Evaluating a Course’s Success
The ADDIE evaluation phase helps companies measure the course’s impact on their learners and their business. When a company creates a custom course, it makes a substantial investment in time and resources. However, perhaps surprisingly, many companies do not invest in the evaluation phase. These companies never really know how well the course works.
If we had to make an estimate, we’d say that only ten or fifteen percent of companies conduct significant evaluation activities. That’s why we consider evaluation the “forgotten phase” of the ADDIE model.
Many companies seem to skip over the evaluation phase because they’re thinking tactically instead of strategically. Sometimes companies become focused on the go-live date; they want to make sure that the learners experience the course. Once the course has launched, people shift their focus to the next training project. Instead of measuring learning and its impact on the business, some companies will let the course run until it becomes obsolete and an obvious source of pain.
Types of Evaluation
In 1959, Donald Kirkpatrick identified four levels of training evaluation:
- Response—do learners like the course?
- Learning—do learners actually learn the material?
- Behavior—do learners change their workplace behaviors?
- Results—does the course achieve the company’s business goals?
In the corporate world, companies measure response through quick post-course surveys (often called “smile sheets”). These surveys often ask learners to answer simple, subjective questions about the course. Because these surveys are easy to conduct, many companies use them. However, these surveys can’t measure complex learning or long-term behavior changes.
Some companies use post-course assessments to measure how much people have learned before they return to the workplace. We’d like to think that these post-course assessments are part of every course, but we’ve seen a lot of training courses that just present material without ensuring that learners have understood it. In the corporate world, courses with rigorous post-course tests are often called certification courses. Learners need to pass the certification test before they can be qualified to perform certain tasks or jobs.
In order to measure behavior changes and business results, training specialists have to wait until learners return to the workplace. Sometimes, these studies take place months after the learners complete the course. That way, training specialists can measure what behaviors actually retained in the workplace.
The Costs of Evaluation
In most cases, a robust evaluation phase doesn’t add much additional cost to the training project. Sometimes the entire evaluation phase can be conducted for less than five percent of the total project’s budget.
The other cost associated with the evaluation phase is time. To properly conduct an evaluation, training specialists will need to dedicate some time immediately after the course launches to measure how people respond to the course and what they learn. Then, a few months later, they will need to measure whether the course has actually led to long-term behavior changes.
Intulogy’s training specialists have observed two patterns when it comes to the training evaluation phase:
- Companies that clearly identify business goals during the needs analysis phase are more likely to conduct a rigorous evaluation phase—the company wants to measure (and improve) its degree of success.
- Companies that follow the ADDIE model carefully tend to see substantially better results for their training courses than companies that adopt a hit-and-miss approach to training development and delivery.
Sometimes companies have to rush training projects to meet an immediate need, but when they can integrate training initiatives with their strategic business objectives they experience a greater degree of success. That’s why the ADDIE of instructional design exists, after all.