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Let’s welcome a new dawn of behavioural learning analytics

10th May 2019
New dawn for behavioural learning analytics
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New dawn for behavioural learning analytics

With the rise of learning experience platforms, L&D teams will be able to measure and assess the behaviour of employees as they progress through their learning journey, taking learning analytics to a whole new level.

Like it or not, the L&D sector is not where it should be when it comes to proving its worth to the wider business. The good news is that a way of mapping training investment to measurable bottom-line results may be about to become available at last.

Let’s review how important that is. At Learning Technologies 2019, independent HR analyst firm Fosway revealed the first preliminary results of its annual Digital Learning Realities Research. And the verdict was not good.

“By not providing hard evidence of how learning is adding value on an individual, team or organisational level, practitioners are missing a huge opportunity to gain recognition of their contribution to the organisation and much-needed investment for future learning,” warned the organisation’s Director of Research David Perring.

Only 14% of respondents could say with confidence that they are effectively measuring the impact of learning, while around half are ineffectively doing so – and a third not measuring impact at all.

No wonder Perring answered a question about how the L&D industry is faring with measuring learning impact, with just one word: “Terribly.”

Tracking learner achievement not just attendance

However help may finally be at hand in the shape of learning experience platforms (LEPs), recently formalised as a new market category by Gartner, which has started to become increasingly common in L&D work in the past few years. Highly user-centric in their delivery model and usability it’s maybe less well known that they have also revolutionised the analytical L&D palette.  

How? Because LEPs track any behaviour traces and use them to test what works and what doesn’t, based on a powerful new way of collecting such data, the ‘Experience API’ or xAPI standard.

Up until very recently learning analytics only existed in a very partial way, as any learning data that was harvested was limited to the face-to-face classroom training model.

That happened because the technology L&D had to rely on for so long – the LMS – was really an admin and delivery workhorse, designed for managing access to training and participation of learners, so the data was largely limited to the attendee list.

L&D professionals should start considering the full potential of a person for a specific job, not only in terms of their knowledge and skills, but also their character and behavioural qualities too.

The LMS is also used by trainers to upload content and create tasks for learners, so the other elements of data captured was the number of content downloads and task completions, not how learners responded to the material.

Given all this, it can’t be a surprise that any insights and conclusions that dropped out of all this were not that useful in ROI terms. Finally, with the LEP much more flexible and interesting ways of working with corporate learning have started to deliver much richer datasets that are the basis for really useful analysis.

The consequence for learning analytics of the LEP is that the data we’re getting back now is much more complete and behavioural.

That’s because in order to constantly improve the learning experience, the most advanced xAPI-enabled LEP tracks any behaviour indicators it can spot and uses them to test what works and what doesn’t, based on tracking the stream of learning activities – and not just completion of modules.

The results are highly promising. For a start, the learner, not just the trainer and administrator, can get a sense of his/her progress and experience. That really matters if we want our teams to be truly autonomous learners able to ensure their own long-term employability.

Will a new class of HR metrics become possible?

L&D managers and administrators benefit because they can access all sorts of new types of insight – not only finding out what someone successfully learned, but how the learner got there and which learning approach they chose.

This opens up tremendous diagnostic value, way beyond pure learning analytics. It also opens up the possibility for new performance indicators, such as curiosity, or perseverance – both hugely valuable HR metrics.

Take curiosity, identified as an “important variable for the prediction and explanation of work-related behavior” (Mussel, 2013). That is really critical, as motivation to engage in lifelong learning is a sine qua non of employability for today’s worker.

Could a new ‘behavioural learning analytics’ emerge that will put learning and training back in the centre of your organisation?

Notably, another important effect of curious collaborators is that they contribute to a company’s innovation potential, particularly in the light of the “death of top-down management” (cf. John Bell, 2013).

Employee learning perseverance is another potential new KPI example. When you next need to decide who to recruit to lead a project, or who to train, it may be useful to select those who are qualified but also the most resilient candidate (cf. Amy Ahearn, 2017).

xAPI-enabled LEP/LXP tech will give you the edge

The transformative potential of these new indicators is even greater given how The World Economic Forum identified re- and up-skilling of the current workforce as the number one strategy companies should embrace for the next five years.

If we want to integrate the learner and employee journey to enable both the corporation and the learner to do this, L&D professionals should start considering the full potential of a person for a specific job, not only in terms of their knowledge and skills, but also their character and behavioural qualities too.

Could a new ‘behavioural learning analytics’ emerge that will put learning and training back in the centre of your organisation? It’s starting to look that way.

 

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