Data & Your LMS

What Is Data?

With the advances in technology; whether it’s mobile devices, social media sites, annoying automated telephone menus, supermarket loyalty cards or computers ‘in-general’, whether we like it or not we are generating and consuming very large amounts of data. Data which is then being used, or worse - sold, to third parties to tailor products and services based on the buying and viewing profiles we are creating about ourselves – a marketeer’s dream! Organisations are benefiting directly (and indirectly) from our data - we have become the product!

What Data Are We Talking About? 

To bring this data generation (and use) into the L&D world, we are initially talking about; user data, course data and, importantly, completion data.

Your users are creating data within your LMS. What are you doing with it? Are you doing anything to interrogate and analyse the data in your LMS? As a minimum you should be generating some course completion reports along the lines of; ‘x number of users completed x number of courses in the last month’. Or, possibly, ‘x number of users haven’t completed the mandatory course x’.  You should then be able to contact these learners and/or their line-manager.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

KPIs are used to measure the success of an organisation or of a particular activity in which it engages. Often success is simply the repeated, periodic achievement of some levels of operational goals, for example zero defects or 10 out of 10 customer satisfaction. Sometimes success is defined in terms of making progress toward strategic goals.

Accordingly, choosing the right KPIs relies upon a good understanding of what is important to your organisation. ‘What is important' often depends on the department measuring the performance, for example; the KPIs useful to finance will differ from the KPIs assigned to sales. The key is to choose carefully and think about what you are looking to measure.

Typical LMS KPIs

From looking at your organisation you should be able to establish what measures are important. You need to consider what are you looking to achieve from analysing the data within your LMS. As well as working in the positive, i.e. how many learners have accessed the site in the last week, month, quarter, or year. Then also consider how many learners haven’t accessed the site in that same time period.

Be wary of popular courses, if a course has a high completion rate is it because it is a mandatory course or because learners find it interesting? Try and identify what is working and what isn’t on the site and use the data that is generated to feedback into the site to improve the content, the UX, the site as a whole. Continual improvement will keep the LMS ‘fresh’ and your learners will keep coming back.

GiGo – Garbage-In Garbage-Out

Get to know your data. Before you start waving your report around the office with statistics you should consider the data that is in your LMS.

If you are not confident about the data that has gone in, how up-to-date it is or the data that is being generated, then how can you be confident in the conclusions you, or your peers, will be making based on the reports that are generated?

What Can You Do About Your Data?

To ensure good quality data within the LMS you should undertake regular house-keeping tasks. This house-keeping should focus on learner data as well as the content that is accessed via the site.

Data quality can be improved by implementing some ‘quick-win’ solutions. For example;

  • Making your site more accessible to learners by removing the need to remember login details
  • Implementing Single Sign-On
  • Improving the quality of the user-data by importing data into your LMS regularly straight from your HR system (assuming your HR system is up-to-date!)

Also think about quality from a content perspective, when is the last time the learning catalogue was reviewed? Is the content still relevant and up-to-date?

 Reporting Tools

All LMSs come with some form of reporting functionality. Totara is now able to create graphical reports and combine these with user defined dashboards. These can give the decision makers an accurate picture of what is happening within the site.

 Organisations are benefitting from combining data from their LMS with other company data. By exporting data from their LMS into a central data warehouse organisations are able to use powerful reporting tools to slice-and-dice their data.

Another quick-win low-cost option is to implement Google Analytics   on your site. Google Analytics is the most widely used website statistics service and is currently in use on around 55% of the 10,000 most popular websites. So why not implement it on your LMS? It can provide information such as; who is accessing your site, where they are accessing it from, when are they using it, what devices are being used and how long are users spending on particular pages. Google Analytics can also provide you with data about your users such as their demographic, gender and even spending habits! So get your marketing hat on and utilise the the tools that are available to ‘sell’ you LMS.

What Does This Data Do For You?


Accurate and up-to-date reporting can only be a good thing - we all know that. But what can you actually do with the information within the reports? What do they really tell you?

Just like those marketers mentioned at the beginning of this article, know more about the product - your learners !  Build up a picture of their behaviours, their likes / dislikes, and feed this information back into the LMS and other business processes to enrich the learning experience. This in-turn will ensure a higher-level of engagement within your workforce and help you leverage your LMS to achieve your organisational goals.

To Summarise Succinctly

  1. Keep you data clean - make sure that your data feeds are relevant and that data is up to date
  2. Take the time to understand your data - what is available to you and how can it be used
  3. Have a vision and objective for your data - can you engage your stakeholders with great data? Can you help the business measure investment better? Can you help the business understand where learning is not succeeding and more…
  4. Think about the audience - what do they want to see and what will most turn them on?
  5. Make your data look sexy - use graphical reporting as a way to bring your data to life

To find out more about what a Totara LMS can do for you take a look here

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