The Missing Ingredient in Corporate eLearning

In the last 16 years, corporate eLearning has grown 900%, with 77% of US corporations using some form of online learning. Increased emphasis is being placed on learning and development in global workplaces and according to a recent report by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), 65% of employees are accessing more channels for information and learning than they did two years ago. 88% of business leaders believe that employee training plays a key role in achieving business results.

However, despite their belief in the importance of learning and employee development, only 25% of these leaders believe that their existing learning and development programs are producing satisfactory outcomes. Further analysis from the CEB indicates that the average corporate organization has a 45% rate of ‘scrap learning’ – learning which is not applied back on the job.

Surprisingly, despite the significant amount of time and money invested in corporate training programs for elearning, many organizations don’t measure the effectiveness of their training programs but seem to think that providing the training itself is sufficient. A study by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) found that 67% of training directors surveyed didn’t assess the effectiveness of their online programs at all. The same study found that while 95% of organizations surveyed measured how well the employees liked their online courses, only 3% made a significant attempt to measure the impact of the training programs on the business. Only 3% of companies measure the effectiveness of their online training programs.


Why is this? After investing so much time and effort into creating online programs, why do corporations not measure the impact of the training on their business? Why is the focus on the delivery of training rather than on the effectiveness of the training? Why is assessing how well your employees have understood their training so important? Firstly, mistakes can be costly. Let’s take a look at a basic compliance example.

Andrew works at the reception in a maternity hospital and was approached by a first time mother, Anna, who had struck up a friendship with her roommate. Unfortunately, her roommate had been discharged before Anna had had a chance to get her contact details. She asked Andrew if she might be able to get her roommate’s home address so she could send a baby hamper. A seemingly innocent and nice gesture, Andrew happily obliged. Unfortunately by disclosing this personal information without the patient’s written authorization or without a job-related reason for doing so, Andrew was in fact in breach of HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules and was liable for negligence with penalties of up to $50,000.


Secondly, the typical goal of learning and training programs is to empower employees to learn new skills and to do their jobs more effectively. Doing their jobs more effectively should have an impact on the bottom line of the business. This can be complicated to measure due to the number of variables and contributing factors. However, some firms like Etera (a nursery supply company) are measuring the proficiency of their online sales training by looking at change in sales performance post completion of training. According to Etera, a salesperson who has gone through their online training program typically completes 170% more sales than one who has not gone through the training.

Incorporating both formative and summative assessment into a corporate e-Learning program can be a vital first step on the road to measuring the effectiveness of your training. Formative assessment, where the primary goal is learning, is a valuable part of any learning program. Well-implemented formative assessment provides learners with regular descriptive feedback and clear learning targets. It helps learners take control of their own learning trajectory and gives them the responsibility of achieving their own personal learning goals as well as helping corporations ensure that their training has been effectively delivered and understood.

Summative assessment should be used both before and after the implementation of any training program. A diagnostic assessment prior to the start of the assessment can help determine what the learner needs to learn before the start of the course or identify any gaps in the learner’s existing knowledge. Similarly, the summative assessment after completion of the course indicates whether or not the learner has attained the required level of proficiency in the topic, whether they have met the specified learning objectives of the course or whether further training and/or action is required. The provision of employee training should be more than a check box exercise. In order to justify e-learning investment we need to provide concrete proof of the benefits. We need to measure the learners’ retention of the information and skillsets in both the short and the long term. Corporate learners may say that they have participated in the training and understood the information but how do we know that they have? Without some form of assessment, we cannot.

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