Everyone talks about the need to show learning program data that proves the impact of our efforts. Learning conferences, blogs, and meetings are filled with discussions on providing data to senior management. But for all this talk, what sort of progress are we making?
Conventionally, learning program data cited by learning professionals comes from their LMS. LMS systems report data such as number of courses provided, number of students attending courses, and course completion rates. Taken a step further with help from accounting, learning departments often report on things such as the cost of learning per hour or of learning development.
Other data points are derived from employee surveys, sometimes joking called smile sheets. Employee surveys taken after a class provide glimpses into how well employees liked the training or their opinion of its value. These surveys document what students think, rather than what they learn.
The latest learning data buzz centers on Experience API (xAPI), a relatively new learning technology. xAPI is a programming interface that lets content management and learning systems applications share data. It allows different apps to talk to each other to record and track how learners interact with learning content. In some of these apps, the volume of interaction is equated to learning gains.
Lots of Data, But Little Value
Yes, there is plenty of data out there. Yet with all the available data, business leaders are still calling for clarity on the impact learning has on the business. With all of this data, how are learning professionals still not answering the burning questions of their business leaders?
When you consider the main data types currently reported by learning professionals, you realize that most reports on what learning departments do, not on how well they do it.
Business leaders are given plenty of information on how many things are being done, how active the learners are, and how much it costs for all this activity, but this information does not help them develop strategies for business improvement. Leaders want proof the money spent on learning is a wise investment and that learning programs contribute to organizational goals.
Leaders want to know that learning programs actually improve the competency of their organization and improve business outcomes. They want to feel confident that learning is both effective and efficient. Ultimately, senior management needs to know how the organization benefits from employees taking courses.
What Learning Program Data Do Business Leaders Really Want?
Senior leaders want to know three things:
- Do learning programs target organization needs?
- Are the learning programs effective for adding competencies and developing employees?
- Are the skills gained in learning programs being applied and improving job performance?
This is the learning program data that learning professionals need to satisfy organization stakeholders. Can you provide answers to these three questions to your business leaders?
The next post—Only 3 Data Points Really Matter for Learning Professionals—dives deeper into this issue and explains how you can provide these three important learning program data points. This is an important follow-on because it shows you how to provide the specific information that your senior leaders want to know.
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