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Tracking informal learning

Tracking informal learning beyond the LMS

What's the difference between a modern Learning Management System (LMS) and traditional LMS solutions?

The traditional LMS has one particular disadvantage, their inability to track learning activity taking place outside of the LMS environment.

In the real world, it’s an accepted fact that most learning actually takes place outside of SCORM-tracked eLearning or mobile learning courses.

That, however, was then. The 'modern' and ‘now’ is represented by Experience API (Tin Can). Amongst many of the new capabilities it supports is the ability to track learning activity regardless of what kind, or where, it’s taking place, creating new learning solutions and opportunities.

The limitations of SCORM and many of today’s LMSs have made it difficult for an organisation to build a picture of learning activity that reflects all its training initiatives (be that eLearning, mobile learning, seminars, on the job) that is rich and complete. This, as a result, has made it difficult to measure the return on investment (ROI) of training programs, too often reliant only on feedback from end of course surveys and assessments or measuring actual behavioural changes.

Now, however, technology can finally provide L&D Managers with the tools to achieve a long-cherished goal: to gather data of an individual’s learning history from many different sources and use the data gathered to create fuller and richer learning solutions.


The 70:20:10 model is a means of describing learning and development that is based around research and observation going back over a period of 50 years. Applied to workplace, this model shows that 70% of an individual’s training and learning takes place ‘on the job’, 20% comes from peer to peer interaction, co-workers and mentors and only 10% from formal training, be that in the classroom or LMS supported eLearning and mobile learning.

Earlier in this post there was a brief mention of measuring the effectiveness of training and learning activities. Companies may well get some idea of the effectiveness of their training programs if they result in behavioural changes, but measuring benefits in terms of ROI is much more difficult.

However, a modern LMS can make this easier for you.

Improving the measurement of learning effectiveness.

There are two key points to consider to fully measure learning effectiveness. What is the full scope of a user community’s learning experience outside of LMS supported eLearning and mobile learning and what are the characteristics of top learning performers in terms of defined key performance indicators (KPIs)?

Agylia allows for the capture of data from a full range of learning activities: formal and informal, occurring within or outside of the workplace. Learners now create their own personal learning profile of all their learning activities and share it with their peers, giving others the benefit of their experience. This information is collected by a new ‘Register external learning activity’ option available with Agylia or within the companion mobile learning Apps.

Learners can describe external learning activities in the following terms:

Title - a short, descriptive title to identify the learning activity

Description - more details of the learning activity

Type – type of external learning, expressed by a configurable, drop down list containing various informal learning activities (can be customised to a specific domain or scenario if requested).

Date and time - when the learning activity took place

Status – an optional field in which the user can mark whether or not they completed / passed the activity. Works well for external classroom or eLearning and mobile learning courses.

Score – another optional field where users may, if they wish, log the score they achieved in any particular informal or external learning activity.

When input, this data is written to the Learning Record Store (LRS), the central storage point for all Experience API activity statements. The data is now connected with the user and will included in any activity reports they request; the user can also see their external history directly on the LMS. This history can also be fed into the platform’s gamification system, maybe awarding badges or points relating to specific learning targets or types, increasing motivation to input a full learning history.

Agylia also features an external management section in the LMS administration portal’s user management area, enabling managers and admins to manage, view and allocate external learning activities, and (occasionally!) check the veracity of users’ inputs.

What types of learning are ‘informal’?

What kinds of informal or external learning, that is to say those taking place outside of the LMS environment, might an L&D Manager want to record?

Producing a definitive list is difficult as it would vary with context and domain and what one organisation might perceive as useful informal learning might be perceived differently by another. However, it is possible to put together a generic list of activities which could include: reading or writing blog posts, taking part in external online training, attending a classroom based course, a webinar or seminar, reading a book or watching a video.

This above list is, in fact, the one supported as a default by Agylia. The list can be easily customised to include domain and context specific items.

An example of this customisation might be, if an organisation puts particular value on such, adding ‘Attended mentoring session’ or ‘Delivered a coaching session’. Further items could also be added to the list relating to, for example, experienced gained from particular job related learning task. Other useful information such as dates and subjects of training, names of coaches or mentors can also be logged.


Using the new, enhanced capabilities of Agylia, it is now possible to track and record your user community’s full learning experience, gaining a better picture of what types of learning activity are really making a difference. Correlating this new insight with top performers achievements and desired behavioural changes creates a rich picture of the types and nature of the learning behaviours that are proving most effective.

The ability to capture, log and report on informal learning activities occurring outside of the LMS, plus formal training taking place within it, is a major step towards identifying how learners are learning and what kinds of learning are most effective. 

Alex Mackman
Author: Alex Mackman

This article was published by Alex Mackman on 25.01.2016. Alex is Technical Director at Agylia. He's responsible for product strategy and operations. He has a passion for technology, specifically how it can be applied to learning and CPD.

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