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Lighting the unknown: How reporting can guide the way for learning

Read Time 4 Mins
Data & Insights

Far from reducing learning to numbers, reporting can help individuals build a clearer picture of how they’re doing and where they can improve.

Three times a week, I get up earlier than I generally like to, and I go running. 

I wear a fitness tracker. At the end of every session, it gives me exhaustive but clear data: I can see time spent running, speed at various sections, course elevation, and so on. The tracker then quickly analyzes my average speed over the course of the run, shows my heart rate patterns, stride cadence, and compares each of these data points to previous runs on the same course, or a similar one. Within a few seconds, I have all the insights I need to know if I’m improving or if there’s an area where I’m falling behind.

Once I cool down and grab some breakfast, I sit down to analyze product usage metrics as part of my job as a Product Manager. Once again, I can dynamically pull any piece of information I need on how a product is performing: time on site, new versus returning users, actions taken (or not), what led a user to the site, and literally thousands of other data points. I can organize all this within seconds, gathering the insights I need to understand what’s working well, and what isn’t. 

While other industries rely on reporting for performance improvement, learning sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. And yet we’ve never had so much data at our fingertips to analyze the data in meaningful ways. Click To Tweet

At night, I join a computer science class I’m taking to deepen my expertise in certain areas. I study the material, take a test, and—all going well—get a pass. The report gives me the end result of the test, but little else. I assume I’m doing well and learning more, but how do I really know?

What makes a good report?

High-quality reporting has three common factors. At Learnosity, we call this the “Reporting Triangle”.

Essentially, a good report must be: 

  1. Engaging
    The user must actively want to look at the report. This is about more than just great UI and UX (both of which are very important). To be engaging, reports need to be easy to use and create, and they must make it quick and easy for users to interpret the data. 

  2. Insightful
    A good report should help you detect things you may not have known. Back to my running example: I could (and often do) have a terrible run, but within seconds I could look at the available data and realize that my heart rate went through the roof after 2.5kms, which would be unusual based on 5 similar runs. This gives me something to reflect on. Maybe the cold I had two weeks ago is still impacting me when I exert myself? Or it might be something else. Either way, I have some context through which to explore and understand the result. 
  1. Motivating
    A good report gives you the ability to dig deeper into the data to know what actions you need to take to improve. For example, an e-commerce report might show you that new users to your site have dropped in the past 60 days, then identify a particular advertising channel that has under-performed in this time, giving you the insights you need to make the necessary adjustments.

Reporting in learning—what’s holding it back?

In learning, reporting and analytics lags behind other industries in all three of the areas outlined above. This may stem from a lack of innovation in the industry; or it may be due to concerns over how a student’s data is stored, secured, and used. It may also be because of the sensitivity around comparing students against each other. 

Additionally, a lack of standardization across subjects—and even within them—means that reporting results across classes and institutions is often invalid. What a student wants or needs from a report may vary greatly from what a teacher wants, which in turn will vary from what an assessment author or a curriculum writer will want.

Education is a complex, multidimensional topic with countless problems to solve, so it’s likely that a combination of the factors outlined above have contributed to reporting’s status as an underserved area.

Doing more—and better—with data

Learnosity has amassed a lot of data through its assessment engine over the last 12 years. We treat that data as though it’s our own, keeping it safe, secure, and pseudnonymized. We’re also committed to providing our clients with the most expansive reporting product in the industry—one that can improve learner outcomes in ways not seen before.

To unpack what many feel is an impossible task, we’ve trawled far and wide in our investigations: reading countless research reports and scientific journals; conducting broad surveys and interviews with teachers, students, edtech start-ups, established publishing houses, and more; while also running open discussions with people worldwide by hosting Clubhouse rooms on the topic.

Learnosity is committed to providing clients with the most expansive reporting product in the industry—one that can improve student outcomes in ways not seen before. Click To Tweet

We’ve spoken to people across the industry from primary school teachers to higher ed professors to corporate learners. The overwhelming understanding is that data is incredibly valuable, but extracting value from it on a consistent basis is harder than we thought.

Not only does each type of person in the learning chain have a different motivation for using reporting, but the way it can be presented and used varies from country to country, and even state to state. For example:

  • A father we spoke to who moved from Texas to Connecticut recently was astonished that his move to another state meant that his daughter went from receiving weekly progress reports to one at the end of semester—despite being at a similar level of schooling.
  • A math professor we talked to used Excel spreadsheets to track class scores and had no data or analytics around how to gauge their own performance as a teacher.
  • Separately, a study on the topic helped us understand that reporting doesn’t solely apply to online assessments but can be equally valuable in environments such as face-to-face debating classes.

From our initial research, we’ve concluded that the problem is more complex than we initially thought, but it’s also of higher importance and could play a huge role in shaping the education system in the future.

It’s time to turn data into doing

While other industries rely on reporting and analytics for performance improvement (remember Brad Pitt in Moneyball?), learning sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. And yet we’ve never had so much data at our fingertips nor better tools and minds to analyze the data in meaningful ways.

But data is only valuable if it serves people—learners with unique motivations, ambitions, and abilities.

Reporting and analytics can help dramatically broaden the scope of available information beyond the parameters of educational material itself to give educators and learners a clear understanding of dynamic learning patterns and behaviors. At Learnosity, we believe that this will be one of the most crucial areas for powering better student outcomes worldwide.

Illustration of Learnosity Pseudonymity Whitepaper