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Evaluating eLearning – Using Metrics

What is the point of offering training if you cannot show that learners have learned something, and moreover, have been able to translate their newly acquired skills and behaviors into improved performance? Knowledge transfer measures can be difficult to gauge and measuring the transfer of knowledge to the job environment may be simply overwhelming for some. Yet performance measures are critical for many reasons, one of which is to provide an ROI, or a reason for companies to keep investing money in training, as well as to find out which training programs have the most impact and provide the most value to the company.

Although there are various learning measurement taxonomies and models, Dr. Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Learning Evaluation is still widely used and accepted as the best model for learning measurement. In his model, each level measures something specific and distinct about the impact of learning.

Level Measurement Description
Level One: Reaction This measures the learner’s emotional reaction to the training. This data is usually collected at the completion of a training program. (However, sometimes it is done periodically during the training program as well.) Typically, the learner is asked how they liked the training. So basically, it measures the learner satisfaction.
Level Two: Learning This level measures performance in the learning environment – specifically the transfer of new knowledge or skills. Typically, this is achieved through post-tests (sometimes pre-tests are done as well to compare the data).
Level Three: Behavior This is a metric that measures how their newly acquired knowledge and skills were applied on-the-job. Since this measurement is taken in the work environment, it truly is a performance metric.
Level Four: Results This measurement is used to determine how the training has impacted the company’s bottom line. This business-centered metric is not necessarily the ROI, but it does provide data on how the training provided directly changed the company’s business.

There is no question that measuring performance is challenging. However, using Web-based (or technology-based) training can be an advantage for collecting evaluation data. Technology can simplify the data collection, storage, and processing, as well as reporting.

The technology itself does not have to break the bank. There are many inexpensive applications available for collecting and processing data, such as spreadsheets. A database is all that is needed for storage, and analytics software can be used to create reports.

However, if your company provides large amounts of training and manages many learners, you may want to invest in a learning management system (LMS) to control these functions. Depending on how big an LMS is, it can deploy the tests, collect the data, and process it to create reports controlled by the administrator. However your company chooses to collect and analyze evaluation data, using the four levels of the Kirkpatrick model will give you a thorough system of evaluation because it evaluates learning on multiple levels – from satisfaction to business results.

There are many resources online for more information on Kirkpatrick’s levels of evaluation, learning metrics in general, or evaluating e-learning. A simple search should turn up many resources.