Unless you are among the fortunate learning and development leaders who does not care about tracking and reporting the training activity and results that are occurring in your organization, you likely have a beef with your learning management system (LMS) when it comes to its reporting capabilities. In fact, a recent ASTD Learning Circuits article says it best:
Most learning professionals agree that the critical weakness of their learning management system (LMS) is reporting. In fact, a related study by Bersin & Associates determined that reporting is the number one challenge for legacy LMSs, and that nearly half of all learning professionals see it as a significant problem.
In a study conducted by Training Industry, Inc., and Expertus, 84 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with their LMS reporting…the biggest reporting issue cited was limited or difficult access to information needed to support their business planning and strategy.
Yes, it is certainly true that reporting is only as good as the data you put into it. However, the biggest complaint about LMS reporting and analytics seems to be accessibility, not the data itself. So if you are in the process of selecting an LMS, you should consider at least these four functions of reporting before you make your decision.
Command Center: According to the ASTD article referenced above, the biggest [LMS] reporting issue cited was limited or difficult access to information. This problem can be solved using a dashboard or command center approach. As an LMS administrator, you should be able to go to a dashboard page that shows you graphical summaries of training activity, so that you can quickly check progress. If you have just launched a company-wide training course, it is nice to see a status bar or pie chart showing overall completion rates so you can follow progress in one click. Seriously, it should be that easy.
Of course you want to drill down into more detail, and that is where course-level reporting comes in.
Course-Level Reporting: From the dashboard, you should be able to click into any course to view the list of people who have and have not completed that course. I always like to run a "Not Taken" report that only shows people who have not completed a course. This is especially important for required and compliance training. By filtering the list to show only those people who have not completed a course, you can focus on following up with only those people.
The point is that reporting on who has and has not completed a training course should be as easy as clicking on the name of a course and viewing the list.
Trainee-Level Reporting: In some cases, a learning manager needs to answer the question, "How is Jimmy doing?" This is important functionality because it allows an LMS administrator and/or a team manager to follow the progress of any individual on their team. All you should have to do is search for a name on the reporting page in your LMS to pull up an individual and view everything that person has and has not completed.
Series-Level Reporting: More and more, learning professionals are breaking up e-learning courses into smaller chunks and grouping them in a series of courses to make up a more comprehensive and digestible program. If this is the case for you, then you certainly do not want to run separate reports for each individual course to see how people are doing. You want to run a report on the entire series to view the progress of your audience. Let's face it, in the real world people get busy, sick, or just plain forget to complete a class in a series. It is nice to be able to know exactly where everyone stands by running a simple report on an entire series of classes.
Get a DEMO - Better Yet, Get A Free Trial: You wouldn't buy a car before you test drive it, so why would you buy any enterprise software without trying it first. It is one thing to see a DEMO from a sales rep, who shows you the best of what the software can do in a well-rehersed, scripted demo. It is another thing altogether to run a report yourself in the tool. Technology is advancing so as to make free trials a standard in the software business. So try before you buy. During your free trial, get a feel for how easy it is to get the data you need by running a few reports and showing them to managers.
Trust me. This will save you many severe headaches.
Reporting is always a challenge because until you start getting requests from managers, you will not always know what type of reporting you will need until you need it. However, by considering the typical reporting needs mentioned above during the LMS buying process, you can at least be ready for the most common reporting needs.
We have recently improved our reporting capabilities to make it easier for you to get the information you need about learning performance in your organization. Check out the updated Mindflash analytics features to see how easy reporting in an LMS can be.
Bill Cushard, author, blogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations in start-up and hyper-growth organizations like E*TRADE, the Knowland Group, and Allonhill. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.