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May 24, 2013

How Learning Effectiveness Works: Measuring Results

Business

Jeff Cochran

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There is no reason to have the members of your company’s team participate in an online training program if they are not going to implement what they’ve learned. This kind of training means that those who take part will be held accountable for their learning, and in most workplaces, the effectiveness of this accountability must be clearly delineated.

The Kirkpatrick Model of Learning

Measuring effectiveness of learning can be a somewhat amorphous process, but the most concrete way of actually determining learning effectiveness is by making sure that team members are achieving business objectives that have been set for them. This, however, cam be something of a confusing process.

Interestingly enough, the measure is not necessarily about ROI. Because ROI refers largely to a tangible return of input to output, the measure of something like learning is a little fuzzier. The best way to achieve an accurate measure of long-term results, in the end, is probably to distinguish between accountability and effectiveness – objective number crunching versus the individual and overall team usefulness of the training. You’re improving workers – not numbers.

The Kirkpatrick Model was created in the 1950s, and remains widely implemented today. The model relies on four well-researched levels of measuring learning. As you go up the ladder, the actual process of measuring becomes a little less concrete.

Reaction. This refers to the participants’ thoughts and feelings about the training, which can be difficult to gauge. The best way to “measure” the response to learning is to solicit individual reactions through surveying or feedback sessions.

Learning. What actual knowledge was gained? This is about the actual content of the training. Was it straightforward and transparent? Was the material clear and well delivered? In a school setting, results here would be best measured by administering a quantitative exam. In a work setting, this level of learning may be best understood by conducting an interview or observation.

Behavior. We’re getting closer to achieving real results. The response to training in changed behavior is all about how the learning has been applied in a practical way. Is behavior different now, and if so, how? Is the change positive? Is the change sustainable?

Results. Here we are – the greatest measure of learning effectiveness, and also in some cases the least tangible. How is the training affecting the overall environment and the actual outcomes within the workplace?

Learning Effectiveness and Accountability

When we talk about learning effectiveness, we’re talking about measuring outcomes, right? Person to person, measuring results is not so difficult. When it comes to implementing change, it is easy to observe what each team member is doing. With regard to the entire organization, the measure of how a process has changed as the result of blended training is a little harder to figure out. By letting these trainings be counted as an expense rather than an investment, business leaders are saved the project of objective measuring, an impossible task that does not necessarily provide concrete answers.

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