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Blake Beus


Director of Learning Solutions

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Using big data to improve course design


“Big data” is a term that’s made its way into the business world vernacular over the last few years, and it won’t be going away anytime soon. In fact, an understanding of what big data is and how to use it in your business is more relevant than it’s ever been. This understanding is even more important considering the confusion many people have about how big data works.

Before we can examine how big data can be leveraged to improve learning and development, we need to establish a common definition of big data in the first place. It can be a confusing term to think about, mainly because there are many different definitions that have been tossed around over the years.

Here, we will define big data as a collection of data which forms a source for ongoing discovery and analysis for your company. This information can be traditional or digital and sourced from inside or outside your company. While it may seem like a tool that is only relevant for (or available to) large corporations, the truth is that companies of all sizes can use big data to improve their efficiency in many areas, from targeted advertising to learning and development.

That being said, how can big data be used to improve employee onboarding and training?

Uncovering inefficiency

One of the most valuable ways you can use big data in learning and development is to analyze precisely what is helping your employees learn, and what is getting in the way.

Traditionally, the way to gauge whether an employee onboarding course was actually helping its learners absorb and retain information was through periodic assessments which only provided varying degrees of accuracy. Big data tools, however, let you go above and beyond that.

As learners navigate an e-learning course, data can be collected from each individual exercise as well as on the program as a whole. It can also include the option for learners to give anonymous feedback about their thoughts and feelings on the effectiveness of the training.

All of this data can be used to analyze the overall effectiveness of the program and to pinpoint areas that present structural issues. When used right, this data leads to the possibility of seamless adjustments that improve the training more and more with each person who uses it.

By treating employee training more like user testing than like a process that’s already set in stone, we open the door to a more innovative and effective onboarding and learning experience.

The value of personalization

Employee onboarding is a crucial period of time for the new hire, his or her coworkers, and for the company at large. After all, successful onboarding can have a massive effect on how new employees perform, how well they integrate with the rest of the company workforce, and how long they stick around. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will provide successful results in learning for every new employee.

This is where big data comes in handy. Digital learning technology can constantly collect data on student progress, measuring comprehension and how the curriculum meshes with different learning styles. In effect, this leads to a responsive technology that can adapt to what a learner needs most.

What’s more, big data’s implications in training don’t stop at responsiveness and descriptive analytics. With the right analysis and volume of data, predictive analytics can also play a part in learning and development. The data collected during a training course can be used to identify future risks or opportunities the learner may face, providing a chance to address needs proactively.

Beyond onboarding

As calculating and methodical as a term like big data may sound, keep in mind that it also presents a valuable asset to your company’s understanding of its human resources. The better you understand your employees, the better engaged and motivated they can be. With the right data collected, you’ll know what you can do to keep engagement high as time goes on.

Big data also has applications for expanding learning and development beyond the training that typically comes with onboarding. By analyzing data from established (or even veteran) employees’ performance, you can evaluate skills that may need to be honed and detect opportunities for cross-training and internal promotions.

Considerations with big data

As you consider the world of possibilities that open through big data compilation and analysis, remember that ethics are incredibly important. Your employees should have a clear understanding of what data is being tracked, and why it is being collected. Openness about your methods drives away concerns or misconceptions around being monitored.

When implemented properly, big data can be an excellent tool to take your training process to the next level. What’s more, as technology advances, it’s becoming essential to keeping a competitive edge! How can big data be applied to improve learning and development in your company?

Author Profile Picture
Blake Beus

Director of Learning Solutions

Read more from Blake Beus

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