Megan Torrance has written an excellent book on the basics of learning analytics. If you intend to go far in the L&D world, you should add this book to your personal library. It could be the best money you ever spend on creating a future.

Covering the basics and more

Data and Analytics for Learning Designers addresses more than one audience. The first group consists of instructional designers who need to know enough to understand the specialized vocabulary, data models and specifications, and L&D-specific data metrics, along with some statistics terminology. The second group are those who need to know more about the details of data, its collection and uses, and its communication and visualization. All of these, including the basics, get deep coverage.

Four details that I appreciated are included at the end of each chapter. First is a short section subtitled "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" This section highlights some of the common missteps and two or three chances to try out the concepts presented in the chapter. This feature provides the opportunity to practice or reflect on what the chapter presented.

Second is under the subhead "Give It A Try." This gives you a set of hypothetical questions to answer, and this is followed by "Do It For Real," so that you can apply the concepts in the chapter to the case studies that are also included in the book. Chapters end with a practical exercise called "Bonus Points" in which you ask someone not in L&D how they use data. This is such a good approach to engagement, retention, and reflection that I recommend incorporating it into your own course development.

Looking ahead

What will you learn from Data and Analytics for Learning Designers?

Well, it depends. Learning analytics combines two very broad fields, and there is plenty of room there for a variety of reasons for L&D professionals to be interested. The treatment in Megan’s book is sufficient for an overview that is wide enough and deep enough for a lot of activity.

Depending on your interests and your aptitudes, you might learn:

  • What learning and analytics working together are about. Depending on the path your career takes, that might be enough for now. It will be plenty to grow a new career on. That will be true for about one of every six readers.
  • Enough to carry on an intelligent conversation about learning analytics with your manager and other L&D professionals. These are probably the practitioners that Megan would say have a functional appreciation for data analytics in the context of L&D. At least another 16 percent of practitioners, a definite “value-add” for their careers and their organizations.
  • Enough to decide to take an upper level course in learning analytics in order to be a better-rounded L&D pro. Now we’re talking! This would be a big value-add for those who take this step, based on what they gained from Megan’s book and a boost to their careers.
  • That you need to hire someone to do learning analytics for your L&D team. Welcome to management!
  • Take a graduate degree in learning analytics. Welcome to the entrepreneurial life!

What you will not learn from the book alone are all the skills, knowledge, and experience to be a full-fledged learning analyst. It’s a very broad field, and Data and Analytics for Learning Designers gives the reader a great map to guide the beginning of a productive career that can last a lifetime!