The importance of post-course evaluation in digital learning

You’ve created the course. Added it to the LMS. Learner’s have taken the course. Job done. Right?
Digital learning should be about continuous development. So brushing the dust of your hands and saying job done after launch just isn’t enough.
In fact, I think this is one of the most detrimental thing L&D professionals can do. To never look back and check courses are performing as intended is damaging. Let alone the fact you’re running the risk of out-of-date content.
There are a handful of reasons post-course evaluation is critical, I’ve outlined those I deem the most important, below:

Align expectations and reality

If your course causes confusion by sharing content your learner’s were not expected – you’ve done something wrong. The only way to truly know if expectations and reality match up is the learner feedback (perhaps in the form of evaluation forms) after completion.
Though misalignment of expectations and the course can be damaging – it’s easy to fix. Often this misalignment is due to a lack of clear communication through your launch campaign. The chances are you’ve not explained the purpose or benefits of the course. Or, you may have over-egged the course purpose – meaning your learners were expecting far more of the course.

Determine relevance

In all my time in the learning industry, I’ve never met a digital learning developer that didn’t ask the question “Who’s the target audience?” before building.
We deliberately tailor our courses so they resonate with our target audience. But, this is often based on assumptions. We assume our learners will access content in a particular way. Or, we assume a particular story or scenario will help them digest the content.
But how do we know that our assumptions were right? A few years ago I saw the outcome of incorrect assumptions first hand. A group of some of the most talented digital learning professional I’ve met were tasked with creating a module for university aged students. They chose a bright, colourful, but sophisticated design. We all loved it. We thought it was perfect for the target market. But how wrong we were. The feedback to the pilot was that it looked childish – much to our disappointment. (Of course, that’s part-and-parcel of any kind of design, and the team went and redesigned it – with great success).
But, the key moral of this story is – if we’d never piloted, and never evaluated feedback, the team would have never known that the learners didn’t like it. They’d have continued to roll out this less than satisfactory module, assuming it was resonating with learners. When in actual fact, the poor design distracted learners from the content at hand.
There’s absolutely no way to guarantee learner reaction. So it’s always best to check and evaluate, shortly after launch – or better still, during a pilot.

Ensure understanding

There is little point in an eLearning course that leaves learners no wiser at the end, than they were at the beginning. Worse still, an eLearning course that leaves learners feeling more confused and understanding less.
Evaluating course completion and pass rates is a great way to ensure understanding. If there’s a question that almost every learner got wrong – evaluate why this might be. Is it worded poorly? Are the available answers inaccurate? Or have you forgotten to cover the topic altogether?
You can also evaluate timing. Is the course taking longer to complete than you anticipated? Or are learners flying through the course (implying passive learning)?
Both of these areas will allow you to determine the success of your content. If your learners are misunderstanding content, you need to review it. If learner’s are taking a much longer time than anticipated to complete the course, maybe it needs some further explanation – or extra resources to help.
Alongside these three key areas, post-course evaluation is a great time to get more information from your learners to scope future projects. Did they like the design? The format? Or the level of interactivity? It’s rare that your digital learning developer gets to speak to learners firsthand and evaluation forms is likely to be as good as it gets. If you’re struggling to decide what to ask your learners in post-course feedback, check out this list from the Articulate eLearning Hereos – I’m sure it’ll give you some inspiration.