Big data - your LMS's secret weapon?
Shaping the future of learning
You don’t have to be a scientist to know that we live in a world of data. All this data is surrounding us – all of the time – and although we can’t touch it or see it, no-one would doubt that we need it to help us do important things. Of course, we then use it to make decisions about which important things we need to do next.
In this context, it’s tempting to talk next about ‘Big Data’ and the 'Internet of Things', because they sound so… thrilling. Sadly, though, I’m just not ready to model 1000 years of climate change or spend a lot of time thinking about a future where my fridge will automatically do a weekly online grocery shop for me.
Big data – a big deal
What I am interested in is how data affects our ability to deliver success in learning and development, learner engagement and ultimately, business performance. The data I’m talking about may not be ‘big’ in Big Data realms (and fridges probably have no role to play), but for our customers, it has a direct impact on next year’s results.
Last month, we reported that the number one challenge cited by LMS users was systems integration. What this says is that there is a problem with data. In brief, it means organisations can’t get the data they want either into and/or out of the LMS.
At Kineo we’ve implemented over 200 LMS platforms for organisations across a range of sectors, and the systems integration challenge is not a new one.
Any organisation, irrespective of their size or the extent of their global presence, expects (quite reasonably) that one of the key benefits of having an LMS will be an ability to segment their learners into audiences, based on function, role or any other criteria, so that those people get the right learning content and opportunities.
Similarly, if an organisation wants to track and report on their workforce’s learning and development and do so without worrying about whether the information can be trusted, their LMS will, as a minimum requirement, need to draw on accurate data about their employees. This need is even more acute if an organisation operates within a highly regulated environment.
Unsurprisingly, over the past year or so, more and more of our clients are working on major IT upgrade programmes to improve their HR and people systems, and in so doing, they immediately unlock a whole range of new benefits in their LMS, including an ability to utilise data better.
What’s data to a learner?
Let’s think about the learner a bit now – how does having accurate data in the LMS benefit them?
From our experience, the number one LMS issue reported by helpdesks involves users who have forgotten their passwords. Obviously, this suggests that there might a wider problem with the LMS, if forgetting passwords is caused by learners only visiting the LMS very infrequently, but if we focus on the removal of technical barriers to access, setting up a single sign-on (SSO) link between an organisations network and the LMS is an obvious quick win.
Helpdesk calls drop off and learners can access content without obstacles – all good. This is an excellent example of effective systems integration as a direct result of utilising LMS data, and makes accessing learning that much easier for learners.
Data gives your learning personality
What other opportunities might data bring for the plucky LMS user? Again reflecting on last month’s market update, the second biggest challenge for LMS users is the difficulty in learning how to use an LMS system. This is certainly an area where data can have a role to play.
Through our work with our LMS clients, we’ve seen a steady growth in the demand from learners for a more personalised user experience. At one end of the spectrum, this might encompass having a different homepage for different audiences, but it may also refer to pushing recommended content based on a user’s profile data or even allowing a learner to filter content by user rating or by seeing what content is popular or highly rated among different areas of the business.
By having simple data such as job title or learning style of the learner, they can be “pushed” a more personalised experience.
Those are all great examples of how data can be leveraged in the LMS to help a learner navigate their way through what can be a daunting volume of content, and give them content that’s more relevant and appropriate for them. Data can also be used to engage, delight and incentivise, through the use of game-based elements, competitions and league tables – all things we are increasingly asked to bring to our clients’ LMSs.
Let’s get integrated
Systems integrations doesn’t just have to be about people data. We’ve also integrated CRMs with LMSs, so that sales performance can feed into the population of learning paths among field sales teams. Other customers of ours link their LMS to the membership area of their corporate website, so that they can provide ‘value-add’ targeted learning services to their suppliers, customers or other third-parties.
So, wherever you are, on whatever device, think about all that data flying around you, and think about how you might be able to leverage it better to create better experiences for your learners. Perhaps you just want to know whether Jeremy in Distribution has completed his Asbestos Safety elearning, or maybe you’re looking for a way to create personalised learning pathways for a globally distributed sales team. Either way, you need to know that your LMS investment is going to count for something.
That means you need to have data at your fingertips which allows you to provide what your learners need, when they need it, and do it in a way that drives improved engagement and business performance.