Learning Analytics and xAPI — How to Turn data into Talent

Feedback is the most important aspect of any process. If you want to improve anything, you’ll need to know where you went wrong, or which strengths you can play to in future. But feedback is rarely direct — surveys are a pain to fill in and often don’t illustrate the reality of a situation, only a perception. That’s why you need raw data, the unbiased source that tracks and reports without passing judgement. Unfortunately, data doesn’t directly offer advice; it’s in the analysis we can find action.

In eLearning, there’s actually plenty of ways to gather accurate data, without even having to consult employees for feedback. The new technology, TinCan, also known as xAPI can capture data which can then be analysed. The data retrieved is then stored in a Learning Record Store (or LRS), which can be incorporated into the LMS.

xAPI essentially measures data in the background without interfering with the training process. The data that can be measured varies hugely, from how long people take to finish sections to something as specific as where users are looking on a page. It’s a standardised language that adapts to existing systems, and can integrate with basically anything (it’s even used by the US military in shooting ranges to measure target accuracy and suggest changes in stance!).

So that’s how to gather data, but how do you analyse it? Well, there are some fairly basic assumptions that are easy to spot. If learners linger on a question, clearly it’s harder, or takes more time to process. But that kind of assumption might ignore something like the page taking longer to load, or that the system may become unresponsive. You have to pair data with experience, so if you notice a trend, investigate it rather than make the assumption. The data you gather will be specific to your industry, so try to be smart about knowing what is useful data and what is merely noise.

But it’s more than just analysing the system. In the same way a teacher can monitor a pupil’s progress, so too can an employer monitor employee learning. You might notice that a certain member of staff is blasting through courses that interest them, and you can meet with them to discuss perhaps shifting their focus onto areas they seem to care about. You might have an employee who is regularly roadblocked on certain issues, or who struggles with certain types of learning. You can then redirect their efforts into either new methods of learning or into new areas that avoid these blind spots.

Data analysis will allow you to exceed the status quo and push into new, more productive areas of learning and development. There’s an untapped skill in everyone, and by finding the patterns you can unveil your employees’ hidden talents and bring them to the surface. You need to start the research now, so that in the future the plans and changes you implement are the best they can be.

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