Data visualizations are a valuable tool for L&D pros to use within eLearning and in performance support tools. They are also an excellent way to measure and demonstrate the effectiveness of training, showing managers the value of eLearning and performance support. L&D pros can choose from dozens of ways to visualize data. Mastering these three basic data visualizations can get developers started with using visualizations to explore and communicate data stories.

  1. Timelines

    Timelines, which are simple to create using free storytelling tools like TimelineJS, are a fabulous addition to eLearning. A timeline can turn a chronological story into an interactive activity with images, video, sound bites, links, and more.

    But the use of timelines goes far beyond storytelling and eLearning. A timeline can show development over time—of the company, of a product, or even of learners’ skills. Timelines built with graphs can pull in data that an LMS or LRS collects on learners’ progress and show their training history, their quiz scores, or even display their training progress alongside performance data, which can help managers evaluate the impact of training.

  2. Flow

    Flow charts and cycle charts are useful for demonstrating cause-and-effect or showing the steps of a process. A cycle diagram can show repeating actions or processes. These charts should be kept simple and the text in each block or section should be short.

    Flow and cycle charts let learners see the relationships between elements or steps in a process; visualizing these relationships can improve learner comprehension.

    An interactive chart can reveal steps as learners progress and understand the earlier stages of a process or as they make certain decisions.

    Many eLearning tools include a flow-chart maker or template. Excel includes templates for various types of flow charts, and many versions of Microsoft Office 365 include Visio, an easy-to-use flow-chart tool.

  3. Data comparisons or change over time

    Dozens of styles of charts and graphs can show changes in values over time or compare values from different sources. Pie charts divide a single total and show where each chunk—of a budget, of a learner’s hours, of company resources—is spent. Excel offers more than a dozen chart styles, including area, bar, scatter, and line charts. StorylineJS enables creation of an annotated line chart with hundreds of data points.

    Choosing a chart type requires knowing the goal of the data visualization:

    • To compare values, choose a scatter plot, a bar chart, or a line chart.
    • To show the composition of something—the budget, the time spent on each project in a department—choose a pie chart, a stacked column or bar chart, or a waterfall chart.
    • To show the distribution of data or show relationships between two sets of data values—how many employees are in sales, marketing, and tech support or how many top performers are in each region—use a scatter plot chart. It’s a good way to see trends or identify outliers.
    • To show relative size, use bubble charts. Rather than each dot representing a single data value, the size of the bubble depends on the number of responses match that value, for example, a map with bubbles showing the relative numbers of new hires in each regional office.
    • To show completion rates or results for each step in a process or series of eLearning pages or exercises, use a funnel chart; these are often used in marketing.

Developers can create basic data visualizations using free or low-cost tools. Those with coding expertise and other data skills can explore data more deeply. If you’re interested in a deeper dive into how data can enhance eLearning, download The eLearning Guild’s research report, Putting Data to Work, and register for the Data & Analytics Summit, August 22 & 23.