Nigel Painefocuses on leadership, learning and technology and talked about Big Data in his Learning Technologies 2013 conference session. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Nigel’s – I didn’t want more on learning analytics and merging business data with strategy and action from L&D. Whilst it’s important and I want to learn more it wasn’t what I was looking for at this conference.

I wanted something different. The description for the session stated that “it will show the importance of big data and why you should engage with it now rather than later. It will help you take the first steps and work out where you need to go”.


Nigel opened his session by thanking and quoting keynote speaker Gerd Leonhard who had already said that “big data is here and going to get bigger”. A video got us laughing and in the data mood:

Nigel explained that Big Data was about taking data that was usually hard to analyse and looking at it with fresh eyes.

We then went on to look at a website based all around Big Data:

There was an enjoyable interaction between Nigel and the audience, the best I experienced all day, where reactions to Big Data included:

  • The ability to look at the information from different angles to spot trends
  • Making the data visual, interactive, contextual and personal
  • Images are a powerful way to get across facts
  • Interactivity makes it interesting and engaging

Referencing the data on the LongerLives website, where you can see if a particular disease is high in your region and then understanding what you can do to combat that, Nigel made a great point about using big data in education:

It would obviously be remiss not to include Learning Analytics in a Big Data session:

Focusing on the L&D aspect, Nigel added that “big data encourages multiple data sources and better understanding than just learning completion reports” and continued that there is a “huge amount of L&D data about and the money being spent is going down the drain. This can be changed”. Two key points to take away about big data are captured in these tweets:

Nigel referenced the Harvard Business Review that companies using big data were more profitable and that there were several articles around the subject of big data. I think these are some of them:

It’s not a new opinion, from me or most other up-to-date L&D professionals, but it seemed relevant:

Just as relevant and with a different perspective was Craig Taylor with his comment about data already in the organisation:

This ties in with the training ghetto issue that Don Taylor has blogged and spoken about; that L&D are not stepping up to the pace of change and asking for business data in order to define strategy.

Towards the end of the session Lesley Price commented about skills gap in L&D with regards data analysis, especially with insights from the LPI Capability MapThere were differing opinions on whether this is an issue or not. I think this  comes back to L&D having the attitude towards change and being business professionals.

Lastly – this is the point of not being worried about big data, from Nigel:


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