Learning is a life-long journey, which today is filled with more change and pressure than we’ve ever seen before. Every time a new technology, customer need or even just a new way of thinking emerges, our staff need to develop the skills and behaviors that will support them.
For training to stay relevant to these new skills and behaviors, there needs to be a process of continuous improvement and evaluation. Online courses must be created, and recreated and recreated again. And each iteration is designed to be more effective and relevant than the one before.
But this takes time and effort (a lot of time and effort). And sometimes it can be difficult to know where to focus these resources for improvement. For instructional designers, it all starts with understanding the meaning of quality.
Quality, and When To Measure It
Online course evaluation is about measuring the quality of an eLearning course. Quality, or course success, can be defined as the extent of learning experienced by participants, the performance of learners on assessments, the changes in behavior in the workplace, or overall course quality.
Now, these definitions can seem quite elusive to measure. But if you’re measuring the right things, in the right way, and at the right time, it’s actually very doable.
The Right Time
Pre and post course evaluation of key learning outcomes measure learner improvement in knowledge, skills and behaviors. In other words, is the course doing what it’s supposed to do on a holistic level?
Then, continuous assessment throughout the course can help to spot specific problem areas within the course that should be redesigned for better performance.
The Right Way
Quality can be measured with three primary approaches.
● Self-report surveys measure the learner experience of the course. They can work best when learners have a shared understanding of their involvement in the improvement process.
● Objective metrics, like course completion or assessment performance, provide information on the actual (rather than perceived) success of the course.
● Practical observations take place in the workplace, and measure real changes in behavior and performance of employees in their roles, both before and after participating in training.
The Right Things
But knowing how to measure course quality, and when to measure course quality isn’t enough. Not until you understand what you’re measuring.
What To Consider in Your Online Course Evaluation
The considerations in online course evaluation can be, well, just about endless. But some points are more important than others, so we’ve highlighted the top five for you below.
1. Visual Appeal and Branding
We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
But it’s really hard not to!
Especially when the cover is dull, uninviting and generic.
The same goes for eLearning interfaces. Is the design of the course visually appealing, clearly branded, and customized to the target audience and company? Likewise, is the interface visually responsive and scalable across different devices, like mobile phones?
Evaluating eLearning courses means finding ways to improve the aesthetic aspects of the course. Because for busy employees trying to squeeze training into a 24-hour day, looks matter!
2. Instructional Design
By now you’re working on a more visually appealing course. But how do you know that learners are navigating the learning path in the most effective way? How do you know whether or not the increasing levels of difficulty are appropriate for learners?
Well, you’d need to evaluate how clearly defined and structured the learning paths are. Could you place further restrictions on how learners complete the course? Or change when certain course content is viewed?
As the foundations of your eLearning course, instructional design plays a particularly important part in online course evaluation.
3. Appropriate Learning Materials
eLearning courses can be complex, and sometimes need to cater for diverse audiences. This often calls for learning materials (like video, notes or quizzes) that appeal to more than one of the senses. A variety of content recognizes that people learn in different ways.
But it’s also important to match the best-suited learning materials to each type of learning outcome. For example, pure knowledge recall can be achieved with notes. But deeper understanding and application of skills are better achieved with branching scenarios or augmented reality (AR).
Of course, with the bombardment of online communication overwhelming people daily, engagement has also become a primary concern for instructional designers. That’s why a common question in online course evaluation is: “Are the course materials sufficiently interactive to keep learners engaged throughout the course?”.
4. The Assessments Process
As mentioned earlier, assessments can be a key measure of whether or not an eLearning course is successful. But the assessments are often a daunting experience for both learners and instructors. Learners worry that they won’t do well. Instructors, on the other hand, worry that the assessments aren’t a good enough indication of learning.
That’s why the type of assessment must be well suited to the learning outcome being measured.
Assessments should be set at the appropriate difficulty level, should be user-friendly, and should provide useful feedback for learners. And the grading process should be efficient for instructors.
Considering the relevance and efficiency of eLearning assessment in online course evaluations (like tests, quizzes, and whole assessments) helps to ensure high quality in one of your key measures of course success.
5. Cultural Fit
This might sound like a strange consideration for online course evaluation. But believe us when we say it’s right up there with the rest of the important points! Because at the end of the day, every course needs to be relevant to its target audience.
Evaluating your online courses for cultural fit means tailoring the language, compatibility, and other design aspects of your course to suit the learners its intended for.
If your audience includes people from different countries, you’ll probably need notes written in more than one language or videos with multilingual subtitles and transcripts. If your corporate culture is based on self-driven learning and continuous improvement, your eLearning design might need to incorporate microlearning and mobile compatibility.
Finding ways to make the design and content of your courses more culturally accessible, relatable and appealing to your target audience is a key consideration of the eLearning evaluation process.
LMS Support for eLearning Evaluation
So you see, online course evaluation is easy to do when you know what you’re measuring, how you’re measuring it, and when you’re measuring it. But there’s one more important thing we haven’t mentioned yet – you’ve got to have the right tools, too!
A Learning Management System (LMS) with features that support the measurement of the five points above is your ultimate eLearning evaluation tool. This includes features like:
● a survey engine to collect and analyze data
● an assessment engine that supports multiple types of questions and tests
● extensive reporting functions
● learning paths with restriction and branching capabilities
● and customizable learning interfaces