Breaking Down the Value of Learning in eLearning

Designing Digitally


The question of how, exactly, to value eLearning often comes up, and for good reason. For many people, return on investment (ROI) analysis is the answer. ROI is an important indicator for how effective a training program is, but we must keep in mind a handful of other important elements as well. While ROI should definitely be taken into consideration, there are flaws with using this is as the sole determining factor of what an individual or team has taken away from an eLearning program. When first popularized, eLearning modules were analyzed by measuring assessment results, instead of taking into consideration the majority of learning in this format occurs informally and in unstructured ways. Because of this, it is necessary to change our tune, take a step back, and assess the value of learning in eLearning using different methods than ROI numbers.

Learning-measurement Models

The first step with this is to look at the various learning-measurement models and how they have changed over the years. Initially, learning measurement looked at knowledge retention in conjunction with attendance and how satisfied learners were with the program. The problem with this is it leaves out several essential factors. In simply looking at statistics outlining how well one can recall the information from the course and whether or not they enjoyed it, we are missing out on the bigger picture. Online learning promotes out of context learning, meaning it is a platform for more abstract learning. Whether you have your eLearning program set up using intranet or allow users to access the module remotely - anytime, anywhere - you are encouraging a unique learning environment and opportunity for your business. In basing the assessment of how effective an eLearning program was on one ‘event’ or on how well a particular group responded, we are leaving out the important informal factors (such as attitude, behavior changes, impact on colleagues, skills gained, and work outputs) that are what actually shows us the value of an eLearning module.

What Can We Get From eLearning?

Through analytics and changing the way we measure learning in the online environment, we are moving towards improved performance and the acquisition of knowledge on a larger scale. By implementing workshops, group assignments, and other interactive strategies in an online format, we are paving the way for more engaged and motivated employees. While seeing numbers and ROI on paper may seem like a more effective way to evaluate a training module, they do not offer a true representation. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops have created a need for us to adjust the way we think about learning in general. eLearning has the ability to reach a previously unengaged audience, making it an effective vehicle for rapid change and widespread knowledge.

What Do We Need to Be Successful in eLearning?

In order for companies to find success with implementing eLearning strategies, we need to learn how to better assess the impact of activities on knowledge, both short-term and long-term. Those who do not simply look at the numbers, but instead recognize the importance of behavior and make an effort to observe reactions to the specific training modules are far more likely to find success with this format of learning. In understanding the power of learning and how this can directly affect overall employee performance and in turn the success of an organization, you will be helping your business and those who work for you, both short-term and long-term. Instead of evaluating the training program itself, we should be evaluating how well a particular organization uses training to get results.

The bottom line is, today’s learning world is far different than it used to be and we need to recognize that learning happens everywhere. The learner of today is no longer reliant on the corporate training machine, but instead a seeker of knowledge on their own terms. This means our learning-measurement models need to also look at observable behaviors in addition to assessing an individual’s actual skill. Innovation, sharpness, creativity, and initiative are important characteristics executives are looking for, albeit more difficult to fit into the old school learning-measurement models.