available or if you need to source more from other departments and platforms (refer back to what metrics you need). Do you know where your data is? Is it in one place or across many systems? Do you have access to them or do you have to go through your IT department? Make sure that you get permission to access the data or that you have support from management to collaborate with colleagues from other business units for data collection.

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4. How do you ensure data quality?

It is important to check whether you have found the right data. Verify that the data you collected can measure what you want to measure. Don’t just use it because it is the easiest data to gather. One idea is to have a colleague review and audit the data to ensure data quality and accuracy. Another consideration is that data needs to be cleansed since it comes from various sources, and their quality can be good and bad. Insights and analytics based on contaminated data will give you poor insights and analytics. Make sure that you have a process to detect and correct inaccurate or corrupt data before analyzing it.

5. What kind of tools are already in place?

Chances are that your organizations already have the tools for you to conduct learning analytics. Do a quick inventory on what you can use and consult with others who already have experience using those tools. For example, many learning management systems come with advanced analytics functions, and your IT and HR departments may have some data analytics and business intelligence software such as Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, Visier, or Sisense.

Learning analytics presents an opportunity for L&D to provide value and alignment to the business. Start with these five questions and you will be well on your way to using and applying data for learning insights.

About the Author

Dr. Stella Lee has over 20 years of progressive experience internationally in consulting digital learning initiatives with higher education, government, NGOs, and the private sectors. Today her focus is on enterprise-wide learning strategy and governance, digital ethics for learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and e-learning applications, learning management system (LMS) design, evaluation and learning analytics. Stella has served as subject matter expert in evaluating e-learning standards for the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and conducted postdoctoral research with iCore Research Lab at Athabasca University, Canada’s Open University. She has a doctorate in Computer Science with a focus on adaptive learning technology. Stella serves as Canada’s Startup Advisor and is the technology columnist for Training Industry Magazine. She runs a consulting company called Paradox Learning Inc. and is based in Vancouver, Canada.

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