Kirkpatrick Model of Training Effectiveness

Your e-learning course is all finished and uploaded to your LMS. Your work is done, right? Think again! As my fellow Community Manager Nicole Legault explains in her article on the ADDIE ID Model, evaluating your course is as an important part of the Instructional Design process. 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 course: 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 these aspects and how to measure them.

1. Level of 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’ll be 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.

2. Level of Knowledge/Skill Acquisition

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

An easy way to measure how much learners have gotten out of your course is to do pre- and post-tests. For example, ask your learners to rate themselves on a scale from 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 has been an improvement.

3. Level of Application of New Knowledge/Skills

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

In some cases, this is easy to measure: For example, if the performance issue that the course was created to improve is quantifiable, then 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 has occurred. You can then gather the information through surveys, observation, work records, and/or interviews with the managers and learners themselves.

4. Level of Achievement of Expected Outcomes

The last thing to measure is to what extent your course produced the desired business outcomes. If you follow 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’re going to 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, higher productivity, etc.

Then what?

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

What about you? How do you evaluate your e-learning courses? Share your tips in the comments section below! And follow us on Twitter and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.

Snehal .