Your e-learning course is all finished and uploaded to your LMS. Your work is done, right? Think again! In our article on the ADDIE ID Model, we explained why evaluating your course is an important part of the instructional design process. After all, how else will you know if your course is effective?

If you want to evaluate your courses, but are unsure how to go about it, we’ve got the answer: the Kirkpatrick Model, developed by Dr. Don Kirkpatrick in the 1950s and recently refined by the Kirkpatrick Partners Organization. It’s just what you need to determine if your course is effective.

This model is based on the idea that there are four main factors that determine the effectiveness of your training: learner satisfaction, knowledge or skill acquisition, application of new knowledge or skills on the job, and the achievement of final goals. Let’s take a look at each level and how to measure them.

Level 1: Learner Satisfaction

The first, and easiest, aspect to measure is the learner’s reaction to the training. Did they enjoy it? Did they find it meaningful and relevant? Learner satisfaction is key, since motivation plays a big role in knowledge acquisition and retention. If learners find your course relevant and engaging, they’re more motivated to pay attention—and therefore more likely to actually learn and retain the information in the course.

The easiest way to find out what learners thought of your course is to have them fill out a short questionnaire at the end. When you measure learner satisfaction, strive to ask meaningful questions such as, “Was the information relevant?” or “Identify a work situation where you’ll use the new skills you’ve acquired.” These are solid questions about the content learned, not about unrelated issues, such as whether they had any technical problems when accessing the course.

Check out this article for more information on measuring learner satisfaction. If you need help coming up with other relevant questions, be sure to check out this list of 60+ Questions to Include in a Post-Course Evaluation.

Remember: post-course evaluations alone are not enough to determine the success of your course, but they are a good place to start. For more information, check out this article: Post-Course Evaluations: What E-Learning Designers Need to Know.

Level 2: Knowledge/Skill Acquisition

This second aspect is pretty straightforward: how much of what they were supposed to learn did your learners actually learn?

An easy way to measure how much the audience learned is to include a pre-test and a post-test. For example, ask your learners to rate themselves on a scale of 1-5 for how well they can do a task before the training and have them do the same rating post-training. By comparing their initial score to their score after taking the course, you can determine if there’s an improvement. 

If you’d like some tips and considerations for using pre-tests, check out Why and How I Created This Pre-Test in Rise 360!

Level 3: Application of New Knowledge/Skills

It’s all well and good to measure how much people have learned, but what really matters is how much of that new knowledge they can apply on the job.

In some cases, this is easy to measure. For example, if the performance issue is quantifiable, all you have to do is compare the “before” numbers to the “after” numbers. In other cases, when the performance issue is not easily quantifiable, it can require close observation and analysis of the learner’s behavior. The best way to do this is to have a supervisor or manager work closely with the learner to assess their behavior both before and after the training. You can then gather the information through surveys, observation, work records, and/or interviews with the managers and learners themselves.

Level 4: Achievement of Expected Outcomes

The last thing to measure is to what extent your course produced the desired business outcomes. If you followed the ADDIE model where you’ve done your up-front training needs analysis, then you’ve likely identified an expected cost-benefit. This is when you revisit that cost-benefit and compare the results to the business objective that drove you to create the course, such as reduced costs, increased sales, and higher productivity.

Now What?

There’s no use in evaluating your course if you’re just going to file away the results. If the evaluation shows your course is not as effective as you’d like, consider revising your course. If the evaluation shows it’s highly effective, you know you’re on the right track and you can keep doing what you’re doing.

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James Hinkle