How Learning Analytics Can Transform Your Training Program
Learning analytics has the power to transform: transform the impact of training on your business, transform the perception of training from senior leadership, and transform the way in which you create meaningful training altogether.
Continue reading to learn more about the six primary benefits of creating and maintaining a comprehensive learning analytics program.
Collecting Learner Data
Collecting learning data is nothing new. Learning professionals have long-since collected information such as the number and timeframe of training completions, training assessment scores, and even which persons or teams are completing specific training programs.
Learning data is good. Learning analytics, though, is power.
Learning analytics collects and measures a variety of information from across learning experiences and creates a quantitative understanding of how this data intersects with human decisions and behavior patterns.
Learning analytics is power.
In the Writing Assessments to Validate the Impact of Learning from the eLearning Guild, Jane Bozarth introduces the research eBook with a reminder of the importance of measurements— and meaningful measurement of the correct components—in our day to day to lives. She asks the reader to consider the effectiveness of measurements such as the number of IT help desk tickets closed, frequency of equipment functionality tests, or speed of customer support responses.
How does the measurement of volume, frequency, or time impact the employees, their work, the overall business, and your customers? Bozarth cautions training professionals to be aware of vanity metrics—metrics that look and sound nice but don’t encourage the business results you need.
Be aware of vanity metrics.
– Jane Bozarth
Specifically, Define What You Want to Achieve
In the same research eBook, Mark Rosenberg states that by specifically defining the results we want to achieve and measure, we can then design a learning program that helps create those results.
It is common to hear “increase sales” or “increase policy compliance” as broad client training goals. However, it is a valuable use of time to dive into these desired goals much deeper before any training content is ever designed. What quantitative measure can you use that will most impact your business? How will you specifically measure success?
In the whitepaper, Learning Analytics: A Practical Pathway to Success, author A.D. Detrick proposes organizations use an impact map to break down learning activity, performance, and business metrics.
For example, if you want to increase the speed of a production line by 10%, your employees may need to process three more widgets per hour and need to pass a training course with an 80% score or above that discusses best practices for widget assembly as well as participate in facilitated discussions with colleagues about ways to avoid production line distractions.
Increase the speed of production line by 10%
Each employee to process three more widgets per hour
Pass a training course with 80% score + facilitated discussion
Fear of Failure
For decades, the academic industry has harnessed the power of learning analytics. Adolescent students and adult learners alike are frequently assessed on their ability to demonstrate their competency of specific concepts. Today, the corporate learning industry has an abundance of training content but lacks a comprehensive approach for asking their learners—their employees who are paid to perform a certain job—to demonstrate an understanding of ideas and applications that directly impact their performance.
Corporate learning teams often shy away from the concept of difficult assessments in corporate training. They are sensitive to, and often even fearful of, employee failure or a training assessment being “too difficult.” A 100% assessment passing score has become the default, rather than proof of an employee who completely understands and can apply the content presented.
100% passing score has become the default rather than proof of employee understanding.
Valid and reliable training assessments provide a clearer training picture that teams should embrace, not fear. They are an important piece of learning data. Learning analytics encourages the use of this assessment data in correlation with before and after training business results.
Living Up to Expectations
Pulling from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great Stephen Covey once said, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”
If employees are expected to simply get through a corporate learning program, then that is all they will do. In turn, though, if they are expected to truly invest their time, mental energy, and effort into a training program knowing that they are going to be assessed on their comprehension or performance, then that is what they will do.
If you expect employees to simply get through a learning program, then that is all they will do.
Corporate learning is designed primarily for adult learners. Even considering the wide variety of educational backgrounds and work experiences, adult learners overwhelmingly have the ability to learn new concepts and prove their understanding of that concept through a specific measurement device—an assessment, an on-the-job evaluation, or a performance review.
Analytics Appropriately Increase Confidence and Ability
Imagine an employee who completes your company’s standard annual compliance training. The training presents the laws, policies, and guidelines she needs to know but does not assess her understanding or application. That same employee now feels they are “in compliance” even if her behavior or interactions with business partners never changes.
A Compliance Training Example
Now, imagine that same employee who completes the same annual compliance training but is asked to complete an assessment of her application of the compliance concepts in relation to her specific role within the company. Perhaps she scores 80%. The employee is now immediately intrigued (or slightly frustrated) with what they answered correctly and what they answered incorrectly. This fuels curiosity. She wants to know why and how compliance concepts apply in her specific role. This will then stick with her the next time she is in a situation where compliance is in question and be that much more likely to adjust her behavior accordingly and seek out additional help when unsure of the right thing.
Even in mandated training situations (such as compliance and legal) where the pure volume of training creates a defensible backbone, not analyzing employee competence is a missed opportunity.
Not analyzing employee competence is a missed opportunity.
What You Do with the Data Matters
The use of learning analytics and its application within a corporate training team ideally creates a synergistic connection between:
- Employee’s training activities,
- The data it generates and you collect for analysis,
- The decisions your corporate training team makes, and
- Appropriate learning interventions.
Whether you are simply analyzing the volume of learning completions and satisfaction surveys or have created a compounded analysis of the length of time to complete modules within a training course (plus question by question response details), what you ultimately do with the data matters most.
What you do with the learning data matters most.
