Designing Assessments that Support Your Learning Objectives

So, you’ve put together an engaging blend of real-life scenarios, challenging exercises, and game-style scoring elements. You’ve had your trainees go through all of this. Now, you can just sit back, and enjoy the warm glow of having improved their lives, given them new skills, and improved your organisation as a result. Right? Well…

The truth of the matter is a training course alone (however brilliant) isn’t enough. You’ll also need some measure of how effective that training has been in imparting new knowledge and promoting beneficial changes in your trainees’ working patterns and behaviour. And if you’re running the programme as part of a corporate effort, you’ll need concrete figures to present to your stakeholders who’ve been footing the bills.

That’s where assessments come in. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the key elements to consider when designing an evaluation system to determine the success (or otherwise) of your eLearning initiatives.

Don’t Just Wait Till The End

Designing assessments that measure the performance of your learners should be a continuous process – one which measures their progress through an eLearning course and can help them navigate their way through future exercises.

The type of assessment you choose will depend on the nature of the course itself, and the material that’s being presented. But in general, it’s a good idea to interject some kind of assessment (pop quiz, “What if?” scenario, etc.) at each major plot point in the narrative you’ve written for the educational journey.

This will serve not only as a way for you to measure the learner’s progress at strategic points, but also as an indicator for the learners, as they achieve their next milestone, or encounter a road-block and need to re-assess their actions.

Many Learners = Many Assessments

Every learner is different, with his or her own unique set of skills, life history, educational and cultural background. And within an organisation, there may be various departments or teams, each with their own particular line of interest or focus.

Evaluation materials need to take these differences into account. While there should be some core questions in all assessments that apply to everyone on the course, it’s also advisable to create distinct assessment formats for each division or definitive group of trainees taking the course.

Be Short and Specific

You know what your objectives are in initiating the training. So make your evaluation questions chime with these goals.

Be precise and unambiguous in the way the questions are put.

And be brief – no-one wants to wade through a sentence that takes 5 minutes to read before the question mark at the end.

Make it Interesting

Hopefully, your course will have engagement and interaction built into its structure from the start. This approach should extend to your assessment techniques as well.

Use a variety of question types, and don’t shy away from using multimedia components like video and soundbites. Even if you re-use a question form at various points during the course, shuffle the deck so that no two sets of assessment questions are the same.

Make it Relevant

Both the training itself and the assessments should have clear applications to the current working environment and lives of your trainees.

Consider using work or home-based scenarios as the setting for your assessment exercises. These will be immediately recognisable to your learners, and help them put the material that they’ve learned into a meaningful context.

Use Before and After

If you want to assess the results of your training on a learner’s performance, you’ll need to know how they performed before the training took place. So creating two sets of assessment questions is a good idea: one to establish a learner’s skill-set and attitudes before the course begins, and another to establish their achievements afterwards.

Get Feedback on the Training Itself

Assessment also needs to address the training course itself: how well it was organised, any problems that were encountered, whether it was considered enjoyable and beneficial to the course participants, etc.

Part of the overall assessment process should be a survey of sorts, getting feedback from the learners about their experience during the course. The results from this (as well as the results from previous runs of the training programme) can be used to make improvements to the way the course runs in future.

Your Assessment Design Strategy:

  • Establish your objectives for running the course, and how those learning goals may be measured in some tangible way.
  • As each objective is identified, create a set of potential questions or exercises that could be used to test it. These will form the basis of the assessments that you run during and after the course.
  • Ensure that each assessment exercise has a clear purpose, and is structured to produce responses that can be easily measured and analysed.
  • Use your knowledge of the learners’ backgrounds, working environment and skill-sets to create assessment scenarios that are directly relevant and meaningful to them.
  • Shuffle the questions! Make each assessment exercise a unique and engaging experience, firmly rooted in its purpose of measuring progress and suggesting ways in which performance may be improved.
  • Analyse the results of your assessments with an eye to improving the learner’s experience during future training schemes, and as a way towards improving the structure of the training programme itself.

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