Thanks to the growing popularity of eLearning, the learning management system (LMS) market has grown exponentially; in fact, there are over 200 LMS providers listed in the Training Industry supplier directory.

Your company has jumped on the bandwagon of using an LMS — but what is it doing, exactly? Are you using it to its full potential? Let’s find out.

What Are You Managing in Your LMS?

The two most important things you’ll manage with your LMS are content and learners. More specifically, you’ll organize content and then decide which content to assign to which groups of learners. As a standard practice, it might be a good idea to group a series of courses or modules in a learning path or curriculum format and then use smart course registration to enroll a group of users to a specific path curriculum.

Using a Training Matrix to Match Learners to Content

Role-based training is popular for employee development and change management. Depending on the size of your organization, your goal might be to develop a training matrix by building one or more learning paths for different groups of employees.

For example, sales training is different from training for an operation support team. A new sales rep’s learning path would include not only product training but also training on personal skills, such as customer service, and on the business tools they will use for sales management. Furthermore, a junior sales rep may need different content than an experienced sales rep. If you have already developed all of these learning materials, organize them into a curriculum format. Then, you’ll just need to decide whether there is a specific sequence to follow and if there are any prerequisites or dependencies.

If your business is going through a major change, such as implementing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, then you need to identify and organize employees into groups based on their job roles or the tasks they will perform using the new ERP system. Then, you can assign each group of learners to a specific curriculum.

Another type of training is external and involves training your customers and partners on how to use your products. In this case, you’ll need to create customized learning curricula for the various features and functions of your products. Many technology companies use a certification model for customer training, which is useful because the curriculum is not only organized by role but also by knowledge level (from basic to expert, for instance).

When eLearning Embraces Big Data

Another important way to leverage your LMS successfully is to collect learner feedback and access learning data and people analytics.

By now, you probably have heard the buzzwords “big data” and learning analytics. data mining is defined as a large (in terms of volume, velocity and variety) amount of data that technology can analyze to offer insights and reveal patterns, trends and associations. When big data is readily available, you can do data mining, using tools from statistics and artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze it. The goal is to look for patterns of behavior and predictive models.

Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners for the purpose of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs. With new forms of digital data captured and the use of data science and AI, learning analytics provides actionable insights for your learning and development (L&D) programs.

Big data and learning analytics can help you understand your users, their usage patterns and their behavioral patterns:

Who Are Your Users?

If you would like to understand the demographics of customer education program participants, you can set up a campaign to promote your learning content on social networks, prompting users to register on your platform. If your LMS supports integration with Google Analytics, you can track whether users navigate to the platform from those social networks and understand whether your ads are helping to drive users to your content.

How Are They Using the Content?

If you discover that most of your users skip certain training materials in a course or spend less time in certain modules of a curriculum, you can investigate why. Maybe the content is outdated, or maybe it is not suitable to the audience, either too easy or too hard, etc.

What Are Their Behavioral Patterns?

You will probably find that different population of learners react to the same learning content differently. Managers are likely interested in different topics than their employees, for example. These varying behaviors provide predictive insights into the knowledge and skill acquisition of each population.

Learning has become increasingly personalized, and with a good LMS, you can use learning analytics to provide tailored learning to meet each individual’s skills, objectives, expectations and interests.

Developing the Mindset of a Data Scientist

Learning professionals need to wear the hat of a data scientist and use data to make informed decisions. Start with the “why”: What is the business reason behind using your LMS for learning analytics? Then, be bold: Develop a hypothesis about why something is impacting the business (either positively or negatively), and use the LMS data reporting to test your theory.

You may need to add new values and metrics, such as tenure, location and education level, to your LMS in order to track the data that’s most relevant to your business and your hypothesis. Apply models to the data to test your hypothesis and collect insights, and then make recommendations for improvements. For example, you may find out that you need to offer the same training topics to more advanced users in the same role or to users in different roles.

According to Ken Phillips, chief architect of the Predictive Learning Analytics™ learning evaluation methodology, scrap learning (learning that participants do not apply on the job) is the No. 1 problem facing L&D professionals today. If you can leverage learning analytics effectively and reduce scrap learning, then you can demonstrate the L&D department’s value to the business. More importantly, you will prove the return on investment (ROI) for your learning programs and inform future organizational learning decisions.