Ever wonder what to do with all that data you’re getting from your learning management system? Are you struggling to change your department to utilize that data?
You’re in the right place.
Data-Driven Decisions are More Effective
In-person training and education is traditionally ruled by the gut instinct, and the relationship between the educator and student is dynamic and personal.
That changes when we look at elearning. Training departments are often looking over hundreds — if not thousands — of learners. The only relationship they have with these learners is a bunch of data in a spreadsheet, most likely gathered through LMS reports and/or or xAPI data.
Making decisions using that data can help you become a training department that is more responsive to learner needs.
MIT conducted a study which concluded that data-driven organizations had 4% higher productivity and 6% higher profits. There’s no reason to think those benefits couldn’t apply to corporate training.
In a numbers-driven world, data-driven decisions can also help training be taken seriously as an important part of business strategy.
So how do you make data-driven decisions?
The Process for Making Data-Based Decisions – DDDM
Believe it or not, there is a scientific process designed to help you make data-based decisions. It’s called DDDM – or “Data-Driven Decision Management”.
Let’s get started with learning how to use this in an elearning environment.
There are four stages to the data-driven decision-making process.
The stages include:
- Formulating key questions
- Collecting and analyzing data
- Communicating results to decision makers
- Refining processes, organizations, or systems
Formulating Key Questions
This part of the process is all about deciding the things you need to know in order to make training better. Questions could include things like:
- Are learners engaged with this content?
- Does this course affect real-world behavior?
- Is our training affecting customer satisfaction?
- Are our ecommerce customers returning after taking this course?
Our biggest tips for asking good questions include:
- Be specific
- Question your assumptions
- Make sure it’s possible to use measurable data to answer them
It’s also important to make sure the questions are relevant to the goals of your training, and furthermore, to the goals of your company.
Collecting and Analyzing LMS Data
This is probably the most difficult part of the process. The LMS data needs to be well-organized and correctly collected in order to be useful in decision-making.
There are two things you need to properly collect and analyze the data.
- Access to the correct data to prove answers to your questions
- Tools to visualize, organize, and process the data
Many LMSs have built-in data collection and analyzation. There is, however, a lot of variety in how good these reporting features are. Some LMSs don’t track very much data at all. Some LMSs track a lot. Some have very useful, user-friendly LMS data visualization tools. Some are difficult to use.
If data is going to be important to you, it’s probably worth asking a lot of questions about the data engine before you purchase an LMS.
It’s also worth looking into xAPI-compliant LMS software. xAPI is a newer specification that allows training professionals to collect more granular data from multiple places and organize it in one place. This makes it easy to track user behavior in the LMS and other software that the learner uses. So, you would have not only LMS data but data from different sources.
Communicating Results to Decision-Makers
This is probably the most nerve-wracking part of the process, depending on who the decision-makers are. But rest assured that decision-makers like to hear new research and information that will make their department better.
Put together a small presentation on what you discovered within the LMS data to present to the decision-makers. Remember that people who make business meetings in person are more likely to impress their audience.
This is your chance to make recommendations for future decisions and to suggest how to move forward with research.
Refining Processes, Organizations, or Systems
This is the time to make your data-driven decision(s). The conclusions you’ve drawn from your data research can now be applied. Take some time to communicate the results of your research and apply them to what you do.
Remember that these stages are cyclical – once you reach the end of the process, you should return to the beginning. The mark of a true scientist, after all, is always asking more questions.
Choose Questions That Align With Business Objectives
One of the things I wanted to specifically address was making choices about what to investigate. In order to make the most impact by making data-driven decisions, questions you investigate should align with business objectives.
To find out what business objectives you should try to align your elearning with, do a little investigating:
- Talk to decision makers about the goals of the company
- Ask about what business metrics the higher-ups are focused on
- Ask about the specific business goals and KPIs for each quarter and year
Aligning your investigation with business goals will help you create the most impact on the business using data-driven decision making. It will also help training to be seen as a valuable aspect of business strategy.
Help Your Whole Team Become More LMS Data-Driven
The Harvard Business Review wrote up some tips for building a data-driven team. They include:
- Fostering critical thinking
- Invest in training
- Hire the right people
If you’re interested in convincing others to buy in to a data-driven lifestyle, offering training on critical thinking and the DDDM process will go a long way.
It will also help if you’re able to demonstrate results from data-driven decisions that you already made.
These LMS features will help you put together the right LMS data to make smart decisions.
xAPI is a specification developed for training professionals who need more granular training data to help them understand the behavior of learners. Some LMSs are partially compliant but finding a fully-compliant LMS will help you take advantage of this extra data.
Ad Hoc Reporting
Ad hoc reporting doesn’t limit which data you have access to in the LMS. This means you can use any data you need to ask all the questions you like about learner behavior.
Complex Data Visualization Features
Good LMSs have complex data visualization features that give you a lot of flexibility in how you view your data. Before choosing an LMS, be sure to ask to look at the reporting page to ensure they are user-friendly and have what you need.
If you’re going to be looking at data all the time, you should reduce the burden by automating some of your tasks. An LMS that automatically runs custom reports when specified and automatically emails reports to the right people could make a huge difference in your productivity.
Make sure that the reporting features allows you to customize reports to suit your needs.
Using LMS data to make decisions doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. Hopefully once you understand the tools you need and the steps you need to take, data-driven decision making can be an everyday part of your job.