Benefits of a Learning Analytics Program
Whether just beginning to collect and evaluate training data or have been doing so for years, there are six key benefits to a learning analytics program for any training organization.
1. Generates senior management buy-in and support
Senior management typically supports learning and development organizations, but rarely with prominence or emphasis. Learning analytics, though, has the power to change this. Senior leaders gravitate to quantitative measurements and results. Through clear charts and graphs, a comprehensive, data-driven analysis of what their employees are actually learning becomes eye-opening. Learning analytics can even be directly correlated to business results.
Imagine a new sales process is being implemented across the organization, and your team creates a corresponding training program.
You use learning analytics to include measurements of sales rep understanding of the new process and valid assessment of their ability to apply it within new and existing client accounts.
The volume of business sales increase by 15%, and you now have the ability to quantitatively demonstrate that your training program had a direct role in this success.
You have now proven the value of your entire training program.
2. Defines your learning strategy
Once you specifically define what business results or employee behaviors you want to achieve (both within each proposed new and existing training course and across your training program as a whole), you can use learning analytics to define the optimal pathway to success.
A learning strategy is essentially a roadmap for how specific outcomes will be achieved. Roadblocks or deviations from the intended route may appear, but not knowing where you are headed is a path to failure. Business guidance must become a reality for employees, and a realistic strategy is the best place to start.
By using a comprehensive and long-term training analytics program, your strategy lives on a solid foundation. You know (not think; not assume) where your program is and where you want it to be. You know what type of training resonates with your employees. You know how they respond to learning support materials. A learning strategy informed by analytics improves future training programs and future business outcomes.
Need help in creating a learning strategy? Receive a free custom learning recommendation here.
3. Identifies specific learner difficulties
In part two of the research eBook, the eLearning Guild states that “By assessing important tasks we have trained for, we identify not only those who have learned but also opportunities for remediation with those who haven’t.”
Individuals learn differently. Some employees respond well to eLearning. Some don’t. Most employees prefer a variety, as evidenced in a recent LinkedIn poll.
Using analytics, you can define employee groups based on functional area, time on the job, location, or work environment, and measure their preferences and outcomes of various training interventions. Using valid assessments, you can see which employee groups, and even individuals, are struggling to understand or apply certain concepts. You begin to definitively understand if low training scores or a lack of business results are a result of a knowledge gap, an application gap, or a failure of the training design itself.
If you don’t have this information to work from, you are unable to target those employees that need enhanced support or the employee groups that require a more personalized curriculum design.
Which leads to the next benefit…
4. Predicts future performance
Learning analytics can help predict future performance. If an individual performs poorly on an assessment or answers several job-specific knowledge checks incorrectly, it can be a sign that they need additional support in order to perform their job correctly.
New hire onboarding, specifically, can fundamentally shift from an approach of “Let’s try it and see,” to “We will do this and get these results.”
If in order to be successful in a role, a new hire needs to effectively negotiate the best price with customers, a defined and measured training program that presents negotiation tactics and considerations can be used.
If the new hire scores well, it predicts that they will likely be successful in this aspect of their role and may require minimal continued support in this skill. They may even be identified as someone who can help others. If the new hire doesn’t score well, they can be identified right away as someone who needs additional guidance and support in this specific skill.
The risk of the new hire’s inability to effectively negotiate price is immediately mitigated, and the potential trajectory of the new hire’s business results improves.
Analytics enables new hires to get up to speed quickly.
5. Increased learner content retention
With an enhanced and quantitative understanding of what your learners know and what they do not know, training teams can customize learning experiences and long-term retention.
For example, if a learner is taking an increased amount of time to complete a lesson, perhaps they can be given an infographic that would help present the content in a different way. They could be automatically be sent resources to help them explore the topic further. On the flip side, if a learner expeditiously completes a training course, they can be presented with subject matter that is more difficult or challenging to expand their knowledge.
Ideally, learning analytics are used over a period of time, allowing training teams to see the short- and long-term impact of learning interventions.
6. Creates long-term cost savings and efficiencies
Training teams can spend thousands of dollars each year creating and revising learning programs and still not understand the impact it has on learner comprehension or ability.
Learning analytics, though, improves overall curriculum efficiency and long-term cost savings.
If you know, through data, that learners already understand a topic, it is not a value-add of your time to continue to train on that topic each year. Alternatively, you can create targeted programs for new hires or those that require foundational review and “refresher” programs for those that already understand the topic. With detailed analysis, the data will indicate which employees require this foundational training and those that can simply benefit from content refreshers or reminders.
Return on training investment can be better defined and measured using learning analytics. If it costs $10 per employee to provide environmental health and safety (EHS) training, you can measure this against the potential health and legal costs of EHS incidences over one year. The cost of an effective and measurable training program likely will significantly outweigh the costs of potential incidences, immediately proving the value of your training program.
Broad Application, Targeted Improvement
As noted by eLearning Industry, learning analytics enables data-driven decisions to be made about what and how an organizations’ employees are learning. Knowledge and application gaps are identified and remediated, supporting long-term content retention and business change.
Capturing a variety of learning data points will allow training teams the opportunity to identify trends and patterns in the way in which their employees are absorbing training content. The way in which this information is used, then, is critical. Learning analytics has broad applications but enables targeted improvement across various employee populations.
Get started with learning analytics, and six months from now, your training program will be transformed.