What Does 'Learning Analytics' Actually Mean?

We covered the basics of learning analytics in our last post. Now, we’ll explore how people use this term and introduce you to the Watershed Method™ for learning analytics. Our definition of corporate learning analytics is a good start, but to really understand what this phrase means, we need to dive deeper into how different people use it.

There are two dimensions in which people use the term "learning analytics." The first dimension is complexity, or the sophistication of the analytics. The second dimension is category, which identifies the specific area or type of learning data that’s being analyzed (which answers questions about the experience, the learner, or as a whole program).

We've created the Watershed Method, which defines these degrees of complexity by breaking them into four levels and identifies three categories of learning.


Analytics consist of varying degrees of complexity, which provide richer, deeper insights as higher levels of complexity are attained.

Level 1: Measurement

The most basic form of analytics is measurement—the simple act of tracking things and recording values.

Level 2: Data Evaluation

Evaluation is the process of trying to make meaning out of the data you’ve measured. And does the data mean something good or bad?

Level 3: Advanced Evaluation

When datasets get large enough,* you can use advanced evaluation techniques—such as exploratory and inferential analytics—to search for relationships within your data and discover powerful insights.

Level 4: Predictive & Prescriptive Analytics

The first three levels of the Watershed Method help you understand what’s already happened. The fourth level of this method covers predictive and prescriptive analytics, which help you understand what will happen in the future.


When analyzing learning and training in the corporate space, organizations typically look at one of three possible areas:

Category 1: Learning Experiences

Learning experience analytics seek to understand more about specific learning activities.

Category 2: Learner

Learner analytics seek to understand more about a specific person or group of people engaged in activities where learning is one of the outputs.

Category 3: Learning Program

Learning program analytics seek to understand how an overall learning program is performing. A learning program typically encompasses many learners and many learning experiences (although it could easily contain just a few).

Up Next: A Closer Look at Complexity

Now that you understand how complexity and category factor into learning analytics, it's time to take a closer look at the four levels of complexity. Join us next week as we explore these levels, and don't forget to sign up to have the latest installments of our series delivered straight to your inbox.

* The size of a particular dataset will vary depending on what’s being evaluated.

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eGuide: 5 Steps to Getting Started with Learning Analytics

Now that you understand the basics of analyzing learning experiences, it's time to start applying them in your own learning program. And it's easier than you might think. In fact, there’s a lot you can do with simple metrics and the data you have right now. We've also created the following guide to help you get started right now!

eLearning Learning

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