Reports are often an afterthought during LMS selection and implementation. Usually, near the end of the project, associations start thinking about the reports they want. Don’t make this mistake. Before implementation, take time to think through the details of the reports you need, so you include them in your LMS reporting requirements.
When assessing potential LMS partners, you want to determine which of your reports will be “out-of-the-box” (baseline), configurable, or customized with each of them. The answer to this question affects your project timeline and budget. If your LMS partner knows you’ll need customized reports, they can build that development into the timeline so you have everything you need when you go live with your new LMS.
Review your existing data
Any time you plan to implement a new system is a great time to review data management practices. Talk to the staff who manage and use learning data about the data they use now and the data they need to help them do their work. Get a clear understanding of the data they need to answer questions, make decisions, help volunteer leaders make decisions, and achieve business and strategic goals.
Look beyond your department for these data stakeholders. For example:
• The membership department may need LMS data for member engagement metrics.
• Marketing staff may need LMS data to measure the effectiveness of promotions.
• The conference and meetings team may need LMS data to spot content trends and program gaps.
This is also the time to decide which data you will migrate to your new LMS or archive, and which data to purge. You don’t want to keep and manage useless data. Also, identify the data you want to start collecting to answer questions.
Make a list of questions to identify your data requirements
Reports answer the questions of staff, volunteer leaders, instructors, and learners. But to answer their questions effectively, you must determine the data sets involved, level of detail required, and the best report format—that’s why stakeholder involvement is so important.
Here are some questions typically answered by LMS reports.
Product development and market research
• Which programs and content are most popular (and unpopular)?
• Which topics are trending?
• Which topics are trending with different membership and audience segments?
• What do our sales look like overall and from different products and courses? With different membership and audience segments?
• How’s our profitability?
• Which programs should we sunset?
• Can I get a list of… certification paths, catalog items, external products, designations, conference activities, and instructor-led training activities?
• Users: instructors and managers?
• Locations, rooms, and equipment?
• Which courses and test questions are performing best?
• How are learners progressing through program X?
• Can I see assessments for program Y?
• Can I see the feedback from program Z?
• Are we getting more conversions from the new catalog copy?
• How does enrollment look now that we’re segmenting our email campaigns?
Instructors and learners
• How did the students do on that test?
• Can I see my training history?
• How many more credits do I need for my certification renewal?
To prepare your reporting requirements, create a list of the reports you need along with:
• Data set
LMS reporting requirements: technical factors
Data migration. Migration is a critical part of an implementation project, but it’s not always a familiar process to association staff in charge of the LMS. You’ll only get the reports you need if the corresponding data has a place to “live” in your new LMS. Identify the data you will migrate (move) to your new LMS. You’ll have to get it out of your old system(s) in a suitable format for the new LMS. Work with your LMS partner to map it to the new LMS, i.e., making sure it has a place to go in the new LMS.
Sidenote: Don’t migrate “dirty” data. Before implementation, set aside time to clean up the data you plan to migrate to your new LMS.
Integration. Ideally, you choose an LMS that integrates easily with your AMS or CRM. Integration allows you to have a full picture of each member or customer—all their interactions with your association, including their participation in online learning programs and certificate, certification, and other credential programs.
Configuration. You’ll rely on “out-of-the-box” reports to provide the information you need in a useful format. But you’ll also need the ability to configure (modify) reports so you can structure data how you wish. If you need custom reports, find out if the LMS has a reporting tool that will allow you to create them yourself, or how much your LMS partner charges to create them as a professional service.
LMS reporting requirements: accessibility factors
Data is only useful if it’s accessible to the people who need it. Reports make data accessible but only if reports are easy to skim, understand, and act upon.
Dashlets. Some LMS platforms provide reporting dashlets (widgets) that allow you to see a graphical representation of the data on your LMS admin dashboard. Similar to a widget that shows a learner the progress they are making toward achieving their certification/maintenance of credentials requirements, reporting dashlets give an “at-a-glance,” real-time, visual update for a specific set of data, such as the number of active learners in your programs. Reporting dashlets will be available in an upcoming release of TopClass LMS.
Ad-hoc needs. After implementation, continue to talk to your LMS partner about your reporting needs. We get many of our product roadmap ideas from conversations with prospects and clients. For example, we created an ad-hoc reporting feature to make it easier for administrators to create reports on the fly with real-time information from TopClass LMS. Creating ad-hoc reports allows LMS administrators to access information within defined categories that is not included in standard reports, format that data, and share it as a report.
Automation. Automated report distribution also makes data accessible. For example, you can schedule a report to be emailed automatically to a department head or volunteer leader on the first day of the month.
Reports transform LMS data into actionable information for staff and volunteer leaders. When it’s time to discuss LMS requirements, put “reports” on the top of your agenda.