This is the future of learning analytics

The business of analytics is maturing and L&D needs to get on board, says Libby Webb.

Reading time: 4 minutes.

The L&D industry is no stranger to a buzz word or two, and the terms Learning Record Store (LRS), learning analytics and xAPI are thrown around more often than most (and are typically the most confusing!) But for many organisations, these concepts remain a very distant future in terms of their own investment into training and development.

What exactly is learning analytics?

Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners, learning experiences and learning programs for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and its impact on an organisation’s performance.

There are three categories of learning analytics:

  • Learner analytics which seek to understand more about a specific person or group of people engaged in learning, for example, who is training the most?
  • Learning experience analytics which seek to understand more about a specific learning activity, for example, how often is an activity being used?
  • And learning program analytics which seek to understand how an overall learning program is performing, for example, do learners behave differently upon completion of a course?

The most common challenges to learning analytics

Many organisations remain limited in their metrics, tracking only basic completions, like tests scores and reaction surveys, failing to understand the more robust types of data they should be collecting. But why exactly is this?

If we’re not measuring impact, how can we expect to know what’s actually working?

Too often we’re hearing of organisations implementing costly learning solutions – a learning management system (LMS), for example – that collect an amplitude of learning data but fail to acquire the analytics tools necessary to help them make sense of it.

For some, it’ll be because their training and development budget won’t stretch to a learning record store (LRS) as well, despite the LMS not typically allowing for more in-depth analysis.

For others, it’ll be down to the absence of a technical team with an analytical background who can help them make sense of the data collected. And with restricted access to the full extent of the learning data learners are producing, organisations thus fail to understand the real-world impact their learning is having on organisational growth.

But if we’re not measuring impact, how can we expect to know what’s actually working?

How could this be made easier in the future?

The continued growth of people analytics, the consequent shift to a more data-driven approach and the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is helping to revolutionize L&D and significantly increase its value to businesses and its employees.

But when looking to the future, there are a handful of strategies that could make it easier for the organisations currently struggling to get off the ground with learning analytics:

  1. Better adoption of agreed-upon standards, such as the xAPI specification, will allow companies to more easily transition to a data-driven mindset.
  2. Improvements in the automation of reporting insights through the use of AI will remove the need for individuals in the L&D space to have experience from an analytical background, making the task of understanding and using data to drive decisions more accessible.
  3. As more organisations take the step into the world of learning analytics, we’ll start to see more unique examples of how bringing data from multiple sources into one, can be used to demonstrate how learning can have a positive impact on a wide variety of businesses’ KPIs.

In the meantime…

Implement a learning record store (LRS)

An LRS is a database that stores, manages and performs analysis on learning data. Truthfully, learning happens everywhere and often, organisations will have multiple systems collecting learning data that they’re not even aware of.

The LRS reconciles experience data from different systems into one, presenting a seamless source of analysis. Learning Locker® is a great open source LRS which will allow beginners to dip their toe into learning analytics.

Report and visualise

With flexible reporting and customisable dashboards, the LRS helps you to understand the real-world impact your learning is having on both employee and organisational growth. Refer back to the three types of learning analytics and make sure you’re analysing the things that matter to you the most.

Know your data

Start with the basics and identify the types of data you should be capturing and understand how this data can be used to improve the impact of your learning. When you’re feeling confident, that’s when you can go beyond the capabilities of the standalone LRS, delving into complexities such as sentiment analysis in order to understand what your learners are actually saying.

As we continue to look to the future, it’s predicted that the Learning Record Store will become something of a Learning Analytics Platform, moving beyond the capabilities of a standard LRS, bringing together the storage and management of data with more robust analytics to help make learning more measurable.


About the author

Libby Webb is a content writer for HT2 Labs: a Learning Pool company.


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