A sales manager can say “Hey, we used a new method of communicating with leads last month, and this has resulted in a 10% increase in conversion rates!” An operations manager can say “Hey, I’ve implemented a new scheduling strategy last month and this resulted in producing optimum inventory levels. We cut waste by 15% - saving the business $10K this quarter!” Yes, every department within a business unit is accountable to the top management. Each has to drive results and show their heads, how they have improved performance, what activities or programs they’ve employed and what kind of tangible results they’ve seen as a result.
The same is expected of the Learning and Development Department! In addition, the L&D department has to work with all the other departments to help achieve organizational goals. This is where Learning Analytics comes in handy. Learning analytics is not meant to track individual performance (which is what assessments are meant to do), you can think of it as a bird’s eye view of the overall execution of elearning activities that employees have engaged in over a particular time period.
The Trojan horse in Action: How Learning Analytics aids in decision making
Learning analytics gives us various pictures that can bring each of these stakeholders into alignment with specific action points that have been evidenced to improve business performance.
Here are a few insights that Learning Analytics can provide that can help in decision making:
- Decide who needs to take a course depending on proficiency levels: Some courses are standard and are necessary to be run every year. Employees who have been around for a couple of years or more will be quite familiar with the content. So, is it fair to mandate them to sit through an hour long training each year? This can be determined by the use of a pre-assessment and a post-assessment. If the learner scored very high on his pre-course assessment, he or she need not go through the whole course again – saving him time to commit to work or to engage in more necessary learning.
- Determine how engaged learners are – based on time spent on a course: A course has a set time to be completed in. Extremely short time spans mean the learner is thorough with the course or is not paying attention to the details. The assessments will tell you the effectiveness of the session. On the other hand, a learner may be doing other work simultaneously, like replying to emails, attending virtual meetings, etc. and simply have the course open. This is a dis-engaged learner. So, the course design could be improved if the percentage of learners are not optimally engaged.
- Instructional designers can determine how effective their questions are: Questions that are consistently answered wrong by a majority of learners and in both the pre- and post-assessments, implies that the question has not been understood well enough. So assessments can be structured and designed more effectively.
- Identify changes in behavior or perspectives as a result of the training: Feedback or surveys with tactfully worded questions, after undergoing a course, can show whether perspectives have changed as a result. Example: asking whether overall file management behavior has to be changed moving forward, after a course on document management, will help understand whether the learner has understood the importance and process to be followed with past performance – on a personal and team level.
- What devices are being used to access the course: Your learning analytics tool used in conjunction with your LMS can map the different kinds of devices being used to access the course. If the learners use their mobile phones predominantly, an android or iPhone app could be created with a host of additional features that could boost engagement tremendously.
- Incorporation of surveys and feedback during a course, about the course itself or relating to an entirely different course, can garner learner feedback on relevance, recall, awareness and other details that can be useful information for instructional designers or content managers. For example, if recall is low, pop-quizzes, micro-learning, use of games or contests run on interactive discussion forums can help improve the overall learning experience.
In a nutshell
In a nutshell, learning analytics can be used to tell your business head: Here is the current Unit’s overall learning experience, the overall competence level, and having applied analytical results - we’ve achieved such and such outcome in comparison to last year’s outcome. For example: pre and post eLearning data was used to improve the instructional design across the organization’s elearning and it’s improved employee performance by X%, which has had an impact on the reaching organization’s target this quarter.
“Engaged employees are psychological “owners,” drive performance and innovation, and move the organization forward.”
Linking engagement, content retention (and relevance), and competence (pre and post training) with sales figures can offer decision makers valuable information on what training works and what doesn’t. What needs to be done more often and what perceptions/behaviors need change? This paves the way for better training programs that are linked to business outcomes, while engaging all the stakeholders of the business.
The story of Odysseus and his cunningly devised strategy to enter Troy’s heavily fortified city is a well-loved story, inspiring many other stories and events in history. Today, we’ve looked at business unit engagement (troy) through the eyes of Odysseus. The ‘Trojan horse’ is the Learning Analytics that we use. We can gain entry into the heart of business engagement, through employee engagement, driving up performance, eliminating barriers to greater engagement of business stakeholders – and hence performance – the ultimate victory over Troy!