How to Keep Your Training Data Neat and Tidy Under Pressure

Mar 7, 2011

Neatness counts!

LMS Data: We’ve been told this since elementary school. Our teachers taught us the harsh lesson that sloppiness has consequences. That “A” grade you expected on your Theme that

slipped to a “B minus“ because you paid insufficient attention to your grammar and margins.

But when we use computers we are often tempted to toss the quality and accuracy of our data to the back seat in order to get our jobs done faster. Most of us are under pressure to be both organized and quick – and these are not always compatible pressures!

So, we need to strike a balance between these twin towers of pressure. And we should begin by taking a look at what brings them about in the first place.

Organization and accuracy are critical to the administration of your training and to the information that results from the training you provide. The pressure to manage who needs training, make it available, and then see that it all takes place can be an enormous challenge. The fact that the situation “on the ground” is changing daily only adds to the complexity.

As training takes place, the reliability of the resulting data is largely dependent on the quality of your upfront training administration. Effort must be taken to build a logical and easily understandable training system that fits your many needs. Small errors and inconsistencies tend to grow exponentially creating potentially major discrepancies calling your quality of the data and the value of your reports into question.

Quickness is the way business is done today. While there may be some discretion allowed in deciding just how fast to go, the pressure to move swiftly is none the less unavoidable. Being quick and efficient is not a bad thing…until it results in a bad outcome. In the training industry, the temptation is often to employ shortcuts and workarounds just to “get the training done” faster and keep students moving through the training content.

Not too long ago, the small “liberties” we took so that we could keep things moving seemed reasonable because usually only Training Department personnel were aware of them and we knew how to interpret or “filter out” the non-standard data. But this isn’t true today. With the browser based Learning Management Systems in use now, everyone has access to the data and they don’t know what is real and what was used just to keep the training moving quickly.

So, just like school days, neatness is no longer an option and we must find ways to create and manage neat, reliable data while maintaining a fast pace. And there is only one way to accomplish this and it’s called –


There are things you can do to address your twin pressures and still achieve the desired outcome. You can come up with your own things, but to get you started, here are some time tested examples which will if employed with discipline serve you well:
• Establish and enforce standardized data and policies. For example if you offer a course in CPR, it is not okay for a hurried Training Coordinator to create a new “First Aid” course because she can’t remember the name of the original course and is in hurry to get the class on the calendar and the students registered.
• Avoid workarounds. If you are not sure how to use your LMS to meet a particular need, take the time to check it out. There may be a good way. Check first with your Help Desk, vendor, and colleagues to make sure the best plan is put in place.
• Create and use a “test” environment. It’s easier to set up “dummy” users and training in your live database to try out new training initiatives and user workflows. But even if your other users never see the data, the fact remains that your reports are now tainted with irrelevant data. With only a small effort, a “mirror” site can usually be set up where you can experiment without damaging the integrity of your live data.
• Assume “all eyes”. In other words, plan your system usage with the understanding that at some point almost everyone will see at least some of the information inside. For example, you may choose to enter all part time employee names in lower case characters and full time employee names in upper case characters so you can tell them apart. But to others using the LMS this may be confusing and seem cluttered. A properly designed Learning Management System will provide flexible, logical tools to aid you in organizing your data so that with planning it is clear to all users.
• Audit your system. Periodically, take time to browse through your data to make sure the results are exactly what you expect. Run reports on your training and your people. Check on screen information and history.
• Nip it in the bud. When you do find anomalies in your data avoid the temptation to deal with them later. Chances are they will continue to grow and only be harder to find and fix. When you feel rushed, see it as an opportunity to put some standards in place first so that you can maintain a quicker pace later.

Using these techniques and others of your own will take a little more time up front. It is tempting to avoid doing them because there are so many other tasks which need your attention. But in the long run, they will actually save you time. Potentially a great deal of time because we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I’m sure your elementary school teacher taught you that.