Learning design theories and best practices are widely discussed and evaluated amongst the L&D community. One area that seems a little neglected in the debates that rage on is how assessment fits into corporate training design.
It's much more difficult to find data and statistics on effective assessments than other areas of learning design. There are also comparatively fewer models focused around assessment than on other parts of the instructional design process. However, it's an area that deserves more attention, especially as technology emerges that combines the assessments, metrics, and analytics of corporate training more closely.
The core components of an assessment strategy
For effective assessment design, it's vital to establish what exactly you're trying to achieve in a particular assessment. These 'trigger' questions can come in useful for defining your assessment strategy:
Why am I assessing?
What exactly am I trying to assess?
How am I assessing learners?
Should it be summative or formative assessment? Quantitative or qualitative?
When should I assess learners?
It's essential to keep the learning objectives and learning goals in mind at all times, and that goes for assessments too. They should always align with the overall objective of the course.
Create different assessments for different scenarios
Personalizing the learning path, wherever possible, is always beneficial. That's already the case for companies who use adaptive learning for presenting different content and learning activities as part of a course. However, assessments should be part of that personalized learning journey as well.
As with all other elements of adaptive learning, you should be taking into account the difficulty level, prior knowledge of the learner, their previous exposure to the topic or concepts, and so on. If you're doing this correctly at the initial course design phase, it should flow fairly naturally into selecting the assessments needed as well.
Measuring for Learning by the Office of Educational Technology
Be clear and concise
Creating overly elaborate assessments only serves to confuse and frustrate your learners. Assessments should be:
Clear and aligned with the goals and objectives of the online training course.
Have no room for misunderstandings. The more specific and concise your questions are, the more effective the assessment will be.
Worded appropriately to avoid confusion, but also short; very long sentences are frustrating and will disengage the learner.
Following a learner-centric approach for your eLearning assessments will help you address different learning needs.
Don't be stingy with variety; provide various types of questions in your quizzes, such as multiple-choice and true or false questions.
You should also try and use different multimedia elements, such as audio, video, and visuals. It helps keep learners engaged, and it will also help you collect data on what's working and what isn't so you can adapt your strategy going forward.
Avoid the trick question
There are also some common mistakes that should be avoided when it comes to assessments. The most common is the idea of trick questions. They're commonly found across all types of instructional design, both educational and corporate. Not only will they frustrate the learner or make them feel patronized, but they're also not useful in any way when it comes to knowledge retention and learning - which is the whole point of assessments.
Vague questions or "trick" questions will not just confuse struggling learners, but those who are knowledgeable in a subject as well. So you still won't know whether your audience has learned the topic at the end of the course.
Conduct pre-training and post-training to measure overall results
Pre-training evaluation is much less frequently implemented than post-training assessment, but pre-training evaluation makes it possible to assess employees' knowledge level on specific subjects and identify their expectations and requirements. That way, the business can offer more targeted and more effective training.
With pre-training and post-training, you'll also get some hard and fast numbers as to the effectiveness of your training course. It's essential to measure the same metrics before and after the training course, so you get specific results regarding what the employee learned as a direct result of the training course.
Pre-training also sets employees up for what they're about to learn, so it can go a long way towards increasing the engagement level with your training too.
Summative and formative assessments
Summative assessments attract criticism for being too simplistic to evaluate the learner's achievement or the effectiveness of the training. However, these downsides can be somewhat mitigated with effective pre-testing and post-testing.
Formative assessment is about measuring the learning journey as opposed to hard and fast quantitative results. It can be more qualitative and provide unique insights and a "bigger picture" mentality.
The formative assessment might include things like open-ended questions. Corporate training often shies away from this type of assessment, especially for elearning, but if you're trying to verify whether your learners have acquired new information, it can be beneficial to conduct more qualitative assessments. For corporate training, the formative assessment might look more like "scenario" training or simulations that are focused on the realities of a learner's day to day role.
Multiple choices and true or false questions are perfect for basic concepts, but open-ended questions require in-depth knowledge of the topic. In other words, they can't just guess the correct answer at random. These types of questions also let your learners reflect on the subject matter and think up their own answers, which improves knowledge retention. If you want a winning combination, you should opt for both quantitative and qualitative questions in your eLearning assessment.
Bonus Tip: rather than doing assessments straight after the training, it's often better to wait until the next day if you want more carefully-reasoned responses. Either way, it's a good idea to do follow up assessments as time goes on and this can help to identify employees who need refreshers on certain topics or maybe haven't picked something up quite right the first time.
Want to learn more about creating effective assessments?
We’ve joined up with assessment engine gurus, Learnosity, for a webinar on September 5th!