Well-designed training should keep the learner and their experience front and center. The material should be relevant and impactful and the design logical. As an instructional designer, one of the things I constantly ask myself is, “Am I meeting my learners’ needs?” This can be a challenging question if you don’t have a direct line to your learner—and many of us don’t. So, how do you know if your training is in line with your learners’ needs? With an inviting post-training survey that’s well-structured and well-written.  

A post-training survey isn’t just a way to gather data. It’s a window into your learners’ experience and your personalized path for continuous improvement. Writing effective surveys is your key to unlocking this valuable information. Follow these seven tips for writing effective post-training surveys and you’ll be evaluating like a pro in no time!

1. Align your questions with desired learning outcomes

When you design a post-training survey, write your survey questions and assessment questions up-front to align with the learning objectives. It’s a good idea to tie one survey question to the primary learning objective(s) of the course. For example, if my learning objective is “By the end of this training you will be able to list five tips for writing effective surveys,” a relevant survey question might be “As a result of this training, can you list tips for writing effective surveys?” Even though the survey isn’t a post-test, it’s still helpful to gauge whether the learner feels they’re retaining what you’ve taught them. 

2. Write questions that give you measurable data

An important aspect of writing effective surveys is ensuring you’re asking the right questions. For example, if you want to know if the course was relevant to your learner’s job, ask them to rate how relevant the course was to their job on a scale of 1 to 5. Asking an open-ended question like “Did you like this course?” may not get you measurable data without you wading through a bunch of comments.

3. Keep the survey (and questions) short and sweet

Just like with e-learning courses, learners can get overwhelmed by a survey that’s too long. When they’re overwhelmed, they’re more likely to give hurried answers that aren’t relevant or, worse, skip the survey altogether. If you want to gather valid and impactful information from as many learners as possible, keep your survey short and to the point. As a best practice, cap your survey at five questions and keep them to a single sentence each. Also, avoid open-ended questions and provide your learner with different response options—five is standard.

4. Avoid vague or leading questions

When you go to draft your survey, write questions that are clear and unbiased. Avoid leading questions that influence your learners’ responses. Also, stay away from vague questions that don’t ask an apparent question. 

In the example below, you can see how the revised question is clearly stated and doesn’t imply an answer.


Vague Question

Concise Question

In a world where people are using e-learning for most things, was this course able to help you better learn how to design it?

After taking this training, do you feel capable of creating effective e-learning courses?


To check your writing, put yourself in your learners’ shoes. Read the question you wrote and ask yourself “does this make sense” and “does this question have the answer written with it?” 

5. Beware the nested question

Nested questions are questions within a question. They are one of the more obvious attempts at skewing survey results. You can never tell which question the learner was answering! Check out the example below to see what I mean.

Nested Question

Single Question

How would you rate the impact of this article on your survey-writing skills and on your overall instructional design skills?

How would you rate the impact of this article on your survey-writing skills? 

6. Ensure your survey follows visual design principles 

Just like your e-learning course, make sure your survey follows some basic visual design principles. This makes your survey inviting and easy for all learners to access. Don’t use distracting colors or graphics, and make sure you have good contrast between the text and background. Also, if possible, only show one survey question at a time. If your survey is long or asks more in-depth questions, it can be helpful to have a progress bar. 

7. Write your survey so it aligns with adult learning theory 

Let’s face it, everyone is busy. It can be difficult to convince learners to begin—much less complete—a survey. Keep this in mind and write your surveys (like your e-learning!) to follow adult learning theory. Tell your learner up-front what’s in it for them. If you can help your learner understand why they’re taking the survey and how the information will be used, they’ll be more invested. They’re also more likely to complete the whole survey and provide thorough answers. 

The Bottom Line

Writing post-course surveys is equal parts art and science. By following the tips I’ve shared here, you’ll be off to a great start!

For more advice on creating effective surveys, check out these helpful resources:

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