It’s not really news anymore that big data is big news. There is no getting away from it. It’s everywhere.

Hold on, remind me what big data is.

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It is increasingly easy for websites and companies to collect data. Your IP address, what browser you are using, what device you are using. What you are looking at, how long you are looking at it for, what you are clicking on and what you are scrolling past.

Sellers use it to nudge you towards adverts and products you might like, encouraging you to spend more.

Social media uses it to rank what it shows you, to provide content the data says you engage with, so that you come back again and again.

All those GDPR privacy and cookie notices on websites are asking us if it is ok to collect this data. And let’s be honest, most of us can’t be bothered to read through and choose our preferences on every single website.

(By the way, you can stop some of this data collection by enabling Do Not Track on your browser. And you only have to do it once! Just go to the settings.)

This can all seem rather intimidating. And what does it have to do with L&D?

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It can seem intimidating. But you don’t have to think about it this way. We’ve talked before on this blog about how data can be empowering. All of this data - how your learners access material, what they look at and for how long - is all invaluable for the L&D department.

But I’m not a data savvy person, and spreadsheets are a mystery to me. How can I use data?

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This is all about presentation. Data looks scary when if it just exported into a spreadsheet. But that is only one way of presenting data. There are many other ways, and it is all about finding what suits you.

Simple graphs and bar charts can provide a visual display of the data. They can show when people are using resources, and when they aren’t. How often people use your LMS or tech solutions. What they use. Or which departments are doing more. Which device is the most popular.

Simple displays can show the key numbers without bombarding the uninitiated with the statistical background.

And none of this needs to look like a spreadsheet or pages and pages of numbers. To make the most of your data, you just need to work with technology that speaks your language. Technology that understands the importance of data is only in how it can be used, and that it can only be used when it is accessible to all.

Lizzie Evans - Learning Consultant, Rhizome Live

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