Last updated: 14.07.17

Defining and measuring the success of digital learning projects

Digital learning tools have become a central pillar of many organisations' staff development strategies, offering a proven, standardised model through which to upskill workers and expand a company's overall knowledge base.

However, although the gains associated with e-learning are generally well understood, many learning managers are finding it more difficult to grasp how best to make sure these benefits are being realised through their own digital learning projects. In some cases, this will be due to issues with implementation, or with getting staff on board with their efforts; in many others, it's simply down to a lack of understanding of which metrics they ought to be monitoring.

Given that a successful digital training scheme will impact an organisation at multiple levels, it is essential for organisations to support their long-term learning strategies with a coherent approach to monitoring progress towards qualitative and quantitative objectives, with a focus on the right key performance indicators (KPIs).

How companies are missing the bigger picture

At present, one of the biggest problems companies face in measuring the success of an e-learning project is in understanding fully on which KPIs they should be focusing.

A recent study from ExpandShare, published by The eLearning Guild, revealed that although 87.5 per cent of organisations tracked completion rates on their digital learning projects, only 64.7 per cent asked assessment questions to test data recollection and only 65.2 per cent tracked learner satisfaction.

Furthermore, just 49.1 per cent measured whether learners felt the training was of value, with this figure falling to 28.6 per cent when determining how many firms tracked whether learners went on to apply training material successfully in a real-world setting.

Meanwhile, a separate survey of learning and development departments, by Towards Maturity, indicated that while 71 per cent tracked completion rates, only 19 per cent examined reductions in study time, as little as 12 per cent monitored improvements in productivity, and a mere ten per cent looked at return on investment (ROI) data.

Taking a holistic view of the impact of e-learning

In failing to take a broad enough view of the impact of their e-learning programmes, these organisations are making it difficult for themselves to get a proper handle on the extent to which their training goals are actually being met.

After all, a successful training programme is about more than knowledge for knowledge's sake: it can deliver significant financial impacts in terms of ROI, profits and income, as well as qualitative benefits for staff retention, customer satisfaction, innovation and efficiency. As such, businesses need to be working closely with e-learning providers to ensure that all of the relevant KPIs are being monitored.

In this regard, a learning management system (LMS) can play an instrumental role. These tools can bring together all of the relevant metrics - including user feedback and expectations, attainment levels, behavioural changes and bottom-line impact - under a single system, where they can be monitored efficiently and with much greater visibility.

It's also vital to ensure that all the relevant parties within the company have bought into the objectives of the learning programme, starting from the top down. After all, if business leaders are not engaged with the process and delegate responsibilities to an overly siloed learning department, it'll make it that much more difficult to achieve the kind of holistic benefits that a properly managed digital learning project can deliver.


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