Last updated: 20.06.24

A Guide to Measuring E-Learning Effectiveness


Digital learning tools have become a central pillar of many organisations' staff development strategies. They offer 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 to make sure these benefits are being realised through their own digital learning projects. In some cases, this will be due to implementation issues 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, organisations need 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). In this article, we explain how you can do just that.

What Does E-Learning Require?

Before we dive into learning the most common challenges for measuring e-learning effectiveness and how to combat them, we’ll first discuss what is required from an e-learning offering for it to be successful. This is important because being able to properly measure aspects of your digital learning relies on having a comprehensive program, no matter the scale or purpose within your organisation.

First of all, successful e-learning requires a purpose, which is often that employees have a skills or knowledge gap that needs filling. Whether this is part of the mandatory requirements of their role or an aspect of professional development, you should be offering digital training opportunities because there is a genuine need for them. This need is what drives engagement, which leads to better success rates overall.

If you’ve got an e-learning offering that includes multiple courses and resources then you’re going to want a digital platform that learners can access and you can also use to keep track of progress and completion. 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. Choosing an e-learning provider like Virtual College means that you get access to an LMS as part of our product, but if you’re producing e-learning resources yourself then you should make sure they’re kept on an accessible and functional platform.

Once you’ve identified the need for e-learning and found a supplier for the courses or resources you want to use, the next requirement is a way of promoting this offering so that employees use it. This involves having a good communication strategy and ensuring that resources are easy to access so that there aren’t any barriers to employees getting involved. This might be the responsibility of your learning and development team, or might require line managers and team leaders to take accountability for getting their colleagues involved.

A successful e-learning strategy rewards or motivates employees to take part, which you can do in a number of ways. Whether this is simply part of how you promote your resources, such as focusing on what employees can gain from the training, or actually rewarding those who get the best results or complete the most modules, you’ll find that other metrics are also positively impacted when employees are more motivated to engage with e-learning.

The Challenges of Measuring E-Learning Effectiveness

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

A study published by The eLearning Guild revealed that although 87% of organisations tracked completion rates on their digital learning projects, only 64.7% asked assessment questions to test data recollection and only 65.2% tracked learner satisfaction.

Furthermore, just 49.1% measured whether learners felt the training was of value, with this figure falling to 28.6% 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% of departments tracked completion rates, only 19% examined reductions in study time. Additionally, as little as 12% monitored productivity improvements, and a mere ten% actually looked at return on investment (ROI) data.

What we can learn from both of these studies is that many companies find it easy to roll out e-learning initiatives, but fail to identify how they’re going to measure their impact. Without setting this intention at the start and being clear on the target training KPIs, it becomes much harder to understand whether e-learning courses and programs have actually been effective.

Another key challenge in measuring learning effectiveness comes from the system you use for your digital learning content. Using an LMS with the built-in ability to measure certain metrics and track learner progress and engagement makes it much easier to understand the impact your e-learning is having. It doesn’t necessarily need to present and analyse this data for you, but it’s a massive benefit if you can extract it easily.

Measuring metrics such as completion rates, knowledge retention and completion time is quite a straightforward way to get a good idea of virtual learning success. But things like engagement, enjoyment and long-term benefits are another challenge when it comes to measuring your e-learning efforts, especially if you’re offering training to develop soft skills.

It’s harder to gather the right data to get a good idea of these results. Often, you’ll need to ask employees directly for their thoughts or measure behaviour and impact over time, which is very worth doing but more of an investment.

How to Measure E-Learning Effectiveness

Measuring e-learning effectiveness will look different for every organisation. After all, different companies use e-learning for different purposes, so the metrics for success are going to vary.

The following advice lays out a useful process no matter the purpose of your e-learning strategies, taking into account specific training KPIs and wider considerations and measures of success.

Select KPIs

Businesses need to be working closely with e-learning providers to ensure that all of the relevant KPIs are being monitored. These are often linked to data that can be collected from the e-learning resources, which is why it’s so useful to utilise a provider and platform that lets you access data about learner behaviour.

Common KPIs that can be used to measure e-learning effectiveness include:

  • Adoption rate: How many learners have enrolled in a course or module
  • Consumption rate: How often learners engage with the training content
  • Completion rate: How many learners complete a digital course in comparison to how many signed up for it
  • Time taken: How long learners spent engaging with each course or module and how long it took them to complete
  • Learner satisfaction: How learners felt after completing the course

These KPIs are all relatively easier to measure with data that you can collect from your LMS. You should decide on the KPIs you’re going to target before you launch an e-learning offering or course, as this will ensure that the right measurements are set up to collect the data that you need.

All of these KPIs give a good indication of how well learners are responding to your digital content. Things like completion rate and time taken in particular are a clear indication of whether the content is engaging and accessible, which are key features of success.

Consider Long-Term Impact

As well as the KPIs we’ve mentioned above, other metrics are linked to the long-term impact of your e-learning offering. These are often harder to measure in one go and may require multiple metrics to gain a good idea of your impact, but are also worth keeping track of when it comes to understanding the overall effectiveness of digital learning on your business.

Here are some long-term KPIs linked to e-learning effectiveness:

  • Time to competency: How long it takes for learners to put the skills and knowledge they’ve gained successfully into practice
  • Skill acquisition: The level of skill that learners gain from a training course
  • Engagement: How invested, focused and committed learners are to a course
  • Return on investment: The economic benefits that digital learning brings a business in comparison to the cost of the learning resources

When you’re choosing long-term metrics to measure, make sure that you decide how you’re going to gauge these and what data will be required. This will vary depending on the type of course and type of content, but is an essential part of properly measuring impact.

Take a Holistic View

In failing to take a broad enough view of the impact of their e-learning programmes, 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.

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, business leaders need to be more engaged with the process and delegate responsibilities to an overly siloed learning department to achieve the kind of holistic benefits that a properly managed digital learning project can deliver.

Read more advice on measuring the overall impact of learning and development in an organisation here.


What is an e-learning platform?

An e-learning platform is a digital platform offering a range of online learning resources. It provides learners with a ‘hub’ from which they can find specific courses or tools and gives organisations a central system for providing different kinds of e-learning content and measuring how employees engage with this.

Why is e-learning popular?

E-learning is growing increasingly popular because it’s a much more accessible way to ensure that learners can access the resources they need to remain up to date with training and personal development opportunities. Instead of everyone needing to be in the same place at the same time, e-learning can be completed anywhere at any time as long as learners have the necessary technology and internet access.

Another reason why e-learning is so popular is because it makes learning a much more personalised experience. Many people don’t engage with content effectively if they’re just given information in a blanket way, but e-learning can present multiple ways to access and engage with content, and this tailored access can make learning more effective.

Why are standards important in e-learning?

As e-learning solutions become more popular and are used by more and more organisations, having standards in e-learning is really important as it ensures that the quality of teaching across these resources is consistently high. When it comes to statutory and mandatory training courses in particular, having a universal set of standards means that important information is being taught correctly and thoroughly, which ensures that the learner is appropriately informed and prepared for a range of situations.


E-learning can be a fantastic investment for a company, but does require close monitoring to ensure that the resources and provider you have chosen are delivering exactly what your business needs. Keeping track of key metrics and understanding how to choose and measure these will help to give you a good foundation for measuring e-learning effectiveness, and this is much easier when you have a good LMS.

If you’re looking for an e-learning provider with an LMS that allows for efficient monitoring of progress and impact, Virtual College offers a wide range of courses for all kinds of organisations. Take a look at our ready-to-go course catalogue or find out more about our bespoke training options.