When you became a learning and/or eLearning professional, your educational path may or may not have included much in the way of statistics or data analytics, but the reality of your career in nearly any 21st-century company more than likely is demanding that you incorporate these tasks and skills into your work. What’s driving these demands is the company’s need to justify learning program expenditures with a return on investment (ROI) calculation. They want to see that the precious resources that have been put into your learning programs are contributing to the company’s bottom line in a positive and impactful way. This has resulted in many a sleepless night for learning professionals scrambling to crunch the numbers and make the grade. One piece of this puzzle is making sure you know the role of learning management system analytics for calculating ROI.

LMS analytics for ROI

Why Learning Management System Analytics are Important

You might have an intuitive sense that your learning programs are definitely working well and helping the company move forward, but backing it up with real data is another thing entirely, and probably won’t seem like the fun part of your job compared to creating and delivering awesome eLearning content. But this is one part of your job you can’t afford to ignore or not get right. If you’re not savvy about this ROI aspect, you could quickly find your learning programs sidelined when budget allocation time rolls around. The company is going to put more of its precious resources into areas where the return on investment is clear. If your budget is reduced, you know your learning programs will suffer, which will make it all the harder to justify your budget next time around. This can result in a continual downward spiral from which it is very difficult to recover, so starting now to get this right is essential. Rather than being an afterthought, setting up learning management system analytics to feed into an ROI calculation needs to be part of your up-front planning. It won’t be easy, but ignoring it will have potentially disastrous long-term impacts on your work.

Learning Management System Analytics: Setting the Stage

If you’re new to all of this, don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s okay to start small and take baby steps to get some initial successes under your belt before going bigger. The temptation here is to take the “snow job” approach where you produce reams of data that in the final analysis don’t appear to say much or anything at all. Begin with shifting your mindset towards qualityrather than quantity. A handful of well-presented metrics can go a long way towards accomplishing your goal of showing the positive role your learning programs play in the company’s overall health. It’s also wise to make sure your learning programs are aligned to business goals. If they aren’t, this is something you need to immediately correct for moving forward. For more information on doing this and how it fits into ROI planning, see my previous articles The ROI of Learning Part 2: Where to Begin and eLearning ROI Metrics.

How Do Your Learning Management System Analytics Stack Up?

Let’s fast-forward for a moment and assume you’ve come up with a solid ROI calculation for your overall learning department or specific learning program(s). And let’s also assume for the time being that the ROI is very substantially positive. You might think your work is done, right? Wrong! You will inevitably get some very skeptically shrewd questions from company leadership about this figure, and you need to be ready to answer those questions. One of those questions will undoubtedly be something like how or why is this ROI so impressive? And this is where your learning management system analytics can play a key supporting role. Key reports that help explain learning success might include the following: 1) Learner participation, performance, and completion rates (you got great results because people took the courses); 2) eLearning course quality (learner participants found the courses to be quality programs); 3) Learner satisfaction (this goes even deeper into how engaging and effective learners found the content); 4) Learner assessments (to what extent the learners did in fact learn what was needed); 5) Changes in job performance (if the learning was linked to a specific performance indicator, measure the impact of that over time as there can be a lag in implementing learning on the job, which can be a post-learning follow-up through the LMS). If your LMS does not provide robust reporting along these dimensions, it may be time to shop for a new LMS.

Calculating the ROI of learning can be a tricky proposition, which is why I wrote a whole previous series of articles about it:The ROI of Learning Part 1: Barriers,The ROI of Learning Part 2: Where to BeginThe ROI of Learning Part 3: Additional ConsiderationsThe ROI of Learning Part 4: Learning/Training ROI Methods, and The ROI of Learning Part 5: The True Costs of Learning. Those will give you some of the nuts and bolts knowledge you need to actually make ROI calculations. The information in this article has given you some additional insight on how learning management system analytics can feed into and support your learning ROI